Bye-Bye Paper, Hello Automation: an SAP Concur Podcast Conversation with Innovation Award-Winning Partner neylux

“We don't like the paper processes, which we have, we even hate approval workflow. So, please, set up the system in an innovative way,” was the challenge a customer shared with the neylux team. Jeanne Dion, Director of the Value Experience Group at SAP Concur, and Siegfried Krause, Co-Founder of neylux, share how they solved it not just for one customer but for numerous organizations to shift from hating the approval workflow to loving the insights and experience. After listening to how neylux approaches this touchy topic, it’s likely you’ll find ways to transform your own process.

This four-episode podcast series celebrates the SAP Concur Partner Award recipients. neylux received one of two Partner Innovation Awards for 2020, which, amidst a global pandemic, is quite a feat. Other past recipients include: American AirlinesLyndon Group, and American Express Global Business Travel. Listen to each of these episodes on our podcast channel, SAP Concur Conversations, for best practices to implement at your own organization.

You can listen to this episode on Apple | Amazon | Spotify | Listen Notes | Acast | Google or your favorite place to find podcasts.

 

Want to join this special circle of winners?

Nominations are now open for the SAP Concur Partner Awards, now part of the SAP Concur Innovation Awards, recognizing outstanding achievements from our partner ecosystem.

As an SAP Concur partner, please submit a nomination to win awards in either “Growth” or “Innovation” categories.

Criteria: All partner types are eligible to submit.

Growth Awards: Based on measurable growth in your SAP Concur partnership.

Innovation Awards: Based on innovation you brought to a specific customer engagement or to your overall SAP Concur relations.

Questions? Email: sapconcurpartners@sap.com

 

Transcript:

Jeanne Dion:

Hi, I'm Jeanne Dion. I'm the Director of the Value Experience Delivery team here at SAP Concur and today I have with me Siegfried Krause from neylux. Siegfried is going to be speaking with us today because neylux is one of our innovation leaders. They were able to actually create a new innovation within Concur using our customer web services to build a true integration, to fulfill a customer's automation needs related to their workflow. So Siegfried, would you mind introducing yourself and neylux itself?

Siegfried Krause:

Yeah. Thank you, Jeanne. My name is Siegfried Krause and I'm the co-founder from neylux. So we found this together with a really good colleague for myself and back to 2016. So our company is not that old, but have an experience in the field of travel and expense management solution almost 20 years. So we put that small company into place because we love what we're doing. And we are focused on travel and expense management solutions from SAP and SAP Concur.

Jeanne Dion:

Thank you. So what I want to talk to today was an optimization play that you had with a customer, a mutual customer of ours that brought in kind of a less manual approach and a more automated approach for increased efficiency because automation is really kind of a critical connection these days for organizations removing that manual, to be able to focus more on analytical and strategic, but still keeping compliance in mind. So I wouldn't mind if, would you mind telling us a little bit about what this project was and how you, what the problem was for the customer and how you solved for it?

Siegfried Krause:

Yeah, yes. Sure. So we stepped into this customer in the very beginning they already said, listen, guys, we really like to be innovative here. We don't like the paper processes, which we have, we even hate approval workflow. So please kind of setting up the system in an innovative way. And, and for sure, Concur Solutions, this is just built for such an innovative flow. At the end, we discussed a lot about the workflow because at the end, yes, the manager would like to know, would like to see what happens, what going on with the spend management here and what the users will have here. But at the end, we build up a solution, which I think it's, it's really good, straightforward. Everybody gets the information, what they need, but not doing this formal approvals step, going to the system, click on a button after checking some items.

So this is somehow we found out the way of the Concur Solution and also with some special developments because our company has also an own development department, which is focused and expert in these kinds of stuff. And yeah, the Concur is at the end, not only a best practice tool, but it is also flexible to bring some add-ons, bring some customer's own ideas into the place. And here we had this challenge to say, okay, we have an approval workflow and they would like to get rid of it. But at the end also that the manager has the control and overview of all costs. So we set it up, like to have a passive approval. So what is that? Passive approval is such a thing that the employee enters all data. Then we are using also the Concur Audit in place here in Europe, in Germany to fulfill all the audit tasks and the manager at the end, get a summary page and PDF in an email.

And he sees all the items, all the information they need, but without even hitting the system or doing active approval flows or what else, and everybody is happy there. And for sure, if there's something strange or something, which the manager would like to understand a little bit better, then comes the human being in place. So talk to each other and find out what it's all about. So customers absolutely happy with it. We are really proud that we even got here a prize or an innovation award from Concur for that, because it was, sounds a little bit easy stuff, but at the end, it was a huge implementation and development behind the scene. So all involved parties, they don't need to struggle anymore about that. And behind the scenes, that solution once automatically through the system and also to the inbox of the manager.

Jeanne Dion:

I have so many questions, but first I want to say this really makes my heart sing in a very nerdy workflow way. I love the idea that you worked with your customer and our customer to think more digitally about how the workflow is working and move from that. Well, we've always done it this way. This is always the way it's worked on paper, to thinking about it in a real digital platform. And I know for a lot of customers who have been using SAP Concur Travel and Expense through the years, the initial movement was from paper to an electronic system. And there's been so many new features that have been added in the last five to seven years to make changes to how workflows happen to allow for that re-imagination.

One of the pieces you talked about was the use of the Concur audit type tools. And so that means that compliance was still important to this customer. So can you talk a little bit about how they came to that idea that the information was really the critical point for them rather than the compliance point, that they had a tool that could do the compliance?

Siegfried Krause:

This company is really innovative and would like to, to go step ahead to even make the process as easy as possible for the involved parties for the employee, which for sure he is on his way on this business trip, doing a lot of important stuff for the company and has this tiny administration of a process to bring the data in. But for sure it must be also compliant. It must be compliant to the travel policy and also to the official regulations here. So that is kind of a part or a piece, which was really important to not just say, oh, yeah okay we are a fancy company and we don't need an approval. No, this was not the idea. The idea was just to streamline, to get rid of old thinking of old, take your pencil out and signature some documents, and then it goes to the next desk and the same things happens again and again.

So here was really to say, who needs to know when he needs to know, and what is the kind of setup to, to know this information. So we worked also with the Cognos tool inside in the solutions defined really the pieces and say, okay, that is the important information for the manager. And that is a little bit what, what we put at the end. If he needs that to go to the last step of the information, you can find it in the report, but not something what he really goes through and has a lot of work to do with it. So compliance is there or Concur Audit is doing a great job and looking to the tiniest things of tax regulations, VAT reclaiming, and all that stuff, which we all know best, which nobody would like to do. But at the end, we have the good team established there from Concur to do that.

And the manager is free of looking through the information, but not stopping the process. So at the end, it was also a question of speed of reimbursement, speed of financial posting speeds, or that, that was also a big topic, which we discussed because what happens, the manager has time. It's a whole day to wait for the approval. No, not really. So he can look in the meeting after meeting, or even on another day, but we are not stopping the process of financial posting and also to pay out to the employee, which was really important.

Jeanne Dion:

That's really significant because you mentioned two things there that really strike me. Here in the US, we talk about where the manager sits in an approval workflow. And a lot of times our customers are saying to us, well, they're making sure that the spend was appropriate. And we have a saying here in the US the toothpaste is already out of the tube at that point, the spend has happened. So how can you stop something from happening that already happened unless you have a time machine. So it really turns managers rather into confirming that the spend is appropriate against budget, more into compliance officers, which is really not their role.

And the second piece of it that talk about, you know, those multiple touches on the reports can make expense reporting very expensive in terms of the employee themselves and how much time they're spending on that. So I think this innovation is at the beginning and the forefront of our customers rethinking how they do this. And is there any improvement data that you've had from your customer that they've been able to measure from the baseline prior to putting this type of workflow in place?

Siegfried Krause:

Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. That is really a culture of trust. And also to put the policy, which also is a process in here that was some part of the project, or to find the real set up of a policy so that the employee can travel on a certain quality, but also not struggling then when he comes back and the amount is too high and the manager has to decline something, as you said, that is really interesting. So yeah, the spend was done. So right now, just a question. So the question is more on how we can concentrate, might be in future, with some of the employees to say, listen, I have checked your last expense statement, and please make sure that the next time that it's a little bit more in control, but coming back to the question out to measure, yeah, we did sme measures.

Also the customer measured the time of entry until reimbursement. And there was a significant shorten from two to three weeks to one week for the whole overall process in channel. And this helps also, even if somebody says, okay, it might be then. So you get the money later, but at the end, it's also a question of how you like to treat your employees, how you serve, not only your customers and speed also to serve your own people, to have the reimbursement process done in a really short way.

Jeanne Dion:

Wow. So down to one week from two to three weeks, that's significant. I mean, that affects everything from financial reporting and being able to put out numbers in an appropriate way, right down to, as your point, to paying out an employee who's, in some cases, especially if they're using their own cards or they're paying cash in certain areas, are basically floating the company alone while this process is happening. So that's really significant and touches on so many different aspects of a business. I love that.

We've talked about your customer specifically, but I'd love to, now that this idea is starting to foment in some of our other customer's minds, I'd love to pick your brain on how a customer can get ready to make this kind of move to a more automated workflow. What are the things that you would recommend they do to prepare for something like that? Would it start with the policy?

Siegfried Krause:

Yeah, definitely. So the question is normally that the company/organization, so more from the back office organization says, yeah, we are unhappy with this paper-based receipt, we unhappy with that, but we have a lot of things we would like to see and regulations and so on. So they are coming most likely from that part to say, okay, the digitalist, the key and Concur will be paying me to, to a certain level. And then they start too fast the project with configuration and say what expense types and so on and said, stop, stop, stop. So, yeah, we are here to help you to configure the system, but please have in mind what you like to achieve at the end, you like to have 200 expense types, or you like to have the system which serves you and customer, what is your end customer? Your end customer is your employee.

So if you put all these regulations just in a new tool, then you will not fulfill your goal. And for sure not the goal of the employee to, to fill that proper data. And so we starting going back a little bit of step looking to the policy, looking to the goals they would like to achieve, and then discuss a certain way of where we can achieve that, how we can achieve that, and then coming to the system set up. And then everybody is also minded to know for what he is right now, requesting of the data in the Concur set up.

Jeanne Dion:

It's interesting. You mentioned something earlier about trusting a process and trusting your employees, that idea of trust being inherent to that healthy corporate culture and having those really clear policies. How would you recommend for some of our customers who are trying to present to their senior management? What the key conditions are going to be in order to make this a success and get them to buy into it? Is it, is trust really the biggest part of it, or is there something more?

Siegfried Krause:

Trust is really important, especially today where we all kind of struggling to find the right people for our jobs we have here. So that is one part, but also it's important. And to change something, what is a really strong administration costs. So that means here we have a process. It's a tiny process, but it's so important because everybody in the organization come in the certain way to it, this process, no, you'd go some, a business trip or some bought some flowers for an event or whatever. So everybody is somehow involved. So that is the audience. The audience in the company is really huge. And also that is important to find out. So, first of all, to say, okay, we would like to streamline, you would like to reduce administration costs. But on the other hand, you have the employees, the persons, which will use that kind of functionality.

And there, you also need to give a little bit of trust to it that they do the right things. And at the end, if this has not happened with some of the people I say, I really believe most of the people just doing and using the tool correctly, but for sure, you have always a little bit of misleading information and stuff in the system. So here you get also with the Concur tool, the tools to find out and to follow up. But at the end, the question is, does it need to be like the employee enters data and every second comes in, pop up? Oh yeah, that's the red flag. Oh, you have to enter here another thing. Or if you have entered this, you have also enter that. So the question is also how much you just pull over to the employee in the process or to say, okay, yeah, we trust our people and they enter the data they have spent. And then we also have a good reporting on it to see if that is misleading or if that is correct for our organization.

Jeanne Dion:

It's interesting. You mentioned that what you just talked about is something that I like to bring up with our customers a lot. And that's what I call "flag fatigue," where every time they type something in another flag pops up and basically yells at them to remind them to do something. And after a while employees stop paying attention to that. So the data that's coming into your point may actually not be good data because they've started to become fatigued or tired at seeing this. And they're like, yeah, yeah, I know I did everything I was supposed to do. I don't know what more you want me to do. And then it, they just move forward.

But you mentioned something about the data part of it. And you did mention that the customer that you were working with actually went through and, and was using some of that Cognos data to help make their system and move their system forward and provide them with data. What would you recommend for customers who are looking at moving to a more automated system? What kind of data points should they be looking for, or what kind of data strategy should they be putting together before they get to this point?

Siegfried Krause:

That is a really good a question here for what should be into the Cognos tool, into the reporting. So at the end, we have a lot of standard reports, which we can look through and also a lot of information, but we would like, or what we always do with our customers is first of all, setting up the process and then thinking also what is important to achieve and a kind of compliance and part of spending and different figures of the process to ensure in the process and this, we bring up in the reporting, that's done, that's for sure. But we have also already made some really nice, best practice reporting from Neylux, which then can achieve a lot of information to that.

Jeanne Dion:

Best practice reporting, I love that. A lot of customers ask for that so I think it's wonderful that you've been able to, to identify that. I would like to ask a question. I know earlier I talked about going back in time in a time machine, I'd love for you to be able to think about going forward in a time machine. And are there any trends that you're seeing within our customer base or observations you can make about things that you've been seeing over the last 12 to 18 months that you think would be important for customers to take under consideration as they look into an automation journey?

Siegfried Krause:

Yeah. Yes. For sure. Especially here in Europe, one of the biggest thing is really get digital. So nobody, we started back. So my career starts a lot of back, but even with the old SAP software, there were a lot of things inside, which is still paper-based. So that is really, nobody from the customers expect to still need papers. Sometimes it's coming up because somebody else organization comes with a legal point to it, but we are well prepared. And we know the country setups where you still need paper. Most of the countries, you don't need any paper that is for sure. Something, which I really see, yeah, that is not a question anymore. That is a really a hard fact to go to Concur, to change what they have on the setup and really paperless and digital, that is one part. The other part is to get rid of really extreme workflow ideas of having tools three step approvals to involve the higher management departments and so on.

That is also really nice to see that they really understand that that is not a process, which you control later after the spend might be. You have to think about more to, to give advice to your employees, how to spend and what to spend. So that is also really nice to see. And yeah, one big trend is in a year, we are really prepared for it is to combine all the different systems set up. So I would say the SAP backend system or another financial system, HR master data and so on. So this is absolutely nice and amazing to see that the customers really focus on integration and also check and try really, to get most out of the setup. And also from the architectural point of view.

Jeanne Dion:

Those are great tips and thoughts of trends. Have you seen customers moving more towards an automated kind of compliance situation? I know you mentioned earlier that the customer you worked with for this award had the Concur Audit tools. Are you seeing more customers dependent on the AI or machine learning type tools to give a more complete picture of compliance and remove those managers out of that flow?

Siegfried Krause:

That is something really interesting. And we are really looking forward to that point of view to really say, okay, if that happens and that happens, from out of the learning, we know that it's correct, and nobody has to look with human eyes on that document. That is really what I'm looking forward to it and I really would like to achieve, it's just starting. I think there's a lot of possibilities technically-wise to build that up, but this is just starting, a lot of customers as to maybe even the 100% check on the documents. So that is something in the move. There are some customers which already say, no, no, no, we are not checking all of this stuff that makes no man time. So we save a lot of time and the quality is not really going down a significant, so that is something which everybody, or most of the customers looking forward, the AI staff, it's just at the beginning, I think here, we also, together with you guys from Concur, we are looking more to that point of view that the customers understand, okay, with that kind of technology, we can really hit the next step in this process and getting even faster.

Jeanne Dion:

Yeah. Thank you. Thank you for that observation. I guess my final question would be around measurement for customers. So everybody's very concerned about, you know, key performance indicators and measuring success of making these kind of automation changes. So from a baseline perspective into the improvement perspective, are there specific areas you would recommend for customers to start collecting baseline on prior to making these changes so that once the changes have been made, they can truly identify and record where their success is happening and what the improvement is for their team?

Siegfried Krause:

Yeah, there's this kind of a complex setup and also question which we are trying to focus in these projects, but honestly at the moment, that is still a way to go. So most of the customers are looking more to establish the digital process, to streamline, to get best practice into place. And the measurement comes later when they get more familiar with the possibilities of the tools. And therefore we also try to get in touch with them to say, okay, look, that makes the change complete. Or here we have still parts of improvement in your process.

Jeanne Dion:

You mentioned best practice again, is there specific best practice that you advise customers on that we haven't touched on yet?

Siegfried Krause:

Yes. One of our... In the workflow area, because that is somehow where we also put our innovation here in into the field is, yeah, the manager comes at the end in kind of workflow. So if you have to check something, if you look on Concur Audit or your own processes, staff put it first so that the manager gets the final picture. The manager should not, as in the former parts, often choose the second there's just said, okay, the manager approves. And then the process just do the bookkeeping.

Now that is something which we would like to avoid. So we have a policy, we have rules we know what is out and so on the process of a check first, everything that is technically-wise correct VAT is correct. Document is attached correctly, every single suite and so on. So, and then manager just look to it. So here as our innovation award say, so you can look to it via some information, not directly stopping the process, but for sure we have also customers which would like to have the classical approvals that was a tick box and button pushing. And, but the manager should do that at the end when everything is clear. And that is one of the hugest advices we have here in the process flow.

Jeanne Dion:

Well, I, 100% endorse that recommendation. I believe that that is probably the most efficient way to run a workflow. And I love having you talk about it because I think we sometimes forget that our customers are using a previous way of looking at things. And now with all the data in place, they can move that manager to the end because there's so many different tools and features that can do some of the work that was happening before. And then the manager can be that last part of the step rather than him having to be the first step over and over and over again. So I really, really liked that. Is there anything else that I might have forgotten to ask about, or that you wanted to talk about that I have not brought up yet?

Siegfried Krause:

No, that was really interesting speech, was really nice to discuss some of the features, what we did with this particular customer, but also I like to have the possibility to talk a little bit by the range on, on what is possible, what brings up the technology here and the Concur tools. And we still, we are enjoying so much implementing that with different kinds of customers around the world. So yeah. Thank you very much. That is really nice.

Jeanne Dion:

Thank you for your time. I really appreciate it. And I loved hearing about this new take on automation about how moving that workflow into a more automated state and how it actually does touch on so many different parts of an organization, whether it's how the employee is entering the information, how the information is being reviewed, how the information is being taken in, and then how the information is then being transferred or translated into those financial reports. That's a huge change in how we were looking at things, moving from a paper-based to a digital is critical, especially at this time for organizations to really become more efficient and effective, allowing their employees to really take a look at things more strategically and analytically, rather than spending a lot of time on these manual processes that may or may not add value to the system. So thank you again, Siegfried, really appreciate it. And I'm looking forward to seeing the next innovation that you bring to us. And hopefully next year, we'll get to talk to you again.

Siegfried Krause:

Yes, we are working on that, thank you very much.

Jeanne Dion:

Okay. Thanks. This is Jeanne Dion, and again please feel free to take a look at concur.com or take a listen to any of the types of features or functionality that we spoke about. Please feel free to take a look and visit the neylux site so that you can see what they have to offer as well as a partner. And we thank you for your time today. Have a great day.

--------

 

Jeanne Dion is the Director of the Value Experience Delivery team at SAP Concur which provides customers with data-driven insights for programmatic improvements. She’s an experienced professional specializing in Intelligent Spend Management across travel, expense, and accounts payable platforms. Driven by a passion for process improvement, Jeanne looks to bring every customer to a best practice standard while ensuring their business objectives remain the primary focus. When she’s not digging in data to identify trends and program behaviors, she loves to travel with her daughter and volunteer within her community.

Follow her on LinkedIn

 

 

 

 

Siegfried Krause is the CoFounder and CEO from SAP Concur Implementation Partner neylux.

During his career in SAP he worked in different positions in the field of business travel management. Between 2009 and 2016 he was active as a freelance for implementing SAP Travel Management solutions.

Follow him on LinkedIn

Loading next article