SAP Concur Solutions is like a Condo with Different Floorplans: an SAP Concur Podcast Conversation with the Lyndon Group

“I always liken Concur to a condominium building; if you have been on the Concur platform for 10 years and every time you move somebody into the new building, you let them decorate their condo the way that they want it, they have their own set of expense types, their own set of processes, you may have over-engineered your system. So, to really make sure that your system is optimized for those expansions, you need to try to streamline where you can,” shares Kara Bernard, Managing Director of the Lyndon Group. Enjoy every moment of this practical podcast conversation between Kara Bernard and Jeanne Dion, Director of the Value Experience Group at SAP Concur. You’ll learn how to transform your organization’s spend management to meet the rapidly changing needs of a post-pandemic, global business environment. 

This is an innovative, four-episode podcast series celebrating the SAP Concur Partner Award recipients. The Lyndon Group received the Partner Growth Award, which, amidst a global pandemic, is quite a feat. The other award winners included American Airlines, neylux, 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: mailto:sapconcurpartners@sap.com

 

Transcript:

Jeanne Dion:

Hi everybody. I'm Jeanne Dion, the Director of the Value Experience Group here at SAP Concur and I'm here today to talk with one of our partner growth winners, Kara Bernard, from the Lyndon Group. Kara, I was wondering if you could go ahead and introduce yourself and the role that you play at the Lyndon Group.

Kara Bernard:

Absolutely. Thanks Jeanne. My name is Kara Bernard. I am the Managing Director here at the Lyndon Group. Lyndon Group has been a partner with Concur for about 10 years in some capacity. We are a boutique consulting firm that specializes in travel expense and spend management.

Jeanne Dion:

Excellent. Thank you. And the award that you won this year as one of our top partners is the Growth Award, where you were able to actually implement 27 certified implementation projects during 2020. And I have to ask, in a year where travel was down and expenses were down, it seems like a lot of projects to be able to implement. What do you think the reason was for customers coming in and wanting to really execute on that type of project in the year of 2020?

Kara Bernard:

It's interesting. I think most of the clients that we engaged with on most of the projects there were clients that recognize the fact that they needed to standardize their internal processes. Maybe it was other systems such as ERP migrations. A lot of them were ERP migrations. Some of it was due to M&A activity, meaning they divested a company and they needed to stand up a whole new platform. They were moving this company onto a new instance to get them ready for a sale or in the process of their transition services agreement. So it was all across the board. It was really interesting that during such a slow time, that that many organizations seized the opportunity to retool their programs or retool their platforms.

Jeanne Dion:

Yeah. And you mentioned something interesting, that changed to an ERP system. A lot of our customers or I've come across a lot of customers who are looking at that. Who are either implementing newer ERP systems or updating what they have moving to the next level. So, I'm just curious. When you have customers who are looking at moving due to a new ERP system, what should they be taking into account as they start to think about how it aligns with the Concur system?

Kara Bernard:

Well, the first thing is to make sure you get invited to the party early enough. I can't tell you how many of those projects last year was a panic because Concur got left out of the design and the planning of that ERP rollout, and it was almost an afterthought. So, the first thing is making sure that if you own the Concur configuration, the platform, if you will, that you've got a seat at that table for that ERP planning and that deployment plan, because if you're changing, most of the time that you're moving to a new ERP, you're also reframing your chart of accounts.

Kara Bernard:

You're either adding new segments or change. Something is changing. And with that, you have to reconfigure Concur. And a lot of times, I always joke that it's like back surgery because it creates the foundation of your system, right? This is your accounting processes. So sometimes that's easier to get into an existing system and just reconfigure everything. A lot of times, it may be easier if you're bringing on new countries or new entities at the same time, you're doing that ERP migration. You might want to replatform depending on how long you've had that instance.

Jeanne Dion:

It's interesting you say, "Make sure we have a seat at the table," and one of the things that I always think about when I think about the SAP Concur platform is the ease of use for the end user, who typically is the traveler. But when you're looking at how things are working from an ERP system, is this a time to really take a look at what you're doing manually in the back office and see where automation could take place?

Kara Bernard:

Absolutely. Absolutely. And we deal with clients across all sizes, all industries, and some of our smaller clients do not have an automation or integration in place. They're literally still downloading a report and doing some manual manipulation and then loading it to that ERP. If they're implementing a new ERP, it's absolutely the right time to look at any of those manual processes. Try to do as much automation and integration work as you can. Obviously, it's creates a risk if you're touching anything before you're doing that final financial posting, but also any other processes regarding reporting and accruals and different things like that.

Jeanne Dion:

So another thing that I was thinking about as you were just saying, that was when you're looking at that type of back office and automation, what are some of the tasks that you might want to build into a timeline? Should we be looking at things like middleware or integrations? And how can Lyndon Group work with a customer to ensure that those things are not overlooked?

Kara Bernard:

Yeah. I mean, that's a loaded question actually, but it really depends. I think the first thing is understanding. We always start with, "Tell us what it is you need in your ERP. What is it? What is your chart of accounts look like? What are you changing to? What is it that you ultimately have to post?" And then working back from that process. And it could be that they need a middleware process, or if they're moving on to S4/HANA and they could leverage Concur's great native integration, there's going to be less of a heavy lift, but if it's some other ERP or in some cases, it's a home-grown system, right? And if that's the case, then that's a lot of sitting down and understanding the lists, the exchange of the data between the two systems, so that they're always in sync, and making sure that you're configuring Concur in a way that you're not going to get your users to give you invalid chart of account combinations.

Kara Bernard:

How do you really make sure that what you're building in Concur takes, like you said, ease of use for the end user? They should just be sitting, meeting their expenses and not worrying about what GL account it's going to be hitting. That should be inherently put in your system for them. So if today you already have a platform that your users are driving that account coding of an expense, then there's probably some room for optimization there.

Jeanne Dion:

It's interesting you mentioned all of these things as they tie to ERP. Is because I was asking the question about ERP, but I see a lot of similarities when you think about growth and expansions, where customers have these expansions of maybe a policy into a region, or they're expanding with a new organization they've purchased to that point of the M&A activity. They've purchased something and they don't really know where to start. A lot of the foundational elements are probably the same as what's happening when you're looking at a new ERP system, but if for a customer who doesn't know where to start from an expansion perspective, they've got the ERP in place, but now they need to grow their company. Where would you advise them to start?

Kara Bernard:

Well, the first thing is if they're expanding globally, you have to make sure that you understand what the country specific statutory requirements are. I can't tell you... Even myself years ago when I was on the Concur, but I was in the client side, right? And I had to expand into countries, and I would start my requirements gathering to understand, they would tell me things that I had to decide if this was really a statutory requirement or just something that they always did that way. Is it a more of a cultural or a business process that they created? So, making sure that you leverage a partner that has that expertise. Concur obviously has a lot of great functionality in the new configuration templates, if you will that allow for a lot of the functionality that allows you to stay compliant, but there's still a lot of business decisions that go around that.

So, when you're talking about expanding in other countries, you have to make sure you understand what those requirements are. The other thing is, and I always liken Concur to a condominium building, if you will, is if you have been on Concur platform for 10 years and every time you move somebody into the new building, you let them decorate their condo the way that they want it, they have their own set of expense types, their own set of processes, you may have over-engineered your system. So, to really make sure that your system is optimized for those expansions, you need to try and streamline where you can. We did a client optimization recently. They had over 800 expense types in their system. By the time we were done, we got it down to about 50, because once the analysis was done to really, really look at what was being used, the frequency, the dollar amount of that spend, most of it came down to they just allowed people to call something something different and it all was the same thing at the end of the day.

Kara Bernard:

So really, I think those expansions are actually a little bit more difficult than just standing up an ERP because that's just making sure that the data aligns, that you've created the right forms and fields, whereas expanding into other countries or into other businesses, you need to start with really understanding those requirements.

Jeanne Dion:

Yeah, absolutely agree. And you mentioned something that was really... That hit home for me. As somebody who owned a program as a former Concur customer and now working at SAP Concur, I had real trouble in identifying and going through the mandated or regulatory requirements versus what was just a nice to have. And it was really difficult to get everybody on the same page or to get anybody to tell me what the difference was truly between that regulatory or just a nice to have.

And I ended up putting together a global governance council, kind of a steering committee that would have cross-functional stakeholders in there who were able to keep me on top or abreast of what was happening from a regulatory perspective and also helped me to be able to know when to push back. Is that something that the Lyndon Group actually is able to do with customers? Are you able to provide some of that ongoing support once they have stood up a globalized system?

Kara Bernard:

Yeah. Actually, we DO do that. In fact, we're one of those once you're a client, you're always a client. So, we keep a pretty comprehensive database of where our clients have a country present and we will proactively stay on top of it. So, if something significant changed, a tax law, maybe a new mandate or a change in a travel allowance, we'll proactively just say, "Did you know that this changed? This is something that is going to impact you. You need to consider it. And it is just that, because it's not just being compliant with the statutory requirements. When you take something like travel allowance, for example, you need to also look at the company culture. In some cases, the company may be a U.S. company and they really want to make sure that they're giving their employees the right allowances, for example.

So if say for example, they only get €24 a day, but they still want to allow their employees to claim actuals, that's a business decision that drives the way that you set up Concur so that you can track what they would have had, and then anything above and beyond that that's taxable, you now have available and reporting to pass on either to the employee or potentially to your payroll department, because remember, these statutory laws don't just impact the company. In a lot of cases, there's an individual, employee tax liability. And when you're thinking about employee experience, you want to make sure that you're doing the right things so that you're giving them the right information so that they, as an individual are also staying compliant.

Jeanne Dion:

I think that's going to be actually even more important domestically in the U.S. as we start to move to some of the hybrid organizations where employees are traveling from home offices into a headquarters and working for specific amounts of time within different states from where they live. Those become tax events for a lot of corporations. So, it's one thing to keep in mind. I know we look at it from a real global perspective, but I think we're going to have to start focusing on some of that from a domestic perspective as well. Have you heard of anything that's happening on that front with your customers? I know we've been getting some questions about it. I wasn't sure if you had at this point.

Kara Bernard:

It is interesting. We've had some conversations with clients about that, but there are some really great Concur partners that have amazing programs that... But I think that Deloitte that provide that cross border of payroll tax reporting, and that's always our thing. Is go to the experts for something like that, because again, you're creating that employee liability. So you want to make sure you're doing the right thing.

Jeanne Dion:

Yeah. I think that's great. The partner areas where we're also identifying as well. You did mention the term that I really love that, "Think of Concur like a condo and you have different floor plans you can use." We've talked about building out from an M&A or a country expansion perspective, but for a customer who's had a site for a very long time and as we all know, businesses are living organizations, right? They change their goals, change their corporate needs, change...So, what was built 15 or 10 years ago may not actually be what they need moving forward. Do you have any advice for customers who are thinking about how they're going to update, or maybe even re-platform their site to better identify with some of the business outcomes that they're looking to do now to make people more compliant, to make it a bit more expansive, to make it easier to scale within the organization?

Kara Bernard:

Yeah, absolutely. And I think it ties back to what we've already talked about, is really making sure that you understand the requirements, right? Versus those nice to have. And then really thinking like a global company. And then when I say global, it could be a U.S. only company, but maybe they have 13 different entities or business units within their organization that represent 13 different business models. Maybe one is doing client-side billing and the other one's doing project work. And really making sure that you look for the commonality so that you can develop... We use those floor plan analogies.

So that within your site, if you're re-platforming, when you're reconfiguring it, you know that these are the three, four plans you need, and then figuring out a way to fit your different business entities into that is going to keep you more scalable and leave some of those building materials, if you will, those custom forms and fields consistently available for any other expansion or any other new kind of business operations that come into play. Maybe today, you don't do a bell back, but in the future, you might, but now you've over-engineered your site and you're out of custom fields to be able to do something like that.

Jeanne Dion:

When I think about all these different opportunities that customers have to reimagine or redefine where they're going, I think about change management and program launch best practices. Is there something that you can share with our customers from a perspective of... And they are our customers because they're joint.

Kara Bernard:

Right.

Jeanne Dion:

We're sharing the same customers. Is there something you can talk to our customers about when they think about how they're relaunching their programs, whether it's through our review to update for new ERP systems, whether it's a re-platforming, whether it's an expansion, what should they be thinking about from a change management perspective?

Kara Bernard:

Well, it's a couple of different parts to answer that. The first thing is you said earlier that when you were on the client side, you had to a global steering committee. I can't stress enough that if you're running a large enough program, that you need some form of T&A steering committee. If you've got a huge sales organization, bring your sales leaders into those conversations. When you're getting ready to change something like that, include your biggest customers, your internal end-users in part of that, bring some champions in to get their point of view for the right way to position things. The other is some of our clients are going through some economic crisis right now, and they may be for the first time in a long time, really laser focused on cost cutting and spend control. But you don't want to do that at the risk of degrading overall employee experience, right?

If it's your road warriors and you've made it so restrictive to them that travel's miserable on top of it already being miserable because of the state of the world, you have to really make sure to balance that. So including them in those conversations not only gives you their point of view, but it also gets you to have support from the leaders in those organizations. It's really effective. The other piece of it is just making sure that you always find an opportunity to position things. The best way to say it is I really believe your employees inherently want to do the right thing. Most of them. We do this. We do hundreds of written policy reviews. And a lot of times we will read those policies, or we'll look at client's training materials and they just say what you can and can't do, but they never really explained why, right?

This is a rule. It's just a rule. It is what it is. But if it is because you are trying to cut costs, if it is because maybe you took... I had a client years ago... It's a funny story. It's a rather large company. They were going through cost cutting. I was there for a business meeting and she made a joke about, "I'm sorry, we got rid of liquid creamer. It's one of our cutbacks. And here's some powdered creamer for your coffee." And later in that meeting, we were talking about things like that liquid creamer and some things in her program that she wasn't doing. And I said, "Wouldn't you be a champion if you could bring back liquid creamers?" You were able to position all this savings and it became like a joke for the longest time for years.

I still run into that client. We always joke about the creamer, but I think it's really important that you include them in on the why, and that you position the change for things is understanding that "We have to do this. This is something we're all required to do." Or trying to find the benefit at things. That, "We're trying to keep you compliant; we're trying to keep you safe. We want you as an individual to comply with any statutory tax requirements you have. We want you to be safe when you're traveling." Whatever those things are, is making sure that that communication is employee focused.

Jeanne Dion:

It's fascinating that you mentioned bringing people in and explaining the why. I think we don't do enough of that in any situation. When people have the context for what's happening, they tend to change their behavior fairly quickly. I'm always reminded of when I ran a program that I had a group who needed to purchase a piece of equipment. It was affecting work-life balance. People were having to work overtime, there were too many people on the machine, but the other thing that they were also doing was that every Friday, they bought donuts for the floor. It was donut Friday. And as we went through and looked at their spend on donuts, they were complaining again that they couldn't buy this piece of equipment, and I reminded them that they spent $40,000 on donuts the year before on expense reports.

So, which was more important? The donuts or the machine? And when they started to think about it that way, all of a sudden, the light bulb went off and we had fewer doughnut Fridays. There was still high morale, but it was even higher because now everybody could work normal hours. It's really fascinating when you tell somebody the context of why something is happening, how much more compliant they become. So, thank you for sharing that. I really appreciate that. I think it's something we don't talk about enough. As we look forward here, when we talk about customers rethinking and re-imagining, talking about providing the why, that's an aha moment for us. So, there are other aha moments that you could share with us that you've seen customers have. I mean, I think I just talked about one using some data, but are there other places that you can think about it?

Kara Bernard:

I mean, I think all the aha moments using your data, I can't stress this enough. I've done several Concur speaking engagements lately and I think the information that sits in the Concur Reporting tool is just so grossly underutilized. I know a lot of times; people are looking at just what you said. They're looking at spend, but are they really looking at that spend to be able to prove something, to drive a conversation? And even using that configure, and even using that data to look at things, not just where spend is, but like I said, on expense types. Really focusing on the frequency of use. And we were doing a project with a client and one of their business units was arguing, arguing, arguing over a certain expense type that needed... We were trying to get it removed from the system.

And when we came back to them and said, "This has literally been used four times a year, which means it's probably some quarterly payment that could go out. A complication over there says you could do X, Y, and Z." And once we were able to prove the frequency and the actual spend of that, they were able to back off a little bit. The other thing is really just staying on top of your credit card program spend. I can't tell you how often we do optimization reviews and find on card programs, they're really not staying on top of the information that's Concur, and we will see things, 90, 120 days. Sometimes you have credit card charges that are still sitting in that system that are years old and it's just a lot of noise. And if you are... As with all things going on right now, there's a constant, a lot of shift.

I've seen people moving to new ERPs, they're replacing TMCs. There are also a lot of movement in the credit card space. And if you're moving to a new credit card program, but you haven't been proactively managing that, you're going to be prepared to write some big fat check to whoever that bank is at the end of that, if you're not cleaning up and really reconciling what you've got in your system. And I just think that's one of those things that is often really overlooked for clients and we find that's something that a lot of times, we have to help them clean up and get their systems ready if they know they're going to be having a new card program coming.

Jeanne Dion:

I love that you brought that up. So as a former finance nerd who was always having to do accruals, that becomes a real financial reporting concern, because if you can't tie out what you've paid out to a card to what employees have spent, and they haven't submitted it, you're spending money that may or may not be truly tied to the business and you're not tracking what is actually going on and what is coming in. So, I love that you brought that up. That just made my heart so happy in a weird way.

Kara Bernard:

Us finance nerds have to stick together.

Jeanne Dion:

That's right. That's right. We recovering accountants need to do our stuff. So, when I think about all the things that we've talked about so far, to bring me back out of my nerdiness, when I think about what customers are doing where they start, where do we start? You mentioned something about the written policy. And I know for me, the written policy, when I was a program owner, when I worked on the implementation side in the Concur environment, written policy was like that bible. So if you can start us from there, what does a customer need to do as they start to come to you to define configuration? We start with the policy, correct?

Kara Bernard:

Yeah. We consider that to be the foundation of anybody's program, because those are your roots, right? So, the first thing is making sure that your policy is good. No offense to the lawyers out there, but a lot of times, they're written in a way that your employees don't even necessarily understand them. If it is more than maybe 10 to 15 pages, it's probably too long. It's actually said that it should be written in a sixth grade reading level to make sure that you encompass everybody. It needs... Like I said, you need to explain the way to get buy-in from your employees, but it also needs to be consistent in tone and tenor. I can't tell you how many times we read a policy and it's written from-it's inconsistent. If cost control is your company's focus, then you want that tone to carry through it. There's a lot of “may or might” or “you should versus you need tos,” and just making sure that's consistent.

But also, really making sure that it encompasses some of the changes that we've had to the work environment lately and making sure that you're thinking about the new types of spend that you're having in your system and updating those written policies for work from home type expenses, because in a lot of cases, going back to that employee tax liability, you could be creating one. I always joke that you your employee need a stand-up desk because now they're working from home, maybe full-time or part-time and unless they're going to put that desk in their car and bring it back to your brick and mortar someday, that could be construed as a taxable benefit. So, are you making sure that those types of work from home expenses are clearly defined in your policy, what's allowable, but more importantly, again, if you put that in your policy, what have you done in Concur to make sure that you have the reporting data available to say this information, if an employee requests it, if you need to track it?

All those different types of things, and then we use the policy, but we also look at, again, those global statutory requirements. And then I really... One of the first questions I ask a new client if I'm doing a program optimization, meaning we're not just looking at the Concur configuration, but we start with, "Hey, today is Bob's first day. Tell me how Bob gets a credit card. Show me your written policy. Show me how they're trained." I really want to make sure. We ask a lot about your employee base. Because of the fact we deal with so many different companies, different sizes, different industries, what you might do from a change management and configuration, a communication, training, all of that, is going to be different if you have a purely millennial workforce versus if you're oil, mining and gas and your guys still have flip phones and they're covered in oil.

It's just going to be different. So when I'm designing a program, not just a configuration, I really want to understand company culture and what your employees can do, what they can't do, what they're going to understand, what their behaviors are, because you want to design your end program to meet those needs.

Jeanne Dion:

You mentioned something that I think is really critical especially in this environment for the next 12 to 18 months. When we're trying to be proactive versus reactive, these hybrid business models are bringing more people who have never used the expense platforms in before, because they've never had to. They're not necessarily travelers, but now because they're working from home, that uptick of spend ties to a lot of things that we think about as controls within an expense system-things like using credit cards versus cash, making sure that the... You mentioned the purchase of the stand-up desk, that purchase of fixed assets and how things are depreciated. Are there things that we should be looking at from a non-travel spend that are controls that are key for work from home policies that tie maybe back to things that we haven't thought about, those things like OSHA requirements and data, business continuity type things?

Kara Bernard:

Actually, we have a white paper on this, and it talks just through that. It talks to everything about the fact that you have your employees now working from home, it's not just a work from home policy of what expense types they can use and what the treatment and how they're supposed to submit those things. It is all those things. It is the OSHA requirements, it's data privacy. I mean, in the early days, I mean, my house was a school, it was a gym, it was music class and I had people coming in out of my house and I'm sitting here and working on a customer. What if I'm talking about a customer and they overhear something? So that's a really good point when you think about work from home policy. You should be engaging all your cross-functional stakeholders in your organization to make sure that you are protecting the business and your employees for sure.

And then with regards to the fact that you have a whole new potential user base that you haven't had before, I mean, there's a couple of different ways to approach that. I mean, some of our clients have said, "I don't want them to see all the expense types that I give to our field-based employees. I want them to have their own policy in Concur, so it just has these work from home related expenses." So, there's a couple different approaches there when you think about it, because now you've got to train users to use something they've never used before and you have to make sure that there also isn't any rub. If you maybe have different allowances or different... Maybe your field's allowed to submit some things that you would normally have your corporate work from home employees submitting and you need to not show it to them in the system if that makes sense.

Jeanne Dion:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). It makes absolute sense. A couple of things that I can think of just off the top of my head as it relates to the work from home, what we're seeing in our customer base, and I'm sure you are as well, the uptick in the cash spend, which is a very different type of spend because you're not going to be giving a corporate card to everybody in the organization. So that idea of the cash spend being higher brings a whole set of issues to the fore. You mentioned earlier about credit card submissions and those transactions maybe being out 120 days or more. In a cash situation, that becomes a taxable liability for the organization past a certain number of days in the U.S.

Kara Bernard:

120. Yeah.

Jeanne Dion:

Yeah. So, you really need to keep on top of that. So being able to put in some controls, even some audit rules and making sure that you're really using the configuration to your advantage with notification emails and stuff are really big. The second thing that I've seen personally in the customer base that I'm looking at are the vendor types that are coming in. The Venmos, the PayPals the Amazons. Venmo, PayPal, Amazon are things that are... In some cases, with Venmo, it's a social media. So, everybody can see the purchase that's been made by this person if they have their profile set to public. And it's pretty easy for any other customer of that organization to be able to see what's happening. So, have you seen a lot of that vendor type consideration, the Venmo, the PayPal, the Amazon? And Amazon, the thing that concerns me is that most of those are private accounts. They're not typically business accounts. So, when you return something to Amazon, typically you're getting a credit to your account. It's not going back to the card.

Kara Bernard:

Right.

Jeanne Dion:

So it sets up a whole another set of problems for our customers to be able to reclaim that money that they've already paid for out of perhaps a corporate credit card. Have you seen a lot of this, and do you have any advice for customers related to this?

Kara Bernard:

Yeah, I have lots of. I mean, there's so, so many different ways to approach this. So, the first thing I'll address is... And I just want to level set on this. I said earlier that I think that employees inherently want to do the right thing and I do wholeheartedly agree to that. I also know and it's proven through years and years of study and if you're in any kind of an internal audit capacity, you know this. During any type of global catastrophe economic distress, there is always an uptick in employee-initiated fraud. It just is. It's a trend. So more now than ever, you should be making sure that, to your point, you have the right audit rules, you have one of the great Concur audit services from Concur, that you're getting that extra layer, especially if it's one of the newer products that have AI, where it's looking at those receipts, making sure that your cash reimbursements must have receipts, creating audit rules based off vendors.

We have lots of clients that have came to us in a flurry and said, "We have to do a hundred percent audit on things like PayPal and Venmo for just that." How am I supposed to know they didn't go...? Well, last year they weren't really going out to dinner, but this year, how do I know they're not just at dinner with their friends and they're just chipping in and this has nothing to do with work? I mean, there's... Even the receipt that I get doesn't tell me what vendor they spent the money with. So, you're really going to have to A, make sure there's some kind of documentation there and that you're adding that extra layer, but also setting expectations with employees they should use... If that's the way that they're sending their money, you can draw a line in the sand and say, "We're not going to reimburse you if you're using PayPal to pay for this. If it's a cash out of pocket, use your own personal credit card, use your own personal so that you'll get that information."

And I think you're always going to have inherently some cash spend. I mean, you're not going to put people's mobile spend and mileage. There's always going to be a certain set of expenses that are going to be cash spend, but those are relatively low risk items because they're things like mobile reimbursement where it's a fixed amount, but this really does create a whole new set of risks for companies because of the increase in cash spend for sure.

Jeanne Dion:

Yeah, absolutely. One of the things that I was thinking about and that I've been recommending to our customers is that we've recently just come out with an Amazon app on the expense side. So, Amazon for Business partner app is something that customers can take a look at. It's a free app to take a look at and be able to control some of that Amazon spend so that you know what's happening from a business perspective. It's a really great new tool that has come out of us watching this happening with our customer base.

And when I think about it, as we're watching our customer base, last year was a big year for those implementations for you. Are you seeing a similar trend this year? Customers still continuing to optimize and configure and roll out to take advantage of the downtime to fix root causes versus just answering to the symptoms?

Kara Bernard:

I think, yes, absolutely. There is some of that. There's also, I think a "lessons learned" that came out of it, especially on the travel side, where organizations might've allowed a decentralized travel program, meaning EMEA might've had a TMC and a process and over here, we had something. And during the early days of that, realizing having such a... So many different types of individual travel programs, it was really hard for global travel managers to get their head around everything. So, we're seeing a lot of consolidation and standardization, both on the travel and expense front where organizations realized not only is it the downtime, but that there's definitely a need for them to be a little bit more standard about everything from booking to expense management within their organizations.

Jeanne Dion:

Yeah. Yeah. I fully agree with that. We recently did a poll survey of our TripIt users and one of the things we discovered was customers are willing to travel. However, about 31% of them are still willing to book directly with the vendor versus using a corporate tool. So, I think this ties back to that idea of a root cause and a symptom. I think nothing has really changed even given pandemic and it's more important now than ever before for our customers to ensure that they get all that travel information into the system so that they can track in a much more consolidated way for business continuity perspectives, for duty of care perspective, and for cost and an employee convenience perspective. So, I think about things like our partner apps and our TripIt tools and our TripLinks and I just think that now is the time. Are you seeing an uptick in customers asking about those type of travel consolidation tools?

Kara Bernard:

Yeah, absolutely. A hundred percent.

Jeanne Dion:

Okay.

Kara Bernard:

And I love TripIt.

Jeanne Dion:

I do too.

Kara Bernard:

I mean, as a road warrior, there couldn't be a better thing out there. I just have to throw that out there.

Jeanne Dion:

Yeah. It is just a pleasure to use, and I bought a license for my daughter because she was doing a lot of traveling for her company and they don't have it and she can't live without it now.

Kara Bernard:

Yeah. Exactly. My favorite is when you're traveling, and you know something about a gate change or a delayed flight before even the gate agent does. So, they're like, "We don't know." And I'm like, "I do. It says right here that we're not... We're leaving in two hours. It says right here."

Jeanne Dion:

Yeah. "I need to change the flight because you've delayed it." "I don't know that." "I do."

Kara Bernard:

Exactly.

Jeanne Dion:

Yeah. Well, is there anything else that I have forgotten to ask about or anything you wanted to share with our customer base before we close out?

Kara Bernard:

No, I just... Anytime that I can talk to a Concur administrator, I always just want to tell them... Pat them on the back and say, "Congratulations for surviving one of the most disruptive things that have ever happened in our industry." And I think they're one of the most undervalued roles within an organization. It breaks my heart. Again, it doesn't matter what size company it is. It's often the second largest controllable spend right after payroll yet it seems to not be elevated to that same level as some of the other processes within an organization. But you're really are true champions and using all the great things from Concur or partners like ourselves or many of the other great ones out there to really help you figure out how to position yourself within the organization because you touch so many cross-functional teams within an organization, it can be overwhelming.

Jeanne Dion:

Yep. They make it look so easy, but it really isn't.

Kara Bernard:

No.

Jeanne Dion:

It is rocket science.

Kara Bernard:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jeanne Dion:

It really is. So, thank you for calling that out. I one hundred percent agree with you. Well, thank you today for sharing all of this information with me, Kara. I really appreciate it. And congratulations to the Lyndon Group on our growth award. We're really excited to have you as a partner and just thrilled to see what the next year brings for us as a team.

Kara Bernard:

Great. Us too. Thank you for having me.

Jeanne Dion:

Yeah. Thanks. And thanks everybody for listening. Please feel free to take a look at Concur.com and look up any of the solutions or partner applications that we talked about today in our conversation.

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