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The Secret to Business Agility? Alignment

The Secret to Business Agility? Alignment

Today’s businesses move faster than ever, and agility is not a competitive advantage but a mandate. As you grow, your business begins to slog and progress grinds to a halt. It’s not saying that this is anyone’s fault—it’s just easier to turn a canoe than it is to turn a cruise ship. That said, at some point this hypothetical boat still needs to be turned.

Growing Pains

You wouldn’t use a canoe paddle to maneuver a cruise ship, but too many growing organizations attempt to leverage the same processes and technologies that worked when the company was small. Unfortunately for them, this hinders growth and forces companies to overwork their employees to overcome the shortcomings presented by their inadequate systems.

As your company grows, there are many new challenges that arise, and you can’t afford to watch your people struggle to do the basics when you need them to be proactive—informing business decisions and helping your company embrace its next opportunity. For growing organizations, one of the most common treatments is automation, something we have discussed in great detail here. However, we would today like to explore the importance of alignment—a practice that simplifies workflows, gives employees greater flexibility and control over the work they do, and puts two or more entities on the same page.

An Often Overlooked Place for Alignment Hides in Finance

There are many kinds of alignment: Business-IT Alignment, the alignment of mission, values, and vision, sales and marketing alignment, and more. However, there is one spot for alignment that makes sense yet feels overlooked—possibly because it feels like there is little room for improvement or because both of these processes are embedded so deeply into so many parts of the organization while feeling like a small part of finance. The two processes? Travel and Expense Management and Invoice Management.

Both processes have reasonably similar workflows, they both deal with getting the bills paid, and unfortunately, they are often both inefficient. However, more and more growing companies are finding that by improving the processes and underlying technology used to get both of these tasks done, they can gain greater control over and visibility into their entire spend management—rather than two separate processes.

Total Spend Management: Aligning Travel/Expense Management and Invoice

In September 2017, SAP Concur commissioned Forrester Consulting to evaluate how companies are making decisions about travel and expenses and invoice solutions. Looking to understand what separates spend management leaders from spend management laggards, Forrester surveyed 378 respondents and conduct six qualitative interviews with IT and finance decision makers to explore this topic. Among their findings:

  • Sixty percent-plus of companies face issues with manual process and timeliness with current tools/processes.
  • For roughly 40% of companies, IT and finance are not working closely with a unified T&E and invoice management strategy.
  • Only 13% of companies surveyed are extremely satisfied with their company’s spend management solutions in these areas.

Respondents believe that spend management is fragmented, laborious, and inaccurate, and to be fair, they are right. Fewer than 50% of companies are very satisfied with the ease of use and accessibility of their T&E tools and processes, and even fewer (40%) are very satisfied with their tools and processes for invoice management.

In turn, this leads to dissatisfaction both internally (travelers who are sick of manually submitting every single receipt by hand and managers who hate scanning and filing each receipt) and externally (suppliers who aren’t getting paid on time), and leads to higher costs, more errors, and increased risk.

Three Key Focuses for Unified Spend Management

However, by aligning the two processes, companies can develop a complete spend management strategy that benefits employees, suppliers, and the organization as a whole. How? Forrester explored this as well and found that there are three key focuses for companies looking to enhance their spend management:

  • Automate: Taking aim at cumbersome manual processes, 38% of IT and finance decision makers cite increasing automation as a top T&E priority over the next 12 to 24 months. Similarly, 43% of respondents see automation as a top priority for improving invoice management. Through automation, these companies recognize minimized input errors, less time wasted on manual entry, and standardized information entry.
  • Leverage Mobile Tools and the Cloud: Cloud-based tools are critical for enabling the efficiency that companies lack. It also lessens the burden on the internal IT support team, allowing them to focus their attention on supporting employees in other ways.
  • All Under One Roof: A cross-departmental view of T&E/invoice management coupled with standardized information entry (thanks to increased automation) provides senior managers with high-level views of trends, increases compliance, and reduces fraud. Simply put, organizations are looking for a single spend management solution that can control and enhance both processes.

Bringing It All together: Unified Spend Management with SAP Concur

Organizations are finding that their processes are akin to “turning a cruise ship with a canoe paddle,” but only the most proactive ones are doing something about it. The results? More control, better relationships with suppliers, more security, and less worry. With Travel, Expense, and Invoice solutions from SAP Concur, these companies are taking control of their spend management and facilitating growth that is both comfortable and painless. Learn more about the work we do with SAP Concur here, and about our integrations designed to take its value even further.

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