Employee spend management a low-hanging fruit for delivering better business outcomes during time of global upheaval

In a time of widespread disruption and change, companies that adapt the best to a dynamic business environment are well-placed to survive and thrive. Technology is one of the most valuable tools to assist companies during this time: according to a McKinsey Global Institute study on disruption, companies that are digital leaders in their sectors have faster revenue growth and higher productivity than their more analogue peers.

As the world undergoes a period of unprecedented upheaval, companies are seeking novel ways of improving their versatility and flexibility to ensure they can adapt to changes in their environment, their customer base and their workforce.

According to Angelique Montalto, Regional Sales Director at SAP Concur, it is highly likely that the effects of the social and economic disruption brought by 2020’s unprecedented events will continue to affect businesses for the foreseeable future. “Managing a business in these uncertain times is a matter of effectively managing change. Companies that keep tight control over costs will have the agility they need to redirect spend to where the business needs it most – without losing sight of the bigger picture of the organisation’s financial wellbeing. Finance teams and decision-makers need to focus efforts on achieving their strategic business outcomes across the organisation despite the current challenging socioeconomic climate.”

Visibility, agility in spend management

Business outcomes are broad organisational goals that support companies’ efforts to meet shareholder, employee, client and supplier needs. “In the context of employee spend management, these business outcomes are broadly focused along three categories, namely workforce engagement, spend management, and controls and compliance,” says Montalto. “Through the effective deployment of agile technology, use of industry best practices and the support of an ecosystem of partners, companies can unlock significant cost-savings and efficiencies by building intelligent employee spend management capabilities.”

Intelligent employee spend management refers to a comprehensive way for organisations to obtain a unified view of their employee spend. It offers three distinct forms of value to the organisation by helping them manage every source and category of spend and providing a unified view of employee spend that can inform HR and finance processes, improve cash flow and liquidity and ensure impactful cost containment.

“In our competitive and often-disruptive business world , companies increasingly seek tools and partners that can help free up precious internal resources and allow the business to focus on its most important challenges,” says Montalto. “For Concur, this means bringing in a vibrant partner network and ecosystem that together capture every form of spend and that adds up to a single unified view of spend across the organisation. A healthy partner network also creates opportunities for innovative new ways of unlocking value or efficiency in the expense management process.”

Partner network unlocks new business outcomes

Montalto cites the example of VAT IT, a global SAP Concur partner with 46 offices and more than 14 000 clients across the world. “VAT IT’s VAT Cloud technology seamlessly integrates with the SAP Concur platform to extract invoice images and data for VAT reclaim requests, both locally as well as internationally. This can increase companies’ VAT refund potential by as much as 70% when they integrate with the SAP Concur platform.”

VAT IT was founded in 1999 in Johannesburg and today counts half of the Fortune 500 companies as clients. According to Devon Auby, Regional Director for the Middle East and Africa at VAT IT, automating the VAT reclamation process through technology has unlocked immense time saving and additional revenue for its customers.

“In the past, teams of people would have to spend days on-site at a customer’s office, manually sifting through and capturing physical invoices. Through our integration with SAP Concur, companies can automate most of its data capture and quickly gain granular insight over what their recoverable VAT amount is. Through insights into specific tax authorities’ VAT reclamation policies, we are also able to ensure full compliance while realising the greatest possible VAT reclaim amount.”

Auby adds that the current trend of remote working is likely to only grow in popularity as more companies untether their teams from corporate offices.

“In light of the global shutting of borders and subsequent short-term decrease in business travel, there will likely be a significant decrease in travel-related invoices through the SAP Concur platform,” says Auby. “But with more than half the world currently working remotely, we are also expecting employee expense claims to significantly change and overall increase. For example, employees working from home due to government regulations may need to purchase office equipment to allow them to do their jobs effectively. Cut off from office facilities, many employees may need additional equipment or supplies, such as printer ink and mobile connectivity. We expect to see a significant increase in related claims over the short term and possibly for the foreseeable future.”

Montalto adds that the new world of business is likely to look quite different to what we have grown used to. “A whole new world is dawning in front of our eyes. Employee expenses are likely to evolve quickly in this changed world, and companies will need to be versatile enough to accommodate these changes while also taking care of their employee experience throughout. However, there are constants: companies will need granular insight into all spend items, and will now need full visibility over all areas of spend, perhaps now more than ever. It is important that business owners, finance departments and HR teams are aware of the tools at their disposal that can enhance their short-term agility while supporting their longer-term success.”