Mobile devices and technology have virtually saturated our everyday lives as general consumers. Sure, we all probably have that one friend who still uses a flip phone just to be ironic, but most of us find our lives inextricably intertwined with our mobile devices.

Business travelers are consumers too, of course, and even more dependent on mobile solutions than most typical stay-at-home users. That’s why in a world where there’s a mobile app for every conceivable challenge, travelers are expecting the same hands-off, take-along experience from their expense reporting software.

But concerns over cost, security, or company control in a "bring your own mobile device" world may create resistance to using mobile expense software at a company level. Omar Qari is head of corporate strategy and business development at Emburse, a provider of expense management, travel and AP automation software. Qari says about 45 percent of companies still used manual expense processes, and that this number continues to shrink each year.

“In my experience it’s more the smaller companies that continue to use spreadsheets,” he says. “Either they don’t view it as enough of a timesuck for business travelers and administrators to merit deploying an automated system, or they look at some of the well-known solutions available and think that the system is too sophisticated for their needs.”

Qari adds there are a wide range of expense automation solutions on the market today, and many of them are tailored to specific types of organizations, even small companies or start-ups with just a handful of employees. “Almost every solution has a mobile app,” he says. “And with a workforce that now expects to be able to do everything from the palm of their hand, there really isn’t any excuse for any company not to deploy mobile-optimized expense management technology to their employees, regardless of their size.”

Indeed, according to a survey from travel technology firm Travelport, customers are increasingly moving towards self-service options. This is especially important when it comes to Gen Z, the future business traveler, and managing their high expectations through technology.

The report further states that so-called “super apps,” such as WeChat, that have arisen from Asia will continue to influence the mobile expectations of travelers in the West. “Travel brands that want to deliver holistic mobile customer experiences need to think about how they engage travelers within these super apps as well as in their own mobile channels,” the report found.

What Lies Ahead? 
With the rapid pace of technology innovation and change currently underway, it’s likely we will see even more movement in the mobile and digital spaces. What might 2020 and beyond hold for the business traveler?

According to Emburse’s Qari, the mobile experience will continue to become more integrated and automated. “I think we will continue to see more and more examples of solutions which can be managed entirely on a phone,” he says. “Virtual cards, stored in mobile wallet apps, can be used to pay for items without the employee needing to present a physical card.”

As Qari predicts, “We aren’t too far away from completely real-time, zero-touch expense submission and processing.”