Travel is Toughest on Your Finance Team

Travel is Toughest on Your Finance Team

Corporate travel isn't only tough on the folks doing the travel — it can also take a toll on the back office

Your company’s frequent travelers think they have it tough. Yes, they’re doing good work. They’re on the front lines, making deals, opening up new territory, cementing relationships with key customers. Where would the company be without them? That’s pretty heady stuff, if you’re a corporate road warrior.

But business travel can be a pain, in more ways than one. It’s not all comfy suites and accolades back at the office. And speaking of back at the office, while travelers are flitting here and there, your finance team is nose-to-the-spreadsheet. They think they have it toughest when it comes to managing corporate travel. And, frankly, they may be right.


Your CFO, whether that’s one person or an entire department, is responsible for the corporate budget. Setting it, monitoring it, reporting on it, keeping it in check, and analyzing overall spending at year’s end to set a new budget. It’s the circle of life for all companies. And while that financial circle applies to every aspect of your business, corporate travel has greater impact than most because it’s typically the second or third largest line item behind salaries.

So why is managing travel so tough on your finance team?

Because they’re mired in paper — forced to wing it, thanks to working with outdated tools and procedures. Winging it with numbers is anathema to accountants! No wonder they’re stressed. It’s like expecting your traveling employees to take the stagecoach. Or send a telegram, should they need to communicate.

You can’t run your business without controlling your finances. Your finance team needs data to do their job, including when it comes to managing travel spend. Even small companies need big data and real-time visibility into current travel status. The more limited your resources, the less you can afford to squander even a single dollar. Yet SMBs are doing just that.

In 2017, small business travelers spent 24% more time on the road than their counterparts at big companies. They outspent larger companies, too — almost 37% more on airfare alone. (They spent more on lodging, meals, car rental, and ground transportation, too). No wonder SMB finance teams feel squeezed by travel management.

Without sharp tools that ensure visibility and provide deep data, your finance team is handcuffed. They:

  • Cannot set a realistic travel budget because they don’t have all the information they need (including travel-specific KPIs) to accurately forecast travel needs and costs.
  • Cannot effectively monitor and regularly report on travel spending. All those paper receipts! Manual entry wastes time and invites mistakes. Receipts become unreadable, or get lost, or aren’t captured in the first place. Missing expense data leads to incorrect budget updates. That can skew decision-making or throw other business plans out of whack. Confusion and uncertainty lead to painful business stumbles.
  • Cannot reimburse employees in a timely manner. Ouch!
  • Cannot efficiently analyze booking processes and spending. Sure, you want to “spend less” on travel if possible. But until you’re clear on what you are spending now – and why – you won’t know where (or how) you can trim without sacrificing traveler experience or business results.

Every dollar unnecessarily wasted on travel diminishes the company’s capabilities somewhere else. Ultimately, it falls on finance to not only pinpoint over-spending but uncover the reasons for it. Are travelers booking out of policy? Under what circumstances? The finance team then has to work with your corporate travel manager (or someone in HR, or perhaps an EA who’s nominally in charge of travel oversight) to recommend improvements. Do corporate travel policies need to be tweaked, added, eliminated? Who knows? Where’s the data?

From tough to simple, in one move

Business travelers do have it tough. Going on the road is not necessarily fun, and it takes people away from home. Your people do it anyway, and for the best of reasons – growing your company. But that costs money, and growing companies must wring the greatest possible return from every dollar they spend.

Your finance team wants to do their best work, too. You count on them to keep the travel budget under control and on target. Even more importantly, you count on them to help predict the future. That’s tough if they’re bogged down with outdated travel management systems and insufficient data. Without data, they – and your company – are rudderless.

Grab the helm! Adopt a simple, comprehensive digital travel management platform that everyone in your company can use collaboratively. One that puts travelers, corporate travel managers, and finance all on the same page, all the time. When you have a single source for everything from booking (within company policy guidelines) to receipt capture and submission to real-time visibility and detailed analytics, that’s comprehensively useful. Nothing tough about that.

If chasing down paper receipts and struggling to forecast travel spend sounds like you, may be your ticket to a better way of managing corporate travel. Schedule a demo today to learn more! 

About the Author: Jeanne Hopkins
Jeanne was the CMO of from 2018-20.