Digitally Transform Your Finance One Step – And Many Moments – At a Time

Long-term business success means keeping pace with a continually evolving world. Between new products, new competitors, fluctuating markets, changing customer demands, global crises, and more, expecting the unexpected is the new normal. Technology is critical to maintaining business stability and agility in any situation – but like everything else, digital transformation is a journey made up of many moments of opportunity. 

Often, the big question facing businesses contemplating digital transformation is, “Where do I start?” 

For many businesses, the answer lies in finance automation.  

Recent market disruptions and changing work environment and lifestyles have almost certainly prompted a change in how you interact with customers. Perhaps you’re connecting with them remotely, finding new distribution channels, or allowing them to pay in new, more convenient ways. Whatever the case, you’ve most likely already taken your first steps toward digital transformation. But if your employees are still using paper- and e-mail-based processes for travel and expense management and vendor invoicing, then you’re missing a critical moment of opportunity to take control over business spend, improve cash flow, and prepare for whatever lies ahead. 

The first step in your digital finance transformation should be to evaluate where you are today. 

Figure out where paper and e-mail are still being used to track and manage spend and spend-related communication. Also examine your finance/ERP system to determine whether the functionality you have is delivering the near-real-time spend insight and streamlined payment processes you need. Finally, take a look at where and how your employees work to see if your systems are giving them the flexibility to stay productive from the home office or on the go. 

Once you’ve got all these processes mapped out, it’s time to determine what’s working and what’s not. Travel and expenses are a great place to start. Ask your people about your expense reporting process – how long does it take, how often are there errors, how much time do managers and account payable (AP) spend chasing down missing submissions and approvals? How long does it take people to get reimbursed? Next, examine your vendor invoicing for the same issues of simplicity, speed, and accuracy, and ask yourself whether lost invoices, late payments, and missed discounts are impacting vendor relationships and your bottom line. Finally, check in with your finance teams to see if they have the spend visibility that they need to prevent wasteful spending, improve cash flow, and align spend strategy with your business goals. 

In addition to considering spend processes, you’ll want to examine spend policy. This includes measuring out-of-policy spending as well as your employees’ familiarity with spend policy. You need a spend policy that covers the full spectrum of your spend activity while also delivering the desired business impact of reduced errors, greater cost savings, stronger security, and increased compliance. Spend policy should be easy to find, understand, and apply – and should ideally be built right into your spend management processes.  

Now that you know which problems need to be solved, it’s time to rally your people and get them on board with implementing a solution. 

Your stakeholder list should include leaders, managers, and folks on the ground from AP, procurement, HR, finance, IT, and any other department that deals with spend processes regularly. By bringing all these people together, you’ll be able to ensure a clear understanding of how digitalising your spend management can improve process efficiency, visibility, cost control, cash flow, security and compliance, and employee safety and satisfaction. Not only will this help demonstrate the need for change, but it will also ease the transition to your new automated system.  

For those who are still on the fence or feeling nervous about change, remind them that digital, cloud-based spend management can save finance and accounting employees 12 to 13 hours per week while also giving them the freedom to do their job from anywhere.1 For the conservative budget hawks, be sure to present a cost-benefit analysis that considers all the money you will save by reducing errors, curbing out-of-policy spending, and increasing remittance discounts – not to mention the savings that can be uncovered through greater spend visibility. As for IT, make sure they know that any digitalisation plan includes partnering with a reputable vendor that can provide the support they need for a smooth rollout and operations going forward. 

Seventy-two percent of business leaders agree that automated travel and expense management solutions provide the improved spend visibility they need to better respond to business challenges – proving that there has never been a better moment for finance automation.2  

Read our latest e-book to find out more. Then visit us online to see how SAP Concur solutions can help.  

 

1.–2. “Travel, Expense, and Vendor Invoice Management Study,” Analysys Mason, 2022.