How to set up your business for success in 2024

By Matt Clementson, Head of Enterprise UK&I at SAP Concur

Matt Clementson - Global Banking | FinanceMatt Clementson - Global Banking | FinanceIt’s fair to say that the last few years have been unpredictable, and the world’s economy has been turbulent. In such environments, it’s vital for businesses to be able to tackle any challenges that come their way: resilience will be the prerequisite for success in 2024. To remain successful, businesses will need to be agile and nimble – and that means using advanced tools like analytics and AI to prepare for the unexpected and to master the following four categories.

Mastering costs, compliance, and cash flow

One way to mitigate against uncertainty is by mastering costs, compliance and cash flow. When costs are constantly changing and regulations are even more unpredictable, business leaders need to maximise the value of their budget and, importantly, have as much insight into expenses as possible.

Tools can help enforce travel and expense (T&E) policies by automatically reviewing every expense against companies’ policies and flagging anything that needs attention. This will help to speed up processes but also enable leaders to understand where processes and policies are working and where the business can save more money and time. In turn, this kind of automation frees up the finance team from repetitive tasks, enabling them to focus on higher value and strategic work.

In other areas, AI-based analytics can optimise costs, streamline compliance through regulatory technology solutions, and enhance cash flow management via automated invoicing and payment systems. This will allow businesses to improve efficiencies without having to worry about changing regulations and economic conditions, as financial leaders will already have all the data needed to make informed decisions in real-time.

Strengthening visibility, analysis, and planning 

It’s common knowledge that spending transparency is critical when it comes to assessing and amending budgets depending on new priorities. Having oversight on all your company’s spending is one thing, but in 2024, to have a competitive advantage, businesses need to go further than just seeing.

According to research from SAP Concur, 61% of decision-makers say the finance leaders at their companies don’t have enough visibility into near-real-time employee spending data.  Leaders need to not only understand exactly what is happening when it comes to spending but also have the ability to identify where the company can do better and what impact these improvements can make.

This can be achieved using the right technology, including advanced analytics to analyse data, specific reporting tools and pre-built ready-to-go dashboards. With such tools in place, business leaders can access the data needed to make better decisions, improve and optimise profitability and create more accurate forecasts.

Adapting processes, policies, and priorities

As markets change, companies grow, and challenges crop up, it’s important to be flexible under any circumstances. With hybrid and remote working on the rise, organisations may be managing their spending with out-of-date tools, creating a disjointed and inconsistent experience for everyone and in turn, creating more manual work for each employee.

One way to improve efficiency is to have a single centralised technology solution that is easily scalable and works across a variety of locations and devices. Research from SAP Concur revealed that 78% of decision-makers want a single solution to manage their entire travel and expense process.

With working patterns constantly changing, it’s equally valuable for IT, finance and HR teams to be able to access expert advice on any solution that they have in place. Having an always-available, 24/7 support desk can help leaders feel assured that their new policies and systems will work in the long term, no matter what issues arise.

Boosting employee morale, productivity, and retention 

Employee satisfaction is at the heart of every business, and prioritising their experience and retention is critical for success. However, too often cumbersome processes are blockers for productivity as they drain time and create frustration, with businesses missing the opportunity to take advantage of automation.

The key is to use the right intelligent technology solution to energise the workforce. Simplifying complex tasks and automating repetitive processes allows more flexibility, with employees able to focus on more important and creative work. A straightforward, streamlined process can also help an increasingly demanding workforce to feel satisfied and supported, even in their most day-to-day transactions.

This, in turn, will boost productivity and efficiency, benefiting not only the employees’ morale but also the profit margins of the business itself: a meta-analysis by the London School of Economics and Political Science found a substantial positive correlation between employee satisfaction and key performance indicators such as customer loyalty, productivity, and profitability. Businesses with higher levels of employee satisfaction saw increased customer loyalty and productivity, as well as decreased staff turnover.

Staying committed to your values

When planning for the future, it’s important to remember that values are key and can’t be sacrificed, even in the most challenging business environment. While tools like AI have enormous potential to reshape business operations, it’s critical that these technologies are used in a mindful way that respects principles like data privacy and employee wellbeing.

Businesses should consider creating policies for their use of AI and other technologies and sharing these with employees for full visibility. It’s also important to work with long-standing technology providers who have developed extensive policies on the ethical use of AI and can be trusted to act responsibly.

In turn, businesses can then unlock incredible efficiency and personalisation in areas like travel and expenses, safe in the knowledge that data is being treated in a way that is both useful and compliant.

Succeeding in 2024

As 2024 unfolds, being able to adapt to the unpredictable at speed will be critical. Finance leaders will need to manage budgets nimbly, powered by data from across the business. Digital processes, powered by tools like AI, will be key – including in key areas like travel and expenses (T&E). With integrated systems, businesses can benefit from streamlined processes that can be adapted to new needs while supporting employee satisfaction and retention. This will help organisations to be successful, whatever 2024 brings.