Over half (58%) of respondents to a survey of accounting and finance professionals said their companies have either outdated travel and entertainment (T&E) policies, or no T&E policies at all, according to a survey from Center, an expense management technology company specializing in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The survey also showed that 44% book directly (outside of corporate booking tools), and the number one stated reason for not booking through a corporate tool is lack of knowledge regarding corporate tools and processes or not knowing they exist.

Respondents were upbeat about business travel in general, with half saying they expected it to increase in the next one to three years. Just over one-third (36%) are spending more than $250,000 per year on business travel; and 16% spend $500,000 or more per year on business travel.

According to the research, most respondents (more than 50%) now work in a fully remote or hybrid environment and have issued more corporate cards over the last three years to accommodate the change. The shift to a more decentralized expense management process has resulted in ill-equipped or rigid systems, lack of automation and real-time visibility, and additional challenges, including:

  • Inefficient management of expenses, with roughly one-third (32%) of respondents relying on manual processes and manual reconciliation using spreadsheets and paper;
  • Dissatisfaction with current expense management tools (24%), with 37% describing the processes of reviewing and approving expenses as “complex”;
  • Time-intensive tasks, such as: employee time spent filling out expenses (40%), time spent creating/analyzing expense data and trends (31%), and credit card reconciliation (27%).

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    Naveen Singh, CEO, said that after four years of tracking the sentiment of SMEs related to expense management, “it is notable to see renewed optimism in business travel as a top area of investment.” He said that as businesses rethink and refresh their back-end operations to accommodate the changing workplace, finance teams are increasingly leaning on technology and automation to help them keep track of spend across distributed workforces.