Digital Tools are a Top Priority for UK Executives

Businesses in the UK – and across the world – are facing an ongoing level of economic and policy uncertainty to survive or thrive in this erratic environment, businesses need tools that enable them to understand their business and enable them to make critical decisions, quickly and efficiently. Whether that be investment in growth or finding efficiencies to keep the lights on.  

The question then is, how are executives in enterprise organisations – and in particular those with financial oversight – facing up to these challenges?

It’s a question the SAP Concur team commissioned (E) BrandConnect, a commercial arm of The Economist, to answer.

The UK perspective from the 552 executives surveyed worldwide is published in the report, UK executives seek smart solutions to manage finances during uncertain times.

UK executives seek smart solutions to manage finances during uncertain times


Read on for a few of the highlights of the research findings.

The Strategic Priorities

For UK executives, there are three key strategic priorities:

  • 94% highlight business maintenance and continuity, including reducing fraud risk, ensuring employee safety and wellbeing, and ensuring regulatory compliance.
  • 86% highlight digital and technology, including increasing use of data and analytics, scaling up automation of operations, and developing or investing in new technology, systems, and infrastructure.
  • 70% highlight regaining momentum, including increasing employee productivity, accelerating product or service innovations, and scaling the business.

The Biggest Threat to Organisations

Covid-19 has disrupted commerce. But it’s also accelerated changes that were in motion before the pandemic took hold. Some 88% of those surveyed believe it will have a permanent impact on corporate operations, with nine out of ten saying its effects have hit all aspects of their organisation, from supply chain management to personnel.

UK executives recognise that tech holds the key to managing this change – and 92% of respondents are concerned that outdated technology is a threat to their company. It’s why investing in technology infrastructure is such a necessity.

Two closely linked areas are also big concerns – organisational agility and cost containment.

Some 92% of respondents say that maintaining organisational agility is the only way to navigate uncertainty. But only 22% of UK respondents think their business is “much stronger” in operational agility compared with their industry peers.

It’s a similar picture in cost control. Almost all executives think cost control is critical in ensuring agility in a downturn. Yet only 30% of UK executives see their business’s ability to control costs as better than their competitors’.

When it comes to cost control, paper-based processes are a thing of the past and it’s increasingly managed using technology. Indeed, the survey suggests that a lack of automated cost control systems is a significant weakness for businesses across the UK.

How T&E Automation Helps Businesses

To understand why automation delivers enhanced cost control and therefore enhanced organisational agility, we can look to the example of travel and expense (T&E) automation.

T&E is generally the second largest operational cost after salaries, with T&E-related expenses making up 8–12% of the average firm’s total budget. This is therefore one of the main areas where businesses can reduce costs – and no doubt why 92% of UK respondents see automated T&E management as vital to maintaining agile operations and facilitating long-term growth.

Yet only 48% of respondents were “very confident” in their existing T&E management system and many still rely on managing their accounts manually. And more than half of these respondents said their existing T&E systems limited their capacity to contain costs, with more than a third complaining that these were not transparent.

Executives’ main reason for automating T&E is achieving greater business agility and because they expect to gain more accurate reporting and visibility into spend, as well as facilitate smarter decisions based on better data. They can also expect to see processing costs reduced by up to 60%.

For all the insights from the (E) BrandConnect study, download UK executives seek smart solutions to manage finances during uncertain times now.


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