Travel and Expense

SAP Concur Predictions for 2024

SAP Concur Team |

After several years of slow progress for the industry, 2023 felt different. We predicted that organizations would have to do more with less budget and fewer resources. We also expected that this year would introduce greater integration and connection in workplace tools. However, 2023 also brought exciting technological advancements to market, accelerated the NDC transformation, and marked substantial progress in the return to travel (albeit at higher costs).

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the connecting thread among our executives’ predictions for 2024. Although SAP Concur solutions have had AI at their core for about a decade, increasing visibility inspired by generative AI in 2023 has brought these technologies to the forefront. AI is changing how all business is conducted, and travel, expense, and invoice (TEI) management is no exception.

Below are SAP Concur executives’ predictions for the year ahead.

Virtual Payments Will Simplify Reimbursement

“We’ll see business digitalization efforts go a level deeper—and become substantially more integrated—in 2024. Continued adoption of AI, automation, and virtual forms of payment will drive streamlined processes in TEI. Instead of using a company credit card, employees will be able to expand their use of virtual payments for all business expenses, including travel.

“In turn, we’ll start to see two types of transactions emerge: trusted and exceptions. Most transactions will use trusted payment methods, and AI will quickly validate them as compliant, enabling near-immediate reimbursement. Exceptions will trigger AI-driven, automated audits to ensure compliance. In both cases, payments will be issued faster with more ease, and employees will have more time to focus on what matters most to them and the organization.”

– Christopher Juneau, Head of SAP Concur Market Strategy

Technology—and Some Budget Flexibility—Will Boost Confidence

“The theme of 2023 is doing more with less, and that will continue to be the case as economic uncertainty carries over into 2024. Although the outlook is improving, global developments including continued inflation, supply chain flux, and geopolitical unrest will have an impact on how businesses operate in the year ahead.

“Organizations should take a realistic approach to planning for 2024, build in some flexibility to course correct as needed, and lean into the benefits of emerging technologies. Embracing AI, automation, and data analysis will help finance teams bring more strategy to the organizational table and find a greater sense of confidence amid the uncertainty.

“And while we aren’t quite there yet, I expect that generative AI will have a very compelling use case in forecasting and budgeting. Finance teams spend significant time on financial planning. Soon, we may be able to ask generative AI to prepare a full budget based on available data from multiple sources, freeing up finance’s time to focus on quality control and decision-making instead of the busy work that goes into budget preparation.”

– Tom Lavin, Chief Controlling Officer, Marketing and Solutions

Predictive Analytics for Spend Management Will Emerge

“Organizations today have access to a multitude of financial data, but they lack the resources to make sense of it easily and rapidly. Existing spend management tools offer dashboards that compile information in one place for an employee to analyze, which takes time and considerable skill.

“Building on the technological progress that we saw this year, AI—especially generative AI—will begin to change this in 2024, creating an organizational ‘back office’ where computers work together to run the show. We’ll start to see more predictive analytics tools emerge in the year ahead with the capability to analyze data and derive trends, insights, and solutions to inform, improve, and optimize business operations, in spend management and beyond.

“For example, instead of manually analyzing the data to make informed guesses, someone in finance, travel, or operations could simply delegate that work to a computer. Using generative AI, the computer could then provide data-backed recommendations—factoring in patterns that a human may never even notice—like the ideal time to book a business trip or the optimal date for a team meeting to minimize travel costs, ensuring the company is using resources in the best way possible.”

– Tim Lebel, Vice President and Head of Spend Products

Cost-Cutting Measures Will Create Business Travel Tension

“As organizations hammer out their business travel plans and policies for 2024, another year of budgetary caution will become a source of rising tension with employees. Although budgets may increase, doing more with less in response to inflation will remain the organizational mantra of 2024. 

“We’re already seeing friction between employees and employers regarding flexibility and hybrid work. Increasing Gen Z workforce representation will also drive employers to adopt the latest technologies and treat sustainability as a top organizational priority to compete for young talent.

“Adding to this strife, the majority of global business travelers (67%) are very willing to hit the road and most (92%) say the future of their career depends on it. They also continue to see health and safety as the biggest threat to business travel. As organizations increasingly explore cost-cutting measures, like requiring that employees stay in less expensive accommodations that could potentially be in unsafe areas, enthusiastic business travelers are likely to put the pressure on employers to better meet their needs and expectations.” 

– Amy Padgett, Vice President, Travel Marketing Strategy

Corporate Social Responsibility, NDC, and AI Will Be Front and Center in Travel

“We’re going to see a combination of costs and benefits from travel industry trends in 2024. For instance, larger corporate initiatives like improving sustainability and diversity, equity, and inclusion will keep carrying over to company travel programs, putting new, higher-purpose responsibilities on travel managers, procurement, HR, and accounting departments.

“Acceleration of NDC among airlines, GDS, TMCs, and OBTs will push the industry into a when, not if, mentality. NDC, combined with reduced supplier payments to TMCs may create growing pains and put pressure on existing industry economic arrangements. TMCs will continue to look for more efficiencies and alternate sources of revenue, which may also lead to continued consolidation.

“AI has enormous potential to improve the employee and traveler experience. This potential will outpace past megatrends like blockchain, which often felt like a solution looking for a problem. Further into the future, we also could see continued adoption of driverless cars end up translating to other forms of transportation, and the industry embracing concepts like a one-pilot cockpit.

“As use cases for AI grow, companies that have fully integrated corporate platforms—not just TEI integration but also finance, procurement, HR, and other ERP functions—will realize the greatest gains from generative AI and large language models.”

– Charlie Sultan, President, Concur Travel

For more 2024 trends and predictions to watch, download our eBook, “Travel and Expense 2024”

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