Travel and Expense

The Magic of Keeping It Simple: Implementing Travel, Expense, and Invoice Automation

Kyla Kent |

“Wherever you implement a tool, you can develop it in the best way, but it needs to be used in the correct way as well by the business,” said Roeland Vanbeselaere, Project Manager of SAP SuccessFactors and Concur at Flexso, during a recent episode of the SAP Concur Conversations podcast. As an implementation partner and reseller, Flexso has had great success in helping customers integrate Concur, SuccessFactors, and other SAP systems. The secret to that success? “It's in the small things,” said Vanbeselaere, as he described the importance of being able to log in smoothly and swiftly to back-office, finance systems, especially as a first-time employee on the job. “That's so important for the end users and also the back offices.”

Join us for this episode of SAP Concur Conversations as we dive into the importance of system integration and how project management experts, like those at Flexso, put the customer in the driver’s seat, helping them build smooth systems that automate manual, front- and back-end finance office processes. “That's really when they are happy with it. It goes automatically and then they can really focus on their key activities,” Vanbeselaere said. “We're there to guide them on how to [make] the change, how to do the training, and really teach them how to make improvements on that.”

This four-episode podcast series celebrates Flexso as one of the SAP Concur Partner Award recipients. Listen to each of these featured award winners on our podcast channel, SAP Concur Conversations, for best practices on managing your travel, spend, compliance programs, and more. You can also listen to this episode on: Apple | Amazon | Spotify | ListenNotes | Acast or Google.

Jeanne Dion:

Hi, I'm Jeanne Dion. I'm the Vice President of Value Experience here at SAP Concur. My team works with customers on solving for business challenges to help support your goals and objectives, throughout your year and throughout your business. Today, I'm going to be talking to Roeland Vanbeselaere from Flexso. Flexso is one of our partner award winners. And so Roeland, I'd love for you to be able to introduce yourself to us, as well as Flexso to us.

Roeland Vanbeselaere:

So hi Jeanne, thanks for, first of all, thanks for the award. Think it's always great to receive something and it's a recognition of the work that we do together with SAP Concur, so very happy with that. So thanks, first of all. Maybe something to introduce myself, so indeed, I'm a project manager within Flexso focusing on the one hand SuccessFactors implementations. And on the other hand, focusing on SAP Concur. Think I'm working for Flexso already, it's around 10, 11 years when I started in the company. Always worked on SAP products, mainly focusing on HR, part finance as well. During the years, I've gained a lot of project experience and also some business experience. Six, seven years ago, I changed from Flexso to one of our clients to work as an HR business partner. And I got to the like three years ago had to come back to Flexso. So now again, I can combine the business expertise `and as well, the project, the SAP experience together in one hand.

Think that's a bit about me. Think about Flexso, Flexso started 2004 as a small company focusing really on SAP with a small team. I think during the last 18 years it’s really grown to being a very reliable end to end partner for everything that is within the SAP ecosystem. Today, we are with more than 450 consultants focusing on a variety of aspects within SAP. And we really want to be that end to end partner. Together with our clients and together with the team. I think we started in Belgium many years ago. Now we also expanded to Netherlands, Luxembourg, Austria. So we're really expanding and broadening our expertise and doing in more than 40 countries, different projects. And we have at this moment more than 150 active customers. I think within Flexso, we really are a partner for our all our clients to really focus on everything that has to do with SAP. If it's HR, if it's finance, ERP, technical parts integration, digital innovation, that's really what we focus on within the whole company.

Jeanne Dion:

Yeah. I was thinking that you were keeping it all in the family when you were talking about your work across SuccessFactors and then into Concur, it really is keeping it all within the SAP family. I'm fascinated too. You have a similar story to me and to many people who work within the SAP ecosystems, you had been in business, and then you came to the organization. In your case, you were in the organization, you went back out into business and then came back in. Do you think having that experience of working in a business in these environments, has this helped you to bring a more customer centric focus to your work within Flexso?

Roeland Vanbeselaere:

Yeah, I think absolutely and I can compare the two periods. I think now it's much more easier because I speak the same language as the clients. I think that's so important if they're talking about competencies, we're talking about compensation about payroll. I lived it, I did it as an end user, and I know where the gains and the pitfalls are within the systems. And I can now really put them together and I can much more understand the client than I did before. So for me, that's such an added value that I have that experience really on the shop floor and really understanding the language of the client. So that really helped me during the projects I have been doing the last three years to really have more efficient implementations, more efficient knowledge, and really trying to close the gap between the system and the requirements of the clients. Within SuccessFactors, SAP Concur I think with other examples as well.

Jeanne Dion:

What you say resonates with me very deeply. I think that it's true. Once you've been in the business world and you've been on the other side of the applications, you tend to your point speak the same language, and you have that valuable experience, especially in the change management and implementation areas of a project. So when you think about a customer who's coming to Flexso to do an implementation, how does the company keep that strategy and that customer goal focus in place while you're doing those implementations across any number of product?

Roeland Vanbeselaere:

I think they're very interesting question. I think there for us, for example, change and training, that's, that's so key of our strategy. If you look at, for example, SAP Concur, that's so important I think. As I said in the beginning, we want be that end to end partner for our organization. And for us change training, transformation is really key to that. A lot of projects, you often think, "Okay, we just need to implement a tool and then everything will go well afterwards."

I think we are really convinced. It's not only about a tool. I think it's very important that wherever you implement a tool, you can develop it in the best way, but it needs to be used in the correct way as well by the business. And they need to accept it in their day to day activities. And that's why, if you look at change and training within Flexso, really have managed that within our project methodology. We always start with that very much upfront, really try to focus on preparing the business, making sure that you know, what change and training will be about during the project to really focus on that together with them.

What is the process? How will this be implemented? How will the business need to do it then as well after the project, during the different phases, we really try to reinforce them and really focus on, okay, we have now done this project. What is the added value? What can we further improve? And really making sure that throughout the project that we aligned very well with the project plan. And we have seen that if you look at our strategy within Flexso for cloud tools, I think SAP Concur is one of them. We see that strategy really suits all the pieces. That's why we really bring that within our strategy. I think that's also a very important one for us during the different projects

Jeanne Dion:

For me, you said something that's critical. And I think that every customer forgets it. It's that idea that you've purchased the tool and you just make the assumption once that great tool is in place, everything is going to work perfectly. But the reality is there's a lot of hard work that goes in preparing for that tool and then supporting that tool and the processes around it, once the tool is in place and people get to the end of the project and they realize, "Oh, gosh, I didn't think about that before." And when, really, to your point, that change management should be placed at the very beginning of your strategic conversation about your project. So I really love that you shine that spotlight on it, right from the beginning.

Roeland Vanbeselaere:

I think it's so crucial for us. So think that's, if you can really focus on the change and training next to the tool, then I think you always have a successful project.

Jeanne Dion:

So we've talked a little bit about the change management and in your strategy around implementation and how to run the project. I'm curious, is there an example or two that you can give me of some of the challenges that your customers are facing and how you solved for it? Is there one particular area that they're looking into very clearly, maybe cost containment or employee satisfaction? Are there some things that you could share with us?

Roeland Vanbeselaere:

Yeah, I think we have done a lot of projects, not only the implementation, but also the change in training for SAP Concur. Think everybody always thinks, okay, SAP Concur, it's about only expenses, but it's much more than that. Think two clients. And then where we have worked a lot of times before together, they wanted also to implement Concur and we also had the opportunity to do the full change on training there. And if I look at yeah, the challenges that we encountered, if we talk together with the client, okay, what are the challenges that you have? And that's possibly, we could see think if you look at change in training, there's a lot of times the lack of bandwidth within the business. So we look at the internal resources and everybody's working, working, working, doing their day to day activities. Then on top of that, you need to do a project.

And on top of that, they also need to do a change and training, and then it's about choosing your priorities. And then people often think, or have the impression that change is not needed. And again, as I mentioned before, think change really is a crucial one. And that's one of the challenges that we see. For example, another challenge that we see is the business does not always have the technical knowledge on how to implement, for example, a new expense tool. And there, we also see that there are a lot of technical things, functional things. And the combination that we do not always have the correct experience. Also, that's where we come in place as a partner, as Flexso. We know what the best practices are within training, for example, think SAP Concur and as an expense tool, that's not a rocket science, but that's more or less the question on how can we approach that and really see that the user has a modern way and efficient way of doing training, for example. So those are really challenges that we see within change and training.

And how we give an answer to that with Flexso think in a variety of topics. I think once again, that it starts with preparing the business, making sure that their expectations are clear at the beginning of the project. And it's always important that the client is at the driver's seats. We're there to guide them on how to do the change, how to do the training and really teach them on how to make improvements on that.

And again, that's also the story of Flexso. We want to focus on the peace of mind during a project. I think the business was involved with implementing a certain project. They need to focus on their added value. And as a partner, we take away all the other things. And that's where we really focus on that and really simple in a last, maybe last solution. I think there's very important that we have a clear change training plan and strategy with having clear training material, making sure that they are well aware within the business, making sure that the sponsors are involved, the good communication plan and so on and one and on. So I think that's the way we try to answer on those challenges, making sure that we have a successful project.

Jeanne Dion:

I really like that explanation because it really speaks to how partners can make a difference in your project. The idea that the prioritization of time and tasks, the prioritization of skill sets and bringing in special skills that you may not have native within your organization. And the idea that you have somebody who's there while you are still driving the project as a corporation or organization, you have additional resources to help you be successful at it. You don't have to be everything to everybody, but you can provide that framework and outline and drive the project while a partner can come in and really enhance the experience for you by providing that resource expertise and the special skills that you need to make these projects successful.

Because we don't always hire people based on, "Oh, do you know how to run a technical project?" We don't normally hire people that way unless they're really working in technical projects all the time. So when we talk about something like that, you mentioned a little bit about the difference that a partner makes and alluded to the kinds of steps that a customer should probably be taking as they prepare to work with a partner. But could you expand a little bit on there? Are there critical parts that really need to have focus from our customer base?

Roeland Vanbeselaere:

Yeah. Think if you mean more or less on how we can prepare, for example, think there. What I always give us an advice to the clients is at the beginning of the project, during the sales part of it know who you need to involve within the project. And there, if I look at SAP Concur, that specifically, a tool where multiple departments need to be aligned with each other. You have IT, you have HR, you have finance, you have your business. And it's very important that you are realigned and involved at the beginning of the project. And that you have clear business owners on that. I think that's a very important one, not only the internal partners, but as well, the external partners. If you look at SAP Concur, for example, you were together with a travel agency. Important that they are also good board and that they know what is expected from them, credit card company and so on.

So I think there, it's very important that those preparations know who is involved within the project. And next to that, making sure that there's correctly planned with your project, planning, your resource planning and so on. I think that's a very important first part of it. And if I look there next to that preparation, what I always give as an advice as well is during the project think where you want to land as a company or as a project and making sure that what is for you a successful project, what are the end state of the tool that you want to know and think that's a very important one.

Another awareness should start very soon within the presales within the presales phase. I think that's an advice that we always give on how we can prepare. Maybe another one also have a good visibility. If you look at SAP Concur, make sure that you have a good visibility on your finance processes and each division, each country, each department, and know what your company does today, but also be open to it and try to adapt to the best practices. SAP Concur is a cloud tool. So it has best practices, really making sure that they have that balance correct to have the correct expectations. And I think the last one as well, I think the resources, it's always about resources, making sure that they are available.

Jeanne Dion:

I like that full blown look at it because a lot of the things you just mentioned are things people don't think about until they're knee deep in a project, until they're midway through. And when things start to fail, there's no real ability to go back to an original plan or go back to the original thought process because you're already too far into the project and it slows things down and can even stop the project because it hasn't been thought of previously.

Roeland Vanbeselaere:

Fully agree.

Jeanne Dion:

Yep. So we've, we've gone through the approach of Flexso, we've gone through the reasons why a partner is an appropriate and sometimes can make the difference between a good project and a great project. But you mentioned something earlier that I'd like to circle back to if that's okay. And that's the whole idea of the technical, those pieces, those integration pieces within an organization, within our customers working, we talk about process, but we don't talk a lot about those integrations with preexisting systems. Things that are going to feed the Concur systems or things that are going to take information from the Concur systems. Can we talk a little bit about what integration means to the success of a project and how Flexso works from an integration perspective?

Roeland Vanbeselaere:

Yeah, I think the technical and the integration part is as well, even important, equal important. I think there, the integration part is not always visible to all the end users, but it can make life easier of the business who is working day to day with. And that's why integrations are so important because with having good integrations, then I think you can win so much time as a business, for example, as a finance team, with SAP Concur. If you have the good integrations and you can win time and you can focus on the added value or the things that you need to do as a person. I think challenges that we have seen there with integrations, for example, within SAP Concur, the HR data, the finance data is not aligned with each other. So people need to manually enter. For example, a new employee changes within an employee or need to book expenses, for example, manually within the finance system.

Roeland Vanbeselaere:

And then we really see that the HR teams, the finance teams with SAP Concur, they really need a flexible solution that can integrate with their tools. And if I look there at SAP Concur and again to the SAP ecosystem, think SAP Concur really suits to that. For example, connecting it with a success factor system with the SAP FICO system. That's, that's really important because those two go together. And as I said, it's not always visible, but very important. And that's something as Flexso we really focus on.

I think we are very experienced and integrations with whatever systems and the SAP ecosystem and therefore as well with SAP Concur and we try to create a connected approach. So we really go to client and say, "Okay, how does your landscape, your architecture look like?" And we really try to build a connector that makes sure that SAP Concur is connected with your HR data, with the finance data in an automatic way. And that's again, the story that Flexso stands for being that end to end partner with the SAP. And that's where we make the difference as well. If we combine it at competitor tools, that's really where we make the difference together with SAP Concur. And then that gives that added value back automatically that return on investment that a client will receive at the end, not always visible, but very, very, very important.

Jeanne Dion:

I 100% agree with that as somebody who has implemented Concur on a global perspective, but also somebody who has worked with customers to build out Concur platforms. Integration is probably one of those things that is a make or break on a project. And we talk a lot about employee experience, but we tend to focus on the traveler, that back office experience that you mentioned Roeland in the HR teams, in the finance teams, you can have the slickest system up front and if it works very easily for your users in the front end, but in the back office, they're having to do everything manually, everything you've gained with your front end users, you've lost with your back office team.

Roeland Vanbeselaere:

Yeah. It's in the small things. Your first day you were starting, you open up Concur and automatically you logged on. If that is all integrated, your HR data is available. You enter and expand it automatically paid back a couple of days later. And that's so important for the end users and also the back offices. That's really where they are happy with, it goes automatically and that they can then really focus on their key activities.

Jeanne Dion:

I sometimes think, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, but my experience has been, people think about cost savings as it ties back to the savings that you'll make on the booking tools and being able to provide compliance around the spend, which I'm not saying isn't important. It's very important, but there's actually a significant amount of cost avoidance when you do the integration right. Not having to spend, as you mentioned that time manually entering employees into the system or doing manual outside of the system journal entries from a finance perspective, all those pieces add up to a lot of time and money that could be avoided if they could just be automated.

Roeland Vanbeselaere:

Yeah. I think that's why SAP Concur is greater. You can expand it easily. For example, you can start in two, three countries and the first wave and then second wave you add countries, you built already the integration. So it just counts up and that's yeah. That's where it's the flexibility of the solution comes out and that's great to see. And we always see that the clients are very happy with that. And that's really the added value.

Jeanne Dion:

Yeah. The scalability is tremendous. So we've talked now about how we manage, how the Flexso team keeps those strategies and goals in place. How you look at things from an end to end, we've talked a little bit about those integrations and how somebody can prepare. How would you measure success on a project? I know every company is a little bit different, but is success measured by the number of people using it? Is it measured by the lack of manual interventions? How do you measure those successes on a project from a Flexso perspective?

Roeland Vanbeselaere:

I think first, for me, if I look at our active customers, as I said in the beginning, we have more than 150 active customers and those are customers from the beginning. We started two, three years ago with SAP Concur projects and those clients where we started that are still on board. And that's very important that we can say, okay, we've done a project with you, but you also look at Flexso and being a strategic partner on the long term. And together now we are improving as a SAP Concur improving their process. And really making sure that they have a better solution at the end. And that's for me, one of the first measurements of success, if the project would not have been a success or the implementation have not been a success, the clients would not come back to us.

And then we see that in our support organization, but, and on, on the strategic part, we see that. So that's very important, but that's not always the metrics. Doing the metrics are very important as well. How intensely is the system used? But then I often link that those metrics, how much does the company use it? How much expense reports are there. But I link that to the questions that we receive and support.

So for example, if you see, okay, we get a lot of complex questions within the support that it means, okay, that the basics of the tool are good. Everybody can, as I said, it's not rocket science can use the system in an easy way. And then we see indeed and the supporters, we receive more complex questions. That's for me as well, also a measurement of success. So that leveling out, it's not always about the amount of reports that are generated, but as well, if you look at your support organization after the project, after the go live, then we see what questions do we have. And that's for me very important to know the success of the implementation of the change and training of all the aspects within the project.

Jeanne Dion:

Thank you for that. Yeah. Those are all, I think critical. We tend to focus mostly on KPIs, but what you're talking about is really those process improvements that are incremental and programmatic improvements that often get lost in the mix and aren't put front and center. So I love that you're looking at it from that type of success measurement. So we've pretty much talked about all of these pieces. One thing you just mentioned that is intriguing to me, you have a lot of customers who have stayed with you for a very long time. In that particular case, we know that the tools are scalable. Are you helping them to expand their footprint and to maybe respond to different changes in the business environment? We know that business doesn't stay the same from one day to the next. There's so many different pieces that are affecting it, whether it's a pandemic or recession, how do you continue to support those customers who start with you on these projects and continue to stay with you?

Roeland Vanbeselaere:

I think there it's important that we look back at the project. What were the goals when we started the project and then where do we want to end that? And that we try to do together with the client to see where are small improvements that could save you as a team, as a business more time. And that can be, for example, if you look at SAP Concord, the usage of mobile, for example, if you see there that only 30, 40% of the business uses the mobile application and you say, okay, how could we improve that? Because the mobile SAP Concur application is so great that can save you a lot of time. How can we make sure that we reach 80, 90%? And then together with the client, we really think about, can we improve change training? Can we make new training material?

Can we promote something more and then really look at usage of the system, but how could we change that? But also think expanding can be important. A lot of new applications appeared within SAP Concur as well. How can we integrate with that? For example, if a client uses a certain model, not yet, for example, during the pandemic, the example that you are giving, think we have seen a lot of clients not using travel because travel was down completely. And we just did expense at that moment. And now we are seeing that clients are coming back, okay, how could we integrate now, the travel flow in it. And that's really looking together with them. And again, that strategic roadmap together with the client, what are the things that can bring you added value and making sure that you have that return investment with SAP Concord. And that's what we really try to focus on. So evaluating together, them giving them small tips, hints of what could be an improvement, and then they can think about it. And then we can for example, start an improvement wave.

Jeanne Dion:

So when you think about it, if I were to look at how you address your customers, you're not only just addressing in a one off project, you're becoming a trusted advisor across the lifetime of the platform because you know who they are and you can provide that extra value their process their business. And so they don't have to re explain to new resources who they are or what they do. You're there to be able to say to them proactively, "Hey, I think you should really look at this." That's an incredibly valuable service to provide.

Roeland Vanbeselaere:

Yeah, I think for us, and as myself being more focused on HR and finance, I think it's about the employee life cycle. So somebody starts within the company. How does the onboarding goes like. How does he, or she does the training? How is the compensation like, but as well, a small part as somebody has made as an employee, an expense, how can he make sure that there is reimbursed and in the correct way. And that's really where we look together with the client, which parts in that employee life cycle have been touched or can be touched or can have an added value within the organization. And each organization is different. And I think there as a implementation partner, we bring that best practices, that experience that we have from other projects. And we can then really combine into the, the best possible tool, full tool for the client.

Jeanne Dion:

You know, it's that whole hire to retire, where do we fit in? We fit in almost everywhere. We fit in during the hiring we fit in during the entire life cycle and then the retirement. So I love that perspective of the marriage between finance and HR. It really makes sense. It makes a lot of sense. So I know I don't want to take up too much more of your time, but I was wondering, is there anything that I might have forgotten to ask you about or something that you wanted to talk about that I haven't brought up today?

Roeland Vanbeselaere:

I think we discussed already a lot of topics. Thanks for all the questions. Yeah, and I think again, there think we're so happy. And then the last two, three years together with the tool SAP Concur. I think with the evolution that we have been making it together with SAP, that has been a great journey and I hope we can continue with for a long time.

Jeanne Dion:

Well, thank you so much. Thank you. Roeland to you and everyone at Flexso. We love having you as part of the SAP family. And we look forward to continuing working with you, with our customers, and making their lives a little bit easier and making their business goals and objectives a little easier to attain. So really thank you so much for your time and for all your care that you take with our customers. We truly appreciate it.

Roeland Vanbeselaere:

Thank you.

Jeanne Dion:

Yeah. So this is Jeanne Dion on behalf of SAP Concur. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to us, dear your audience. And if you have any questions or you're looking for more information about either Flexso or SAP Concur, please go ahead, and take a look at our website, concur.com. We'd love to have you ask any questions that you might have, or reach out to your account executives if you're already a customer. And thank you so much again, and we'll talk to you next time on our next SAP Concur conversation.

Listen to each of these featured award winners on our podcast channel, SAP Concur Conversations, for best practices on managing your travel, spend, compliance programs, and more. 

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