Rio Tinto adopts online expense management system

24 August 2010

24 August 2010 | Lindsay Clark

Global mining giant Rio Tinto hopes to cut costs and boost compliance by using internet-based software to manage expenses filed by 20,000 staff.

The system, which will be hosted online, is designed to simplify expense processing and enhance reporting. Business travel spend, which reaches $300 million (£195 million) worldwide, will be the initial focus.

Scott Singer, global head of procurement at Rio Tinto, said existing tools needed improvement. “Disparate systems, labour-intensive processes and limited visibility of consolidated spend were having an impact at local and global levels,” he said.

The technology, from software firm Spendvision, will help the company analyse global data to identify ways to optimise spend and reduce costs, he added.

During the financial crisis business travel budgets were cut in many organisations. Rio Tinto is now taking a more strategic approach, said Singer. “We want to have a longer-term view on business travel. It’s really about having good data to be able to make decisions on a whole range of things: how you approach air travel, hotel and other smaller things on the spend profile. And we want to make sure our business travellers are following consistent guidelines and policies.”  

While Rio Tinto uses American Express as a corporate travel agent, the expense management software was necessary to provide an overall view of spend. “This software is a vital downstream component that ultimately provides visibility and insight into travel expense for the company,” said Singer.

Spendvision partner Telstra International will host the application for Rio Tinto on a pay-as-you-go model, which means the company avoids spend on hardware, software licenses and IT services. Providing the application over the internet also means it could be set up quickly in any region, without local IT support, which was particularly important because Rio Tinto operates in remote locations, said Singer.

Neither firm would reveal the level of spending on the system.

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