Newton’s First Law of Motion, which says an object will keep its current course until a force affects it, also applies to back-end finances. So much so that I believe Concur’s greatest competitor isn’t any other Travel & Expense (T&E) platform: it’s apathy. That, however, marks a massive opportunity for business leaders who are ready to break from the cycle.
Business leaders in Asia tend to prefer to maintain the status quo in areas like T&E because it’s much easier than to do nothing than something. Often, nobody’s built a strong business case around the technology and its ROI, or it hasn’t featured as an especially loud or urgent priority. A spreadsheet-based T&E system may make employees frustrated and consume hundreds of work-hours in manual administration – but if it still works, why fix it?
This attitude can easily lead corporate finances into dangerous waters. Spreadsheets may work well for small businesses, but their complexities grow exponentially as the organisation expands, which in turn increase the risks of data loss and regulatory non-compliance. A clunky user experience, reinforced every time an employee lodges their claims, can cause talent to start questioning why they joined the business in the first place. Often, the raw costs of “doing nothing” – maintenance, patching, and break-fixing – end up exceeding those of installing a purpose-built T&E platform like Concur’s.
There’s no better time for businesses to direct their people towards purpose-built systems for T&E. Not just because of the opportunities it offers, but because change is coming – from a new generation of Asian business leaders with far greater digital ambitions than their predecessors.
Prepare for the changing of the guard : Some of these leaders are starting up their own businesses to challenge the old guard: names like Grab and GO-JEK come to mind. Many others, however, are taking the reins of family-run businesses that include some of Asia’s biggest and most influential companies. As they do so, these leaders bring to the table greater ambitions and openness to new ideas that can help them establish their own unique legacy.
The next generation of Asian business leaders is anything but apathetic. They’re constantly on the lookout for innovations that might improve their business results. They understand the value of lean processes and excellent user experiences, both of which come up frequently in conversations about how Concur can reduce their operating costs or improve employees’ productivity and happiness. And in many cases, their goals include rapid international expansion – which often elevates T&E from a back-room process to a strategic enabler of growth, deserving specialised platforms and policies of its own.
Generational change has major implications for all businesses around Asia. Not only do they face increasingly ambitious and fast-moving competitors – they can expect the same appetite for growth, innovation, and disrupting the status quo to rise from within their own ranks. To give them the greatest chance of success, Asia’s current generation of executives can already start to steer their businesses towards a more strategic view of back-end processes like T&E. Doing so may mean higher short-term costs, but the long-term rewards will far outweigh those of doing nothing.
Laura Houldsworth is Head Enterprise Sales, SE Asia at SAP Concur based in Singapore.