Will SaaS Enable a Paradigm Shift in Business Travel?


Business travel is a $1.4 trillion industry, and it is projected Opens a new window to recover by 2024. Organizations have lived for too long with archaic systems and processes, especially in the financial and admin functions. Mayank Kukreja, the co-founder & CEO of ITILITE, sheds light on how business travel is evolving and SaaS’s role in the journey.

When it comes to business travel and expense (T&E) management, companies should not have to choose between providing a meaningful employee experience and strong controls. That is where end-to-end SaaS-based business travel and employee expense management platforms help you have both. 

The SaaS Advantage

With integrated automated platforms, businesses can save time and money by providing quicker and cost-effective travel booking options based on past preferences. It eliminates redundant manual processes and the hassle of back and forth with travel admins. Moreover, for companies with various policies at different levels for business travel, SaaS solutions provide added layers of customization.

As tech capabilities continuously improve, AI-powered virtual consultants can now provide actionable suggestions by looking at the historical data to enhance cost efficiency. These innovations have a substantial positive impact on the user experience and enable simplifying an otherwise often exhausting process. 

See More: Benefits of SaaS: Why Companies Should Make the Shift

Overcoming the Effects of the Pandemic

The pandemic indeed brought the entire world to a standstill, and the T&E industry was among the worst hit. With multiple waves of the pandemic, the recovery of travel was always in question. However, it was never a question that business travel would ultimately come back in action.  

So, were the last two years just a blip?  It is subjective for different companies, and I can only say that for ITILITE, no, they were not. We utilized that time and worked harder. Our product innovation velocity was higher than ever, and we launched 150+ product releases in those 24 months. We also achieved our goals earlier than intended and launched our Expense product in Feb 2021.  

Overcoming the impact of the last two years comes down to resilience and innovation – that is what can keep you in the game and help you create growth opportunities even when business is slow and uncertain.

How Can Business Travel Booking Be Improved?

Current travel booking systems for business travel can often be unwieldy, cumbersome, and frustrating, and most of us have experienced difficulties managing travel expenses. Business travel 2.0 needs to solve these problems and usher in a new paradigm by addressing two key points:

  1. Embracing tech innovations: Age-old travel booking platforms are still dependent on emails, phone calls, excel sheets, and failed attempts to control the manual process, making it cumbersome and frustrating. These old processes consume a lot of time and waste a lot of resources. However, with an automated travel booking system, the companies can simplify the experience of managing business travel and optimize their direct and indirect costs. AI-powered recommendation engines offer travelers curated options based on their preferences and policies, making it a quick, hassle-free process.
  2. Implementing integrated systems: Managing travel-related expenses is difficult in a manual process or when there are multiple partners handling travel and expense separately. Travel and expense go hand-in-hand. That is why it is essential to have both T&E under one system. Integrated platforms allow users to file their expenses on the go as and when they incur them and do not have to hoard the travel payment receipts for longer periods. This avoids piling up expense filing, human errors and delayed reimbursements. Apart from the employees/users, it is a relief for the finance teams as it eliminates the chances of manual errors and helps them be audit-ready. 

Standing Out in the SaaS-enabled T&E Space 

SaaS-powered travel and expense management is a vast market with numerous software providers. However, it is difficult to find a one-stop solution. Clients look for integrated service partners that can provide self-booking capabilities with preference-based curated options and fraud detection capabilities, along with filing on the go with mobile apps for faster reimbursements. 

Some additional benefits can set you apart from the competition:

  1. AI-driven recommendations:  Innovations like auto-creating expense reports based on travel data and nudging employees to file them with a single click are beneficial. Personalized travel options based on preferences and searches help in quicker bookings without having to fetch data from multiple apps. Additionally, AI tools also offer combined actionable suggestions for both T&E spends to deliver efficiency.  
  2. High level of data visibility and control:  Most tech-forward companies are moving to an ecosystem where they do not know what to choose between convenience and control. While they want it to be an easy-to-use platform, they also want control and visibility over the spend. Enabling a balance between the two where the client need not choose because they can have both convenience and control would definitely score an integrated platform bonus points.

3 Key Considerations for Choosing a Business Travel Platform 

When choosing a business travel platform, companies must keep in mind the following three considerations:

  1. Ease of use: Most people think that automation is tricky, so they avoid its use. But if a platform is easy to use and doesn’t require any sort of training, then that’s the one they should go for. It is the convenience that matters. 
  2. Level of control and scope of evolution: Every company has a different set of rules for different employees. So a platform should be able to reflect those rules/policies for each employee while they use the platform. For example, the hotel booking budgets for an employee would be different in the city of Los Angeles vs. that in Manhattan. A platform that provides levels of customizations and evolves with time and changing needs is undoubtedly a better choice.
  3. Availability and accessibility to data: The right data helps monitor the current spending and plan better for the future. But there are a few details that you need to outline regarding data visibility. Does your T&E platform provide data in real-time? If it does, then is it dumping raw data onto you or giving it out in the form of reports? Are these just reports that you need to make sense of, or do they come with actionable insights that help you increase efficiency? You need to figure out which level you want to be at and the kind of data you need.

Back to Business

Business travel is back and is back with a bang. There is increased demandOpens a new window as companies realize that they need to digitize their T&E platforms now more than ever. Since these demands are more data-driven, people are no longer dependent on conventional reports due to a lack of credibility. They are more inclined toward AI-powered solutions.

It is not just about making travel booking and expense filing easy but providing a seamless experience to all users. An automated T&E management platform is the need of the hour for various reasons like cost-saving, improving employee efficiency, fraud detection and enhancing overall efficiency. As businesses recover, business travel is all set to take off as well, and companies need to be ready with the right SaaS partners to support that.

What changes do you expect to see in business travel in the months to come? Share with us on LinkedInOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , or FacebookOpens a new window . We’d love to know what you think!

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