If you as CFO find yourself constantly fielding calls from travel & expense management providers, blame Nick Evered. The Senior Vice President and General Manager for APAC at T&E company SAP Concur wants his sales people to talk to finance leaders more than to CIOs, travel managers, procurement people or HR.
“If we start the conversation with the CFO,” explains Evered, “our sales cycles are shorter, and our win rates are higher.” Finance chiefs are more likely to appreciate that a T&E solution can be an investment in generating revenue, rather than as simply a way to arrange, manage and control travel costs.
“Travel and expense as a line item in operating expense can be viewed as a necessary cost of doing business, or as an investment in how to actually produce revenue”
Evered spoke to CFO Innovation’s Cesar Bacani about the new trend of looking at T&E as a tool for revenue enhancement, its use for planning, budgeting and strategy, and other issues. Edited excerpts:
Tell us about the new trend of looking at travel & expense management as a way to generate revenues, rather than just to control expenditures.
Travel and expense as a line item in operating expense can be viewed as a necessary cost of doing business, or as an investment in how to actually produce revenue. There are a few companies that are starting to look at it from that second perspective.
They're starting to say: "How do I then measure that investment to ensure that I'm getting a return on it?" Instead of saying: “Let's just wait until somebody's done a business trip, and then we'll process their business claim."
These companies want to use T&E spending more strategically and tactically.
How do you do that, though?
There are multiple ways. At the very simplest level, Concur connects to CRM [customer relationship management] systems and project management systems. This enables the linking of expenses directly against projects, or in the case of something like Salesforce, against a customer or a sales opportunity.
You can actually see how much you have spent on a customer, whether that is an investment in pre-sale, or whether it is an expense that should be re-billed back to the customer.
Is it a requirement that the company must have CRM systems and project management systems to link to the T&E systems?
Yes and no. You can produce reports just within the Concur solution. You can answer questions about where and on whom the spend is currently being made. Who are my big spenders? Where are they going to? What customers are they meeting with? How much have they spent entertaining those particular customers?
More sophisticated companies would look at extending that further out. They say: “Because I do all of my customer relationship management in my CRM system, how do I create that linkage [with T&E] so that it's in fact a fully integrated system?"
I'm going to put you on the spot. Does SAP Concur drink its own champagne and link its T&E system to all other systems for revenue enhancement?
We do. There are actually multiple steps to this process. There is the very first step, which is when somebody puts in a request to travel. Somebody says, "I want to go to Malaysia, and I am to go and visit XYZ customer." At that point, I [as SAP Concur GM] actually get all of the requests that come through the system, and I can see where people are expecting to spend money.
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