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As global solution providers, SAP Concur can address the coming year's trends in expense management, according to Emma Shakespeare, Regional Director MENA South

Published: Mon 22 Mar 2021, 8:38 PM

As a global solution provider, what is the biggest change you have observed among your customers recently? 

In today's turbulent times, the ability to make accurate forecasts is pivotal to our customers for planning, stability, and growth. Due to the increasing need for remote working and because money moves quickly within an active business - accurate, near-real-time visibility into spend and financial data is critical more than ever through cash flow forecasting software. Reason being, customers can see the immediate benefits such as: Clearing invoices and expenses faster for a more accurate view of available funds, integration of real-time data, and accurate insights aligned with the customer's business goals.

Do you see innovation taking a back seat, especially in this post pandemic era, where customers are just fully focused on identifying growth opportunities and deal conversions? 

Absolutely not. 2021 is a crossroad for businesses of all sizes. What we need are the right tools and services to enable our businesses to make strategic decisions and restart smart - starting with a tighter and transparent grip on finances. This is where tech and innovation is at the forefront and allows businesses to implement processes to be better equipped to tackle what comes next. Organisations need to become more agile and transparent, increase employee satisfaction, and make duty of care a strategic priority. Technology can support this by improving compliance and cost control, putting employees' safety first, and increase the overall employee experience. 

As a global solution provider, what are the new challenges you are addressing for the evolving businesses?

VAT is a relatively new addition to the Middle East and with it, brings many challenges. At SAP Concur, we see VAT reclaim as an opportunity to reduce the overall cost of travel and expense management and put money back into the business budget. VAT isn't supposed to be a complex extra cost (it's an indirect consumption tax on consumer expenditure), so effective recovery will minimize its impact.

Secondly, many companies are instituting remote work, therefore it's important to gain visibility and control to manage employee spend and cashflow forecast. This is particularly important for evolving small to medium sized businesses that are operating on tighter margins. The introduction of software solutions to help manage any pre-approval and real-time processes can quickly mitigate this.

Can you throw some light on SAP Concur's Expenselt product? 

ExpenseIt is a part of our mobile app available on both AppStores Android and iOS. Expenselt eliminates manual data entry by taking photos of receipts to populate business expense items. It uses machine learning to increase compliance by matching receipts and credit card charges. 

Digitisation has impacted employees professionally and personally. Do you agree?  

At SAP Concur we understand that the more people love their jobs, the more they get done. Digitisation supports the overall employee experience by easing the burdens of onerous processes that distract employees from meaningful work. Our tools free-up employees by 70 per cent on average which increases productivity and empowers staff to work smarter, not harder. 

Which industry, according to you, has had the biggest shift in terms of tech adoption in the region?

Telecommunications, with emphasis on 5G, is the dawn of a new era in the Arab world with 12 commercial networks launched across five Arab States during 2019 alone. Secondly, and bolstered by Covid-19, retail tech has shifted considerably, optimizing and modernising brick-and-mortar outlets. And thirdly, when faced with uncertainty, it's essential to keep a tight handle on transparent cashflow within an organisation's spend management, especially with today's mobile workforce. 


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