Matt Gibbons is the senior director of government and government contractor sales for Concur.
Government agencies face many challenges today as they try keep up with citizen expectations. Many agencies are working to secure critical information, move to the cloud and provide citizens with better user experiences that mirror those in the private sector. However, one group of users is regularly overlooked: government employees.
Too often, government agencies at the federal, state and local levels are unable to accomplish needed upgrades to internal systems because of a variety of reasons. Agencies across all levels of government should focus on overhauling legacy IT systems replacing them with employee-centric systems. This is especially true with travel and expense systems that, when modernized, put employees in the driver seat, resulting in higher productivity and accountability to spend management while assuring better user experiences and data management.
» Get the best federal technology news and ideas delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.
Government employees expect their technology and reporting systems to function just as well as their technology at home, but that is often not the case. Employees are forced to process requests for office supplies, personal car mileage reimbursements and repayments for business travel expenses using outdated, cumbersome systems that may still rely on paper forms.
According to a Dell Workforce study, nearly half of millennials say they would quit a job if their employer did not provide adequate technology to perform their job, and 81 percent say that office technology influences their decision to take a new position. If these numbers are accurate, millions of talented young people may avoid working for government agencies because they are discouraged from using technology that will help them perform their jobs.
Improving the internal workflows associated with spend management has numerous benefits. It not only improves the digital experiences of employees, it also saves agencies money that can be redirected to other priorities. A connected, automated spend management solution provides better visibility into employee-initiated spending and the overall financial health of an agency. When agencies have a holistic picture, they are better able to ensure compliance with government mandates, provide greater transparency, maximize spending for taxpayer value and redirect more resources into citizen services.
The federal government spends $80 billion each year on IT systems and 80 percent of that is spent maintaining outdated, legacy systems, according to the Government Accountability Office. Imagine what government could do if it redirected even a portion of that money into improving citizen services.
Government agencies are notoriously risk averse for good reason. Finding the right solution that can deliver quality digital experiences in an affordable manner for taxpayers is no small task. Recently, many agencies have been looking to commercial applications proven in the private sector to solve this challenge.
Rather than building costly custom solutions, agencies turning to cloud-based software-as-a-service solutions that can be quickly implemented and are updated and maintained by third parties to enable their own success. Custom-built solutions can be expensive and lead to vendor lock-in, which is especially problematic for smaller agencies at the state and local level.
The Defense Department is wisely seeking to modernize the Defense Travel System—a mammoth 19-year-old travel and expense system, which handles an estimated $8.1 billion in travel annually and processes more than 4.2 million expense reports a year. Overhauling a travel system of this size based on a 1,000-plus page travel policy is no small feat, but partnering with a proven commercial software-as-a-service solution provider that can make the processes much simpler is a step in the right direction.
When adopting new solutions, government agencies should also consider prioritizing mobility, especially when it comes to a travel and spend management solution. There is nothing more mobile than travel. Whatever solution agencies select, they would be wise to take a mobile-first approach. When agencies have thousands of employees on the road, those employees should be able to book and change travel plans, submit supply requests or approve requests from their mobile device.
It is vital to develop an employee-centric mentality and to think about how, where and when users will want to submit expenses or perform other functions. Equipping government employees with advanced tools, designed to not only provide them with a great experience but also to accomplish essential work, empowers them to achieve agency objectives more efficiently and effectively than ever before.
Government agencies embracing cloud technology and SaaS solutions for travel and spend management are rapidly realizing the challenges of legacy systems no longer exist with an open platform. Those agencies that have made the transition are now reaping the rewards of solutions that not only increase employee satisfaction but also improve delivery of citizen services.