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How to empower your business for the new world of work by SAP Concur

Fred Hollows Foundation & SAP – Empower Your Business from Dynamic Business on Vimeo.

Mark Pesce, Futurist speaker and Technology podcaster hosted “How to empower your business for the new world of work”, along with and SAP Concur and Dynamic Business 

Mark: “I’m Mark Pesce and welcome to How to Empower Your Business for the new world of work brought to you by SAP Concur and Dynamic Business.” 

“Shortly I will be speaking to a team from the amazing charity, the Fred Hollows Foundation. You’re probably familiar with their fantastic work, curing blindness around the world. We will learn how the Foundation saved time, money, and even won an award using SAP concur.

“Now, after we’ve heard about their journey, we will have plenty of time for your questions. So please, while we’re in the conversation, add your questions either to the Q  A box or to the box that is both at the bottom of your screen.

“Our reporter from Dynamic Business, Heidi Heck, will pick them up, and she will be relaying them along.

“We’re in a very odd moment right now. New South Wales is emerging from lockdown just this week, we’ve passed our 80 per cent vaccination threshold. So we have a fair degree of freedom, at least for the fully vaccinated.

“The ACT opened up on Friday, last week, and Victoria, just this morning, Victoria has had the first lightening of restrictions that they have seen in 11 weeks.

“But really, if we look back, and we need to look all the way back, we can see that we’ve actually spent nearly 600 days in one form or another having lockdown or social distancing, or border closures or restrictions, formal or not. Six hundred days, most people haven’t been into the office properly in nearly two years.

“That’s changed everything when we go back to the office, and we will probably in large numbers starting early next year. When we go back, everything will be different because we have spent so long away. And in some ways, we’ve grown very accustomed to that distance.

“I was talking to a friend yesterday who said she is sad that the lockdown is ending, that she’s actually living her best life where she doesn’t have to leave the house but gets to work. And it doesn’t mean that we’re always going to like the world ahead.

“All of the business processes that we took for granted, whether that was the queue at the cafe to get a coffee before work, or the morning stand-up meeting or the casual conversations that you have after meetings, which is where most of your work gets done.

“Well. We’ve lost all of those, we’ve certainly lost touch with all of those, some of that will come back, some of it’s gone for good. 

“And we talk now about entering this new age of hybrid work, that’s clearly going to be the case because we’ve already well and truly entered the era of hybrid work. The future of work is going to look fundamentally different than the past. We’ve already digitized almost everything we can as fast as we could because we needed to and it works. By and large. We went from working in offices to working at home in March of 2020 without skipping a beat.

“That tells us how good our tools are and how good we are with those tools. Tools can fill the gaps that can be used to build trust. But they really don’t go all the way because trust is embodied. You have to be there. You have to be there with someone over and over and over again. Each interaction you have with someone builds more and more trust. Trust is one of those elements that makes an organisation successful.”

“Yet what we have seen over the last 600 days is businesses hiring and onboarding people no one in the organization has ever met. So how do we empower employees? How do we trust employees that we’ve never met?

 “Again, you have to come back to doing it with good tools. 

“And particularly true when you’re talking about some of the most sensitive processes in the business such as expense reports. They’re touchy. They touch a lot of the organization. There is a lot of paperwork, a lot of approvals, a lot of time and effort. 

“A lot of trusts, but in the end, they’re just expenses they’re necessary but they are not the focus of the business, but they are all about trust. So, what does that mean in this new world of hybrid work, where everything has suddenly and permanently changed? 

“Well, fortunately, we are joined this morning by two people who know exactly what it means. 

“Moneeba Dean is the group Financial Controller at the Fred Hollows Foundation with over 15 years of experience in international development in the not-for-profit sector.

“Moneeba is an expert in implementing major accounting systems, internal controls, budgeting, forecasting, and compliance. Welcome, Moneeba.”

Moneeba: “Thank you for having me, Mark.”

Mark: “And joining me this morning is Rossi Campbell, project and change manager at the Fred Hollows Foundation with 20 years of experience in the non for profit, public and private sectors.

“Rossi leads a change management strategy for the entire Foundation. And her passion is digital transformation. Welcome, Rossi.”

Rossi: “Thank you, Mark. Thanks for having me.”

Mark: All right, Moneeba, Fred Hollows used to handle employee expenses, the old-fashioned way, what did that involve for your employees?

Moneeba: “So, in the Foundation, we had two groups of payments which we can categorize as one is the supplier and one is employee payments. So what happened was supplier payments were automated a long time ago for us, but employee expense claims were still done in the old Excel form where employees used to do hard coding on it.

“That was a loose area and required a lot of efficiencies. There is a whole range of improvement we can do with that. So when I’m talking about expense claims, I’m talking about credit card approvals, I’m talking about work-related expenses that employees made on behalf of work, and they need to claim that in travel expenses. So we automated that with Concur expenses.”

Mark: “So what did this old-fashioned way of working mean for your staff or your accounting staff?”

Moneeba: “Mark, you know, when you do things manually, it takes a lot of time away from you, that means you have to look at each and every detail of things. And, as I mentioned, it’s loose. There are chances of error, there is no proper audit trail, the entire thing requires a lot of efficiency. 

“My team was spending 5 to 10 hours just doing manual coding at the end of the month to get all the data in. So we went live with Concur Expense, and it made a huge difference to our business.”

Mark: “So it sounds like what I’m hearing is there was a lot of frustration around the old method and that it was ripe for change. Alright, Rossi what was it that tipped the balance in favor of changing the way Fred Hollows work with expenses?

Rossi: “That’s a good question Mark,  there were quite a few factors. One of them being about 18 months ago, the Foundation conducted quite a thorough process review, we looked at a number of processes.

“And we identified that the area of expense management was critical; it needed improving, to save the Foundation money, time and be more productive. And, leading on from what Moneeba said we had heard employees were disgruntled. 

“Some of our senior managers were disgruntled about having to fill out a manual expense form each month and get their receipts together reconcile their credit cards. It was time-consuming and not productive, really taking us away from the work that we’re here to do, which is avoided, you know, and avoidable blindness.

“So there was lots of going backward and forwards like Moneeba said, wasting time because everything was done on a manual spreadsheet, accounts payable had to follow up. So the case for change was really identified early on, and we knew that we needed to act quickly.

Mark: “So how did you end up selecting SAP Concur?”

Moneebasi: “My predecessor had looked at the range of solutions. And as you appreciate Mark, we are a charity. So we have to be really really savvy on how we spend money. We are accountable to our donors and the general public for it. 

“So we requested tenders from suppliers. We have a very rigorous and strict procurement process, we followed it. And at the end, it was determined Concur Expense was the best fit for our organisation.”

Mark: “Now, Rossi, was it hard to make that case to management that you had to invest the time and the money to actually transition to SAP Concur?”

Rossi: “I would say yes, somewhat, it was a little bit of a hard sell. The reason being is that we had previously had some failed system adoptions at the Foundation, where we have heard feedback over and over again, from employees that they are system fatigued. 

“They don’t want to learn new things, particularly in a remote COVID environment where everything has to be online. So they were system fatigued, and we had lots of competing priorities, workload expenditure, obviously COVID has had a huge impact on our country teams and in Australia. So yes, it was a hard case to sell.” 

Mark: “Alright. So at the same time, you have this frustration with the existing system. But then you also have frustration with everyone having to learn all of these new systems because everyone’s making this very sudden transition to digital systems. 

“So, you somehow manage to make the case you get the approval, so Moneeba how fast did you move from making the decision to actually rolling out Concur?”

Moneeba: “Mark, Rossi, and I were on fire, I have to say this. We were working on a really tight timeline. And out of all the projects we have done, I think this is the project where we have worked in such a tight timeline, and we have delivered a very quality result.

“So pretty much we are talking about eight weeks. We went live in July, we started scoping, hear this, it was the second or third week of April, we started scoping. So within eight weeks, we started the rollout, we did all the implementation work, configuration, consulting with all the key stakeholders. So we went live within eight weeks in July. 

“Now, what worked for us Mark, I have this fantastic finance and IT team. The best people I can have, a great project team established and we know where our areas of high points are, and where you know, where others will need assistance. 

“We all were fluid, we were supporting each other. Rossi and  I were always speaking to each other at least three or four times a day discussing what we needed to do next.

“And I think one of the biggest things for our success was, we hit a jackpot with our service provider. We found ZENTAE, they are top-notch Mark, I have to tell you, they’re top-notch. 

“They’re very fluid in their work, they mesh with the level of energy my team has. We have some very high-achieving members in our team. 

“And then they came in and they just met, so there was a good balance of things, and they put so much importance on understanding the Foundation’s requirements. They catered to our complex needs. Because we are an international organisation, we have crazy inter companies and currencies. 

“It has always been a juggling act for us because the project team is not only working on this project: we also had a day job. We have budget season data, we have EI and we have tax appeal happening at that time, accounts payable payment need to be done. So there were so many things, it was all a juggling for us. But in the end, we did it.”

Mark: “So does that mean that you did the switch over to SAP Concur at exactly the new financial year so basically on July 1 everyone flipped over to the new system?”

Moneeba: “July seven to be specific, July seven we went live on that. Yeah, yeah, we did it.”

Mark: “Okay, yes, you did everything all at once. All right, Rossi. What did it take? Because this is an enormous amount of change for the organisation to absorb in a very small amount of time. 

“What did it take to get everyone ready for such a big change in something that touches almost everyone in the organisation, processing expenses?”

Rossi: “Yeah, good question Mark. Well, we first applied a structured change management framework that we have here at the Foundation. So the first sort of phase of that is around awareness-raising and consultation.

“I guess for us we had the advantage that the consultation phase around feedback and what’s working and not working had previously been done as part of the process review. So we provided our employees with a taste of what Concur Expense looks like. 

“We have various demo sessions. And we shared other organization success stories as well.

“Part of that, a big success for us was engaging our change champions who advocated for the change, they got others to buy-in. And we always talk about “with them” here at the Foundation. So what’s in it for me? Well, the with them is that it’s going to save you money, the Foundation will save money, it will save time, and it will save the manual entry, which has proven correct, obviously, particularly the sell of the mobile app, which our employees just love.

Mark: “So how do you identify those change champions? Did you already have a list? Or did people actually raise their hand for that?”

Rossi: “A bit of both. We identified champions within our finance community. And we also had a bit of a targeted approach around those who have provided feedback. 

“You know, there were some unhappy employees. So we talked to them directly and got them buying in by asking them to test and provide feedback. So it was really a targeted approach for us around behavior change. 

“And it wasn’t just top-level executives, it was spread across the Foundation. So for example, we had champions playing in the system, as soon as the build was ready, we took their feedback. 

“And if we couldn’t address the feedback, we let them know why. So there was always that narrative around, you know, we’re here to help to make your work easier. So it was a real collaboration exercise. 

And we actually also encourage some of our senior leaders to submit their own expenses and equip their own credit cards. So this was a big part of behavior change because they’re used to the administrators helping them with this. 

“So we held their hands, we supported them through, we got them through, we showed them how easy it was, particularly by the mobile app. And it’s proven really successful.

“Lastly, for us, we made sure that we always celebrated a win. So a big win or a small win, we were vocal about it. And we went above and beyond to recognize people that were supporting this change initiative.”

Mark: So it really sounds like you got the hook in them. And particularly with the change agents and with the change champions, you also showed them that you were listening and responding and that that built up the virtual cycle of trust that allowed the change to take place. And as quickly as it did. 

All right. You have done everything, it’s the end of the financial year, it’s the seventh of July, you flip over to the new system. It’s not like there’s nothing else going on here. Moneeba about how did it all go when you actually flipped the switch and rolled it out?”

Moneeba: “It was unreal, I have to say, Mark. Because we were working in the evening and night, wherever we could find time, even spare time from us to work on this project. 

“And updating things, perfecting things the way we wanted and, as Rossi mentioned, we didn’t discriminate from any users. We took positive or whatever feedback came in. We addressed it really well, and what we couldn’t address, we made them understand why we couldn’t meet the requirement. So we kept everyone happy. 

“That was the biggest thing. We worked on our weekend before we went live. I think that achieved a day. All of our project team were working during the weekend. We produced seven training videos and five quick guides. We created a page on our SharePoint we called it a Concur Learning Center. 

“So this is where we store our seven training videos and quick guide. We trained close to 100 employees. We had two separate training sessions, all were recorded and all were shared and the moment we went live, we made it very clear that we are not going to accept any manual paper-based form.”

Mark: “So that’s it – you’re done. We’re done here, you’re gonna use SAP Concur and that’s it.”

Moneeba: “Yeah. But you know, it’s not that we threw the system on them and ran away. But we had our amazing Accounts, Payable team. 

“We have these two most amazing Superwoman working for us in the AP team, and they are very approachable and light people in the Foundation and the staff members feel very comfortable speaking to them.

“So any queries they had, the AP team used to help them read them, guide them to the right resources, training materials hold their hand throughout the process, Mark, we end up getting some excellent feedback. 

“And what we are doing now is taking that feedback using that as a selling point for international country office, project implementation for contracts.”

Mark: “So you’re really learning through this process. When you did the transition, did you find that the support demand skyrocketed? Because you’ve given everyone the new system?

Moneeba: “Yeah, yeah. And we were expecting that. The staff members were coming to us, literally every hour with queries, but we held their hands and encouraged them to go through Concur. We referred them to the training materials. 

“And I think, Mark, for Rossi, myself, and the project team, there were a few very high moments for us. Because, you know, we provided training to everyone. And then we did a targeted approach training for certain stakeholders in our Foundation, and Mark, in our Foundation, we have a few staff members who are visually impaired, and we had one on one training sessions with them. 

“We hold their hands, we continue to support them. And it is, you know, it’s so inspiring. To go through that process, made me realise, it made all of us realise in the project team how important the Foundation’s work is. 

“How important it is, it’s working in the areas of restoring eyesight, and SAP Concur expense is, you know, catering for the needs of that audience. So, it’s so important to have software solutions that actually target and look after all users, including visually impaired people.”

Mark: “You want something that’s accessible across not just the organisation, but broader. Alright. Now, Rossi, you have managed this rollout in record time. You’ve had a few months with it, what have you learned from the rollout?”

Rossi: “Yeah, good question Mark. There were a few learnings for us, which is fantastic, we can then apply this to the next phase of our project. So for us, it was really around communicating with a purpose. So what do employees need to know at this point in time that will make their life easier 

“And, back to what Moneeba said, we had employees follow up with queries post-go-live, because perhaps they couldn’t attend the training or they didn’t need to submit an expense right then. Or they’re in the field doing the work that we paid them to do. 

“So we really tried to embed our collateral and training material into business as usual, and direct people to that, hold their hands, show them how to do it in the first instance, like our employees who are visually impaired. 

“So that was a huge learning for us. It was available when we needed to be. We celebrated the small wins, as I mentioned before, big and small wins. 

“It didn’t matter if they were big or small. We were actively posting on Yammer. Employees obviously, then felt engaged back to what you said at the beginning. You know, we trusted our employees, we engage them. 

“And for that, it’s been a successful rollout. And, funnily enough, since the Australian launch, our CEO is our biggest cheerleader.

“That’s a strong supporter of Concur Expense. He’s doing everything himself. And he rates it really high, which is such a nice pleasant message for us to go into the next phase of our project.”

Mark: “And also remember when the CEO is happy doing their own admin, that is a huge win. Moneeba, you have now had a couple of months. What are you seeing as the benefits of using SAP Concur?”

Moneeba: “I would you know, Mark, I’ll just pause here. I will talk about the quantitative and qualitative benefits but there is very good news that Rossi and I would like to share. Invisible drumroll.  Rossi, do you want to share?”

Rossi: “We have been successful and won the Concur customer Excellence Award for 2021.”

Mark: Congratulations.

Rossi: “Thank you so much. We went in with quite a few, I think over 100 applicants, and the Foundation has been successful in winning that award. So we are thrilled.

Moneeba: We are very happy Mark. 

“Now back to the question. Of the quantitative and qualitative benefits, there was a lot of efficiency. I mean you can hear from us now, and huge process improvement, the biggest thing is Concur is cloud-based, it’s a mobile app available. So it’s really handy, you can do it anytime. So huge time saver for general employees and accounts payable team. 

“So for the accounts payable team, on the quantitative side, 80 per cent reduction on our processing times for accounts payable has been reached. Which is a fantastic result for employees. Before, while doing the manual form, they used to spend one to two hours filling in these forms just to do credit card acquittal and reporting back to AP, and then AP used to spend five to ten hours hardcoding in the system. 

“But now that one to two hours is saved, an 80% reduction in AP time. So it means for us that we are doing what we are supposed to do, we are focusing on the more strategic side of the work now. So Concur has really helped us in that way. 

“Concur expense is super smart, we have a hierarchy set in the system for all the transaction codes. So, it can recall previous transactions or a previous set of codes, it will auto-fill the details.

“Now this means the chances of errors and miscoding is significantly lower than the manual process. So it’s a huge win for us because it has a clear audit trail, so visible and transparent. The managers can actually go and track down and look at the individual receipt and invoice because it’s captured nicely. 

“So yeah, and I think the biggest and most important qualitative element is that Concur is COVID safe. Now, the Foundation does not have to manually handle receipt supporting documents such as Excel files printed in paper form.

“We have just removed that with Concur. Everything is in E form for us. So we are keeping our staff safe.

“And from an audit perspective. When auditors come and see things they test things they want to see we are aligned to the standard, we are aligned to a finance manual, we are aligned to the delegation of authority. Concur is amazingly able to feature and cater to all our needs. So it’s aligning with all the requirements.

Mark: “And it makes it easy to do things well. Alright, Rossi, this sounds like you’ve gone from success to success. You’ve won this big award. Congratulations. Where is Fred Hollows taking it now?”

Rossi: “Thanks, Mark. Well, we are about to go live with our next phase, which is rolling Concur out to 16 different countries. So that’s the bulk of our workforce. As you can imagine, this is not a small beast. There are complex tax and expense configurations for some countries.

“Some countries are heavily regulated, like China, for instance. And each country has its own specific requirements around workflows, customisations. And again, just echoing what Moneeba said, ZENTAE, our service provider has accommodated above and beyond. So that’s been amazing. 

“So again, we’ve engaged some champions, having the CEO be our biggest cheerleader is amazing. And from that, we’re driving the message, providing the information, and making sure that our champions are testing the system so it’s fit for purpose, and meets a country’s requirements. 

“We’re really hand holding our employees, we’re making sure they don’t feel like we are doing this to them rather than taking them on the journey with us. And a lot of that goes back to the trust and the relationship that we have with our employees as well, Mark.

“And funnily enough, our China team who are quite complex in their requirements, like I said, we’re really concerned with configurations, we engage them early on and they were quite vocal around, ‘this is not going to meet our legal requirements.

“So what we did is we connected them to another client of ZENTAE’s. And they are a Chinese firm based in Shanghai and they had recently rolled out Concur expenses. 

“So that was fantastic. As they were both able to share their learnings, their challenges, and importantly, the wins that they’ve had with Concur expense. So it’s made our life so much easier.”

Mark: “Wow. All right. It sounds like we’ve got a really clear sense of the journey at Fred Hollows. Foundation.

“Let’s loop in Fabian Calle. Fabian, do you want to join us now? 

“Fabian is the managing director for ANZ for SAP Concur and has been working with SAP Concur for over 11 years in a variety of roles, including senior sales positions, and his general manager. 

“Welcome, Fabian.”

Fabian: “Hi, Mark. How are you?” 

Mark: “Very good, thank you. Now, in addition to Fabian, I’m pleased to welcome Heidi Heck from Dynamic Business. Heidi is a reporter for Dynamic Business.”

Heidi: “Hello.” 

Mark: “Hello, Heidi.  Heidi’s been monitoring the chat. And she has questions from the audience. So Heidi, what questions do folks have this morning?”

Heidi: “There are a few really good ones. I’ll extend the first one to Fabian. And I’ll ask, could you give us an overview of what SAP Concur does for businesses?”

Fabian: “Sure. So really quickly, otherwise, we might be here for a little while. We connect all your expenses, your travel, vendor invoicing, spending into one system. 

“So effectively, by connecting all the various points of data, we’re able to eliminate errors, eliminate the manual processing, as you’ve heard from the team, and also just be able to take away those non-productive tasks from the team.”

Heidi: “Amazing. And next question, was the paper-based receipts, do they need to be entered manually into Concur?”

Fabian: “This is the easiest question. No they don’t, the whole point of the way we’ve approached the market with our system is effectively to consumerise the application for them and to use things that the team would typically use every single day,  being their mobile phones, or iPads. 

“Taking a photo reads the key data on that receipt automatically and gets it in there, which is probably why their CEO loves it so much.”

Heidi:” Does Concur help apply guidelines on different types of employee expense claims?”

Fabian: “Yes, I mean, obviously, you can see we’ve got charity organisations, we have organized a lot of very large organizations. And we even have the small three and four men employee businesses as well. 

“Tens of thousands of customers globally, so we’ve been able to bring what we call the buzzwords of best practice in and guide the teams through the deployments. 

“Many times, when it comes to things like expense management, particularly, we tend to be an afterthought until it becomes a real problem. Being able to guide them on what those policies look like is exactly what we do.”

Mark: “Now, let me just ask here, both Rossi and Moneeba. Did you have to spend a lot of time thinking about the guidelines for your expenses? Or did you already have those well-defined? Was it easy to put those in when you were designing your Concur installation?

Moneeba: “Because we tested it ourselves, in our mind, we knew what the guidelines should be. And then ZENTAE was supporting us with them. 

“So they had a brief guideline, we owned it and made it to a  Foundation level, meeting our requirements. And then we agreed to a nice balanced guideline. Not only in line with the Concur set, but also the Foundation.”

Rossi: “Wasn’t too difficult, to be honest with you at all.”

Mark: “Back to you, Heidi.”  

Heidi: “So Fabian, I think this is a really important one. Is SAP concur, suitable for small businesses as well?”

Fabian: “I come across this all the time, Heidi. So SAP in the marketplace is synonymous with big business and big enterprise. And so they should be. And I think what gets lost within that sometimes is that my whole remit here within SAP Concur is for small to medium businesses. 

“We have a large organisation that focuses purely on the small business segment and it’s something that we face constantly, especially when you deal with the smaller businesses, the very small businesses in particular, they see SAP logo as synonymous with, a large global enterprise. We have very, very deep and many many years of experience with small business.”

Heidi: Amazing. Thank you, Fabian. So I’ll extend this one to Rossi. How has Concur changed the way Fred Hollows empowers its employees?”

Rossi: “Good question, Heidi. One of our employees in Vietnam was thrilled to hear about the introduction of Concur expense globally. 

“She’s a working mother of two children and she’s homeschooling like many of us have been during numerous lockdowns in Vietnam. And she said to us and I quote this, “Concur really allows us to be more COVID safe. There are no more paper-based forms. I can approve my employees’ expenses by the mobile app whilst I’m homeschooling my children. And I’m also getting work done. It’s a big win all around.” Huge empowerment.”

Heidi: “Amazing.”

Mark: “That is a great story and a great note to finish upon. Alright, Heidi, thank you very much. That’s all the time we have for questions this morning. 

“It was really interesting listening to all of you because this is a story about empowerment. But it’s a story that’s multi-way empowerment. It’s not just the organisation empowering itself to do the expenses better. It’s about giving employees the power to be able to do it themselves to do it on the devices they have to do it COVID safe. 

“But of course, the real reason that both Rossi and Moneeba are grinning over the award that they won is they realise that to engage their employees in the process, to listen to them to give it to them to play with and go hey, wait a minute, here’s a way we can improve this together actually created something for Fred Hollows that makes the entire organization better at what it needs to do. 

“All right. Before we go, let me thank Moneeba Dean and Rossi Campbell of the Fred Hollows Foundation, Fabian Calle of SAP Concur, and Heidi Heck, from Dynamic Business. 

“Thank you all, you’ve been fantastic this morning. I think everyone has really learned a lot. 

“Now for a free trial of SAP concur. or to learn more about SAP Concur, including a nice report about the folks at Fred Hollows and their journey, please visit https://www.concur.com.au/free-trial or just scan the code that’s on the screen there. 

“Once again, I’m Mark Pesce, thank you for joining us, and have a great day.” 

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