Companies of all sizes are working hard to track what they spend and what they absorb. And many have employees who travel to meet customers and prospects to create business. Managing all these expenses is a tedious but important task. Although manual tracking of all this could cost you money too.
I recently spoke with David Alexander, Vice President of Marketing and Market Development for SAP Concur a leading provider of integrated services travel and expense management in the cloud. solutions. He explained how using an automated platform to manage travel and spending can help small businesses not only be more productive, but also better understand how they spend money. – which can help them save.
Here is a transcript of our conversation. To hear the full interview, click on the integrated SoundCloud player below.
Maybe you can give me some of your personal experience.
David Alexander : I have been at SAP Concur for about a year and a half now. And my role here, I'm the Vice President of Small Business Marketing and Market Development. So, I'm basically responsible for all of our pipeline and first conversations with existing customers and new business customers for all our prospects and customers with fewer than 1,000 employees.
Before that, as you know, where you and I met, I was at Microsoft for about 12 ½ years and in various marketing and sales roles at Microsoft as well.
Small Business Trends: Perhaps you could give us a glimpse of what Concur did
David Alexander : I think most customers would probably expect us to be a travel and spending business. I think it's traditionally where many customers have come to know us. But we are more than that. We are truly a travel company, spending, billing. We provide a number of different resources to our clients, especially in the small business segment.
I like to think of them in what we deliver to customers in three large buckets. The first is what we help small businesses do to thrive and grow. This gives them automated tool sets. This gives them a tool to give them access to their expenses and allow them to spend more efficiently. And it will be the ideal place where I would say our travel bills and our expense products fall in. And I would say it's where a lot of customers are most in tune with what we offer.
The second part, however, would be to add to these services, it is to help our customers … what we say, like seeing the invisible, no? This gives them insight into the data and their activities and operating cash flow. This will help them identify the risks before they find them, which is very important especially when we talk to small business clients. And also help to give them visibility into their overall management of end-to-end expenses.
Then there is the third component, which is the sector in which we continue to grow, which is more of a "better together" story than we provide to small businesses. So we try to allow small businesses to give them a platform with SAP Concur as a solution where they can get some of the benefits of being … a great company even if they are a small business with the # 39 collective purchase power of other small businesses.
This would include products like our new Hipmunk offer, which you may be familiar with. And many of the solutions we offer as part of our applications, as well as our end-solution partners. So, it's a bit like these three buckets, it's really as an organization that we live. It's beyond this category of total expense management and in a kind of newer, larger and broader category.
Small Business Trends: How to be able to handle this through a system like yours in the cloud, what does it bring to the table ?
David Alexander : This brings a number of benefits, right? As I said, the main benefits really allow them to increase their financial viability, is not it? Help them … as we all know, the keys and tools to succeed in a small business are to effectively manage your expenses and avoid some of the risks that would put you in a difficult financial situation, especially in first years to be very, very difficult. So our tools not only help you automate time-consuming processes – as we all know, when it comes to managing your expenses and managing your payments as a small business. We help automate this piece, which can help you get to your son's baseball game or your daughter's baseball game, for example.
We also allow you to start getting information about parts of your business that you do not necessarily have visibility on part of the expenses. When we talk to a number of different small businesses, it's fascinating to tell them stories of what they see as they begin to dig deeper into their spending and start finding places that, first of all, may be out of compliance. But number two, can also be places where they can begin to identify the risks for their business. These are not just issues of compliance and identification of compliance issues. But it also gives you that visibility so you can optimize and spend in the best way possible.
Small Business Trends: Yes, I guess you use the term automate as part of this process. How did this data get into travel and spending?
David Alexander : Yes, I would say that integration is absolutely critical. Integration with your payment systems and ERP systems is therefore absolutely essential. And then, the information in the system starts to become very simple at that time for our customers, and we have several ways to access this information. For example, the mobile application, which is very, very convenient. I use this thing every week, almost every day, whether for approving expenses or approving bills that arrive in the system.
You can also use this to organize your trips and manage trips you may have if you are part of a larger organization or if you travel a lot. The mobile component is the key to our story. We know exactly what we do every day for small businesses because small businesses are on the road, dealing with customers, and this mobile component really helps you be productive, grow your business, no matter where you are. . .
Small Business Trends: Does this also help employees optimize their loyalty points or loyalty programs? Is there a way that it helps employees not only to do everyday but also to maximize their chances of getting rewards?
David Alexander : Of course. And it's sort of that big community component I've talked about before. As a member of the SAP Concur community, you start having access to different partners such as American Express and ADP that you may never have had access to discounts. Plus, you'll find, to answer your question directly about the type of loyalty point consolidation and stuff like that, our Triplink app does a lot of these things and really helps you manage your trips and expenses and all your different provider trips in one application.
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This is part of the series of one-on-one interviews with opinion leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the built-in player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.