Digitizing Travel and Procurement Card Expenses

Procurement Service Center
Honoree: 
University of Colorado System
Program Category: 

Picture the amount of paper associated with almost 42,000 travel reports and 300,000 procurement card transactions. That’s how many expense-related documents the University of Colorado’s four campuses generate in a single year. Besides the sheer challenge of filing and storing so many receipts, a few years ago there also were major hurdles for reconciling and auditing.

Because all expense-related review was manual, it took central travel accounting staff up to three weeks to process even simple reimbursements of mileage and parking. Much of the procurement card auditing staffers’ time was spent waiting, as departments searched cabinets to produce requested paper records.

Then, CU implemented Concur Travel and Expense. Switching from the paper-and-legacy system took 18 months, and the new system became fully operational by spring 2010. CU also took the unusual step of expanding Concur’s functionality to handle procurement card transactions and apply internal policies to both procurement card and travel expense processing.

What has this meant for employees? Easier report preparation, simpler recordkeeping, faster reimbursement and less time spent responding to audit requests.

Travelers and cardholders can use the Concur mobile app to take photos of charge slips and immediately upload the images to the system. Workers driving to job-related appointments can enter their destination address into the app to calculate mileage reimbursement.

When it’s time to create reports, Concur applies relevant policies and procedures to highlight any problems when the process begins—rather than identifying issues weeks later.

“The University of Colorado’s policy required that procurement card expenses be reconciled within 60 days,” says Sandy Hicks, assistant vice president and chief procurement officer. It’s now easier to fulfill this requirement.

Travelers also can log into Concur to make flight, hotel and car reservations, and then import itinerary and receipt data into the expense report. Customer satisfaction has soared as direct deposit of expense reimbursement generally occurs within a day of report approval. And central auditing staff can sample and review procurement card transactions entirely online.

All air travel is audited, along with other trips costing more than $500. “However, if the expense report is less, and for mileage and parking only, we don’t look at it,” says Hicks. Another efficiency gained.

The Concur system has drastically reduced staff time required at all steps in expense review. The number of full-time equivalent staff members processing travel reports declined by 75 percent, from six to 1.5. The time required to process reimbursements fell 85 percent, from three weeks to 18 hours.

And while the number of card transactions audited increased from 4.76 percent (2011) to 13.31 percent (2013), the manpower required to perform those audits declined 50 percent, from 2 FTE to 1. Overall, says Hicks of Concur, “it has provided a better customer experience.”