An Ecosystem of Innovation in Travel and Expense Claim Management

SAP Concur collaborates with powerful partners and constantly drives innovation with the intention of maintaining their position as the number-one travel and expense management provider to global organisations.

During challenging economic times, CFOs often bear the brunt of pressure of optimising cost management while still delivering competitive business advantage. In this environment of cost pressure, increasing competition and evolving technology, CFOs should focus on gaining visibility, increase process efficiency, and building greater trust with internal and external stakeholders.

“Business decision makers need access to an ecosystem of innovative technology tools that can automate laborious manual processes while driving efficiencies and providing a granular view over all aspects impacting profitability, cash flow and compliance,” says Angelique Montalto, regional sales director at SAP Concur. “The sheer size and complexity of modern enterprises makes manual management of cash flow and compliance completely impossible.”

She adds that organisations are increasingly utilising spend management tools to ensure they can gain a clear and accurate view over the total expenses of the business and at a granular level within individual business units and jurisdictions.

“Our business was founded in response to a simple question: Is there not a better way? Today, our ecosystem of partners on the SAP Concur platform have introduced hugely innovative solutions that remove some of the pressure from CFOs and provides them with powerful tools to save money, optimise expenses and achieve 100 percent compliance to prevailing regulations.”

SAP Concur is a cloud-based travel and expense claim platform for global businesses that eases the process of compliance and realises cost-optimisation opportunities. The platform is designed to simplify employee spend and ensure compliance and transparency in travel and expense claims.

“The nightmare scenario of finance teams sifting through boxes of envelopes stuffed with paper receipts to manually enter expenses into a spreadsheet can now become a long-distant memory,” says Montalto. “Through powerful cloud-based automation of the expense management process, SAP Concur eases reporting requirements and provides visibility over spending before, during and after a trip is completed. Most importantly, our ecosystem of partners are constantly introducing game-changing innovations that provide a step-change in productivity and cost-savings over traditional manual processes.”

Driving innovation in travel expense management

One of the most successful partnerships on the SAP Concur platform is Uber for Business. The app and the integration are free to SAP Concur customers, and provides organisations with company-wide automated digital receipts and a clear view to overall ground transportation spend.

According to Mohamed Swidan, head of Uber for Business for Middle East & Africa, at Uber for Business, the integration removes the need for employees to manually record and submit expense claims for their Uber trips. “Organisations can also easily onboard employees with a few clicks and get a clear view of all trip details from a single dashboard. As a value-add, Uber for Business is also integrated to Concur Locate, which gives organisations real-time location awareness of employees.”

Uber is available in more than 600 cities across more than 65 countries worldwide with more than 15 million trips a day across the world, meaning that business travellers do not have to worry about carrying cash or trying to navigate local taxi prices to their hotel or airport, as they can use the same app they use at home.

Swidan adds that ensuring a consistent and positive customer experience is a key part of Uber’s success. “By automating the expense claim process and limiting the effort required for business riders to comply with company travel policies, not only is the traveller experience simplified and made easier, but it has clear bottom line benefits for organizations by keeping travellers compliant.”

Montalto says ground travel expenses can be time-consuming for employees to claim, keeping them away from important work and often leading to them using less cost-effective travel solutions. “Uber is the number-one most-claimed expense worldwide. With the integration to SAP Concur, organisations can encourage their employees to opt for Uber in a hassle-free way and do away with the need for manual expense claim submissions. What’s more, decision-makers gain access to clear, consistent and accurate data across the organisation, enabling better financial decision-making and cost-optimisation opportunities.”

An example of this can be found with Constellation Brands, one of the world’s largest drinks companies. Constellation Brands introduced the SAP Concur Uber for Business integration to employees in August 2017, and has since added 6,000 employees, automating 8,000 Uber expenses.

“By automating the expense claim process and easing the administrative burden on their employees, Constellation Brands has created easy and simple reason for all employees to choose Uber as their mobility solution,” says Swidan. “With Uber’s global footprint, Constellation Brands also has a clear roadmap to automating the ground transportation expense claims across multiple countries and regions, giving finance managers a full view over their global travel expenses and enabling more accurate decision-making.”

Simplifying and streamlining VAT reclamation and compliance

The power of the SAP Concur platform also extends beyond travel and expense claim management. VAT IT, the world’s largest value-added tax reclaim firm, leverages the SAP Concur platform to drive a highly complex and innovative global business.

According to Brendin Cohen, SAP Concur partner manager at VAT IT, the partnership with Concur has helped the company rapidly evolve through an extensive automation process that has delivered immense business results.

“Our business was traditionally heavily reliant on time consuming manual processes, but our business and billing model relies on successful outcomes for our customers. Since our partnership with SAP Concur commenced six years ago, we have unlocked huge value by getting a more granular view over expenses and speeding up the VAT reclamation process through innovative automation functionality.”

VAT IT has 40 international hubs servicing more than 10,000 customers, including half of the Fortune 500 companies. The company was started in 1999 in Johannesburg, South Africa. “In the past, our teams would have to spend days on-site at our customers’ offices, manually retrieving physical invoices stored in files and boxes. This was obviously very time consuming and, due to the sheer volume of invoices, often prone to errors. Some invoices would be lost or missing, and there was often a lack of overall enforceable policy guiding expense claims.”

Cohen says the company partnered with SAP Concur to develop VAT Cloud, an app integrated to the SAP Concur platform that utilises various algorithms and rules to automate much of the data capture and ensure 100 percent compliance while realising the greatest possible VAT reclaim.

“Clients of SAP Concur can access the VAT Cloud app via the SAP Concur App Centre and easily integrate it, enabling quick automated data capture of up to 200,000 images per hour. Organisations can then quickly see what the potential recoverable VAT amount is, and then move forward to ensure compliance before submitting to the relevant tax authorities.”

VAT IT’s business model was designed to be low-touch and success-based, with the company taking a portion of recovered VAT funds as payment for services. “This is great for our customers who get all the benefits of optimal VAT reclamation without having to incur additional overhead costs,” says Cohen. “However, it does mean we have to be as efficient, accurate and streamlined as possible – and that’s where Concur really shines.”

Through the integration with SAP Concur, VAT IT provides granular detail to its customers, with the ability to see top expense types, vendors and compliance according to each business entity. “The system can also help organisations identify employees that are not complying to policies, opening the door to additional training or educational material to ensure compliance,” adds Cohen. “What’s more, our discoveries team can manage reissues of spoilt or missing invoices on their clients’ behalf, saving them huge amounts of time and energy. This level of personal attention and value-add would be completely impossible if our data capturing and analysis processes were not automated.”

A growing ecosystem of value and innovation

Montalto believes that improved travel and expense claim management is often an untapped source of value for many businesses. “Organisations can sometimes underestimate the impact that improved travel and expense management can have on their bottom line. But considering that seven to 10 percent of an average company’s budget relates to travel and expenses, there is a clear cost benefit to using technology tools and specialised apps to better manage and enforce expense claim policies and procedures.”

She adds that there is still great scope for further innovation by the company’s more than 200 app development partners. “As a business, we pride ourselves on offering a positive and consistent customer experience. Our app development partners play a crucial role in ensuring the platform delivers increasing amounts of value to businesses across a range of applications. As the complexity of doing business increases and the pace of change accelerates, having a healthy, thriving ecosystem of innovative partners is one of our best ways to ensure we remain the number-one travel and expense management provider to global organisations.”

This article first appeared in CFO South Africa magazine.