Simplifying travel and expense management with tech

Image courtesy of Dräger

Spend management refers to the business process of collecting, classifying, analysing, and controlling spending data. In addition to reducing procurement and purchasing costs, travel expenses, subscriptions, and various outlays, spend management is also about improving efficiency, collaboration, and productivity in the organisation.

One of the solutions available in the space is SAP Concur’s spend management software, which is designed to connect expense, travel, and vendor invoice spending in one system. Dräger – a Lübeck, Germany-based medical and safety technology manufacturer – recently announced that they teamed up with SAP Concur to improve their workflows and processes.

To find out more about the collaboration, Frontier Enterprise got in touch with David Fuentes, Regional Controller (Africa, Asia and Australia) at Dräger, to talk about spend management, their implementation of SAP Concur’s solution, and the technologies that Dräger plans to adopt in the future.

What sort of spend management platform did you use previously? What made the switch to SAP Concur necessary? Or did you start with SAP Concur’s solution?

Dräger’s journey with SAP Concur started four years ago in 2017 when we rolled out its Travel and Expense solution in our sales and service subsidiary in Singapore. Most employees within the company noted that the most time-consuming administration tasks were travel bookings and expense collection, as the process was manual and largely paper-based. 

For example, a typical travel booking process would involve contacting the travel agent for trip information, carrying paper receipts for extended periods of time that risks loss or damage due to wear and tear, filling out paper forms, and obtaining signatures from the relevant approving managers. Once this process is completed, employees would then submit, and hope payment is processed on time. 

Dräger needed to digitise our financial processes to provide the flexibility our employees needed, and allow them more time to focus on our customers and first-responders. At the same time, we wanted to gain access to granular real-time spend insights that can be put into action, improve transparency and efficiency, and drive compliance. 

By streamlining the expense claim process, our employees become more efficient and are better able to focus on higher-value tasks aimed at improving customer satisfaction. 

There were many solutions in the market that we reviewed and evaluated closely. What we found was that SAP Concur is an established provider in the market that was able to offer a single solution to address different business issues. This capability was not easily available from other vendors.

How does SAP Concur’s spend management platform integrate with the rest of the software and systems you use in Dräger?

SAP Concur is a platform that agnostically integrates with other systems, whether it’s an enterprise resource planning (ERP) or a human capital management (HCM) solution. 

SAP Concur’s solutions have proven to be compatible with our different ERPs. Since I take care of around 30 legal entities spread out in different countries in the region, and each of them has a different ERP system, it was essential for Dräger to adopt a solution that was able to connect to our different systems seamlessly.

SAP Concur also enables Dräger to run different legal entities in a single instance. Here in Dräger, we have around 15 legal entities using the same SAP Concur instance, with each market having different rules and characteristics that are unique to each legal entity. SAP Concur allows us to adapt to the needs of each particular market.

An implementation within the country will start with a gap analysis, where I review the current process and think of ways to make it more efficient. Next, I need to have a look at what kind of data is needed locally (e.g. tax IDs, vendor names, and translations to local language) and from our HQ (e.g. attendee information, company hierarchy codes, and group GL accounts). SAP Concur lets use several kinds of fields from different sources. 

Once all the fields are correctly mapped, they can be sent automatically to the different ERPs. It will fill up all the information that is needed to create the appropriate accounting entries. Best part is that all the information is transferred in a secure protocol, so there is no risk of data leaks or discrepancies. For the markets that use SAP, the native connector would alert us if there were any issues while transferring the data.

How has the implementation of SAP Concur’s travel and expense platform impacted finance and admin efficiency positively? Could you talk about your operations setup at Dräger?

As regional controller for Africa, Asia, and Australia, I oversee 30 legal entities spread out across different countries, each with a different ERP system. Maintaining spend visibility and compliance to the various regulations is complex and challenging due to the differing systems across the markets. 

Nonetheless, SAP Concur is a mature solution that has the ability to connect and integrate with our different systems without issue, whereas the competition offered just a single solution. This allowed for seamless deployment across the region for Dräger to ensure compliance, reduce risk, and improve efficiency. 

Since the SAP Concur solution is straightforward and intuitive to use, we do not need a Concur expert in each country to run the platform. We take on a decentralised approach in terms of what is needed, but all administration is done from Singapore for all the legal entities. The platform also provides many recommendations that are useful when there are doubts. Even after rollout, the SAP Concur service team is available to address any questions or make changes in administration if needed.

Whenever we deploy a new solution, we first look at what each market is doing and create a system that is similar to improve the existing expense management process. This helps to increase adoption as employees are more likely to use a system that looks familiar, and by extension, easy to use. If there are additional legal or tax requirements for the system, we would then work with the back office to include additional fields to capture the relevant data and adapt the system.

By keeping systems similar to drive adoption, and tweaking the baseline system to receive feedback and optimising it for business outcomes, SAP Concur is able to provide the solutions that Dräger requires on one platform.

What sets SAP Concur’s travel and expense platform apart from competitors that offer a similar financial system? What makes SAP Concur particularly suitable for Dräger?

There are three main reasons why we chose SAP Concur as our partner for expense management:

First, SAP Concur provides a variety of solutions in a single system that meets business needs in different markets. This includes business expansion, compliance and risk, control company cost, duty of care, employee experience to growth, and spend management. For Dräger, the team was looking to expand its global operations while ensuring that expense management was still compliant to local regulations across the region. Having a system that flags non-compliance provides greater visibility and cultivates positive behaviour in the organisation.

Second is its integration with various ERP systems. The SAP Concur platform is vendor-agnostic, so it easily integrates with other systems – whether it is an ERP or HCM product, within or outside of the SAP suite of solutions, the modern platform integrates with existing solutions from the business to streamline expense management.

In addition, the varying legal and compliance requirements was another key consideration in implementation. SAP Concur allowed us to digitise existing policies and controls, automating our travel policy compliance to prevent duplicate expense claims, and make clear what is allowed for reimbursement.

What are some of the most exciting developments in Dräger, specifically in the technologies you plan to adopt?

We support hospitals around the world in treating critically ill patients who would not be able to survive without medical technology. In the coming years, we will focus on the following issues to achieve this goal:

  • Protective therapies:
    The treatment of COVID-19 patients has illustrated once again how important it is to individually adapt therapies to the needs of each individual patient and their clinical condition. Protective ventilation is the key to reducing the side effects and long-term consequences of acute care.
  • Connected medical technology:
    Networking different systems at acute care workstations ensures that all current information is available to support clinical decisions. We rely on the ISO/IEEE 11073-SDC communication standard, which enables the safe interoperability of medical devices along with further steps toward automation.

In the safety business, our products and solutions include stationary and mobile gas detection systems, personal protective equipment, and alcohol and drug testing devices, and a range of training and services.

We focus on the following strategic issues to develop the safety division’s market position: 

  • Overarching safety management:
    Holistic safety and emergency management systems are becoming increasingly important to our customers. We help customers to reduce process risk and be optimally prepared for emergencies. We are continuously expanding our consulting and planning services.

Data-supported services:
The increasing digitalisation and networking of operating procedures and technical devices opens a wide range of new opportunities for us to offer our customers new data-based services, for example in the areas of remote services or asset management.