Travel and expense (T&E) management represents a unique challenge for many higher ed institutions. Outdated processes and systems often result in time and cost inefficiencies, and provide little transparency into spend data. For Emily Duchene, Travel Program Manager at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt), addressing this challenge was a top priority. Pitt implemented an automated solution through E&I partner SAP Concur – and began its journey toward T&E management success.
The travel booking and expense process at Pitt was unsystematic and disconnected, with travelers utilizing three different travel agencies and booking through disparate methods. In terms of expenses, some information was entered manually, some was submitted electronically, and none of this spend was being consolidated. The University was in need of a streamlined solution that provided automation, stronger reporting capabilities, spend visibility and consolidation.
Pitt is currently using SAP Concur Travel and Expense for its travel and business expense reimbursement, including TripLink for improved visibility and Request to gather pre-trip details.
“The Request feature has enabled us to go from paper to an electronic approval form, and this automation has significantly streamlined our process,” Emily explained. “It’s also provided both travelers and arrangers with pre-spend control over expenses, helping these individuals stay within their departmental budgets, since they can see this spend before travel takes place – not after it has been expensed.”
Pitt now has increased visibility into the destinations travelers are visiting most frequently, the airlines they’re using, car rentals and/or car share programs they’re utilizing, and the hotels that are most highly preferred. The goal is to put out an RFP for hotels in those highly traveled cities to drive additional savings.
“We’re looking at airfare that is booked and expensed through the SAP Concur online system and Anthony Travel agents versus what wasn’t booked through these systems,” Duchene explained. “Ultimately, we’re aiming to move everyone over to Anthony Travel and SAP Concur, consolidating all of this spend and maximizing our opportunities.”
With a focus on the education industry, SAP Concur has dedicated teams in sales, account management, business development, marketing, and implementation services that offer specific higher ed knowledge to best support clients. The organization’s implementation team has developed a methodology based on common best practices learned over many higher ed applications. SAP Concur has also invested in the creation of a higher ed customer advisory board to provide advice and guidance as industry needs and challenges evolve.
The University of Pittsburgh implementation was executed much quicker than many comparative projects, based in large part on the fact that the University had a documented vision for their T&E program which resulted in clarity of purpose, excellent executive sponsorship, and talented function/technical resources. Of course, the SAP Concur implementation team also contributed to that success.
According to Emily, “We had an amazing implementation team from Concur that was extremely knowledgeable and readily available to support us throughout the process. We’ve since transitioned to a customer support team and these individuals are just as attentive in helping us address any challenges and deal with any issues. Overall, our experience with all of our SAP Concur representatives has been overwhelmingly positive.”
For their part, Anthony Travel assisted with the building out of the SAP Concur travel piece of the implementation, which included assisting in securing airline discounts for the launch and working with the local Pittsburgh hotels to have all the University preferred rates loaded in the booking tool. Anthony Travel also provided SAP Concur travel training to the campus travelers and arrangers.
“The E&I SAP Concur contract is a benefit for any higher ed institution looking to streamline their travel processes and gain increased visibility into travel spend. Travel is typically an overlooked area in many organizations, however, it often represents a significant amount of spend. SAP Concur has helped us uncover new opportunities for savings and maximize the benefits available through this increased visibility.”