From lost sales to unprecedented boosts in demand, the impact of COVID-19 was as jarring as it was unexpected. Overall, the UK economy, measured by gross domestic product (GDP), shrank by a record 19.8% in the second quarter (April to June) of 2020, following the start of the first lockdown on 23 March. By September 2020, GDP was still down 8.2% compared with February.
In 2021 many businesses are focussing on areas where efficiencies can be improved. It’s time to bring your A game to spend management and ask: how can we work faster and smarter to ensure we’re in a stronger position for whatever comes next?
Crystal Balls Are Hard to Come By
Whilst visibility into the future would be a fantastic business superpower to have, there’s another kind of visibility that can keep your business on an even keel when waters get choppy – and that’s visibility into spend. If you can see more of your spend, on one platform, you can work more productively.
Access to information that impacts cash flow, such as expense reports and supplier invoices, needs to be available at a press of a button. With automated shortcuts, you can achieve much more in much less time, not to mention adapt and react strategically to changes that are out of your control.
The Evolution of Productivity
Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, 86% of big businesses were "concerned" or "very concerned" about their people productivity, according to a survey carried out by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) and Concentra Analytics.
Despite low overall investment on improving productivity (just 0.25% of turnover), the survey revealed that 79% of big businesses have made some effort to improve human productivity, with employee wellbeing (35%), improving business processes and decision making (39%) seeing the biggest efforts, with just 29% investing in technology to automate repetitive tasks.
In 2021, if you search the web for productivity hacks, you’ll come across three common terms – automation, integration and cloud-based working. All three proved their worth ten-fold in 2020, as people had no choice but to work wherever and whenever they could. Sending paper spreadsheets and saving files locally suddenly didn’t seem like such a good or necessary way of working – what use is an invoice that’s been posted to an office if nobody is in the office? How can teams work collaboratively if they’re all working from individual systems? The answer of course is, they can’t. That fact alone makes businesses perilously vulnerable if they don’t evolve.
Evolution means boosting productivity and here are four ways you can do this:
1. Automate for the People
People work better if they are stimulated, rewarded and engaged in what they are doing. Intelligent, automated technology that minimises manual processes, digitises and consolidates spend data, gives employees more to smile about by providing mobile and cloud access to the expense and budget information they need. Look for a spend management solution that let’s you know about innovative enhancements on a regular basis, not six months down the line. Freeing up time so they can sink their teeth into more interesting and satisfying work.
For example, Cisco Systems reported an increase in employee satisfaction from 48% to 77% when it deployed Concur Travel and Expense solutions in over 88 countries in less than a year.
2. Scale and Soar
Whilst talk of survival and adaption has dominated business headlines in the past year, you ultimately want your business to thrive and grow.
If you can adjust or scale without having to add overheads, you’re in a much better position to adapt to sudden (or slow!) market changes. Effective insights through your reporting will go a long way to informing key business decisions and ultimately, the success of your business.
3. Next Level Control
Your ultimate goal is to focus on what is being spent, not what has been spent. To do this you need to have up to date expense report and invoice data, allowing your every business move to be based on accurate and connected information – not guesswork.
By applying automatic controls and audit rules you can avoid going over budget, control costs, and increase policy and regulatory compliance. By automating invoice capture, approval, and payments, you can streamline processes and shorten the invoice cycle, which helps minimise late charges and end-of-the-month invoice surprises.
Automated, secure travel, expense and invoice processes can also decrease the cost of mistakes and duplications. This leads to better compliance and helps to avoid fees for regulatory breaches.
4. Visible and Actionable Spend
Are you confident you’re currently tracking mileage expenses, remote work expenses, cash vs. corporate card spend, COVID-19-related expenses, invoices that come in via post, email, and supplier networks and purchase orders? We wouldn’t be surprised if you answered no! Because you can’t control what you can’t see, visibility should be at the top of your list of productivity hacks.
Set up your card program payment type based on how you want the data tracked in Concur Expense and sent to your financial system. Don’t base it just on the legal agreements with the card provider. Make sure you configure your default payment types!
Quick, smart decisions can only be made if you have up to date spend data in front of you. Correction – decisions can be made, but they run a high risk of being the wrong ones!
If Only There Was a Manual…
The acceleration of digital transformation needed to support remote working has meant that changes that were on the horizon are now suddenly a lot closer. The things that we knew made sense – automation, integration and cloud-based working – suddenly make a lot more sense because they are vital to business continuity.
As finance teams move from reactive to proactive spend management, their resources can be funnelled wherever they are needed, whenever they are needed. This gives their business the agility it needs to withstand constant change, in whatever form it might take.
It’s time to adjust your sails to take advantage of the forward wind! We can’t go back now and why would we want to?
To find out how to be more productive with SAP Concur solutions, read our Tips and Tricks eBook