Headlines from Concur’s Fusion Exchange event included the use of technology to battle business uncertainty, tighter integration with parent company SAP and the publication of new research on the expenses app market.
If Making Tax Digital was the dominant theme at last week’s practice-focussed IRIS World, then Brexit and the uncertain business landscape was the more implicit focus of expense solutions company Concur’s flagship event.
While MTD had the IRIS accountants hot under the collar last week, the analysis at today’s event was more measured. During a tax update session from VAT expert Matt Lewis and EY’s employment tax specialist John Chaplin, both were at pains to point out that despite the Brexit vote no laws had changed yet and were unlikely to for at least the next two and half years. Despite market volatilities and an uncertain trading future, Lewis continued, whatever laws are eventually passed are more than likely to closely resemble existing EU tax law.
This mixed tone was reflected on the conference floor. One finance director for a major chemical exporter told AccountingWEB how their shares had shot up in the Brexit aftermath, but that the firm had put on hold further investment in its UK operations until more details about import tariffs had been released.
A CFO for a major cosmetics company also expressed his disappointment at the unstable business environment, but pointed out that the vast majority of firms had continued to trade unhindered by rumours of recession and ruin.
Many of the presentations and discussions focussed on how expenses and invoice automation help companies save time and cut costs, particularly for those adopting defensive balance sheet strategies similar to the chemical company mentioned above while the UK government establishes its new relationship with the European Union.
In terms of product announcements at the event, perhaps the headline was Concur’s announcement that it has fully implemented automated integration between its expense management package and parent company SAP’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) application.
SAP acquired Concur in 2014, and while some might be surprised at the unhurried pace of the integration given the nature of the two companies’ relationship, both are complex multinationals operating in slightly different markets, so perhaps some degree of delay was almost inevitable.
Chris Baker, Managing Director, Enterprise at Concur said: “This is a truly exciting moment in SAP and Concur’s partnership. The direct connection between Concur Expense and SAP ERP means that team members will no longer have to manually export and import flat files to update the ERP. The moment anything changes in the ERP, that info will automatically be updated in Concur and vice versa.”
Further integration between SAP’s real time ERP suite for digital business S/4 HANA and Concur’s solutions will be detailed later this month.
Mobile and digital channels disrupt expense management market
A new survey issued on the day of the conference has found that companies rate mobile apps as the most effective way to get employees to comply with travel and expense policies.
The global study from Forrester Consulting found that managing travel and expense is a top challenge for financial leaders, but they have less time to devote to it. To combat this 73% of the 500 companies surveyed are actively updating or planning to update their travel and expense systems within the next six months.
According to the study, “Forrester found that companies are making significant changes to improve the T&E [travel and expenses] process both from a financial, cost-saving perspective and an employee satisfaction and process efficiency perspective.”
To read the full study, which was commissioned by Concur, click here.
Concur also announced a tie-up with digital travel platform SilverRail. The deal allows Concur Travel users direct access to various EMEA rail providers’ booking services and discounted booking costs.
SilverRail bookings made directly through Concur’s platform can now be expensed directly to employers.
Concur’s other relationships with rail platforms include Amtrak (US), Trainline and Evolvi (both UK), SNCF (France), Deutsche Ban (Germany) and VIA Rail (Canada).
Commenting on the partnership, Chris Baker, Concur’s MD of UK enterprise, said: “Our partnership with SilverRail is another step towards making booking business travel hassle free and completely seamless. This deal will give thousands of business travellers the freedom to make price comparisons, book tickets and take advantage of special rates from the palm of their hand.”