SAP Travel and Expense Management: Know your options

27 January 2016

Peter Asigbetse

Peter Asigbetse

Principal Consultant

I've had significant experience in both the implementation of SAP expense management projects and also as a first hand user of these tools.  This involvement has made one thing clear: the years have seen technical improvements in the products, with increased functionality, but their effectiveness and user experience has been varied.

It wasn't long ago that as a SAP customer, looking within the SAP ecosystem for a travel and expense management solution, your options were pretty obvious: you’d probably implement the Travel Management module of your SAP ECC system and perhaps activate the enhanced user experience of the Webdynpro applications. However over the past year or so the offerings have changed, and at quite a pace. So when asked by one of my colleagues to clarify what the options were, what the differences were etc, I realised that everyone could probably benefit from some clarity on the matter.

Firstly, allow me to set the scene: Expense and Travel management is how a company gives its employees the ability to request and book a trip, incur the expenses during those trips, capture and submit a claim for the expenses and finally get reimbursed. Simple, yes?

Well… yes, and no…

Yes, because as a process it flows logically and can be easily understood by everyone. No, because behind this logical flow there are numerous policies, both legal and statutory, as well as company specific policies.  All need to be constantly updated and enforced. No, because controlling and optimising a company’s expense bill is paramount to controlling a company’s spend and controlling the spend means controlling the bottom line. That is why it is important to find the best solution for your company and in order to do that one needs to know what the options are within the SAP ecosystem:

  • SAP Travel Management
  • SAP FIORI Travel Management Apps
  • SAP Cloud for Travel and Expense
  • Concur

SAP Travel Management (FI-TV) – on premise

Available in all SAP ECC systems, as part of Finance Accounting (FI), the Travel and Expense Management module has been a part of SAP since SAP3.X.  This can be customised as required, to cover all aspects of Travel Management. The module is configured by functional consultants in line with the business requirements, policies, and how employees and their respective approvers interact with the system.  This is done via either the SAP GUI transactions or Webdynpro applications. There is no standard mobile application, although 3rd party ones exist.

One important fact to note is that SAP have slowed down development of this solution in favour of focussing their efforts and attention to their cloud applications.

SAP FIORI Travel Management Apps – on premise

SAP Fiori is a part of SAP's move to reinvent the user-experience of core SAP scenarios. In a nutshell, it’s a set of pre-packaged applications, which are easily deployable in an existing SAP landscape and bring a vastly increased user-experience to your SAP users. (Extract from Getting the most out- of your SAP FIORI investment by Brenton O'Callaghan).

SAP has released 4 FIORI apps for Travel Management:

  • My Travel Expenses

For the creation and submission of expenses

  • Approve Travel Expenses

For the approval of expense reports

  • My Travel Requests

For the creation and submission of travel requests

  • Approve Travel Requests

For the approval of travel requests

For SAP FIORI to work you will still need the underlying SAP ECC system to have the travel management module properly configured, however the employees and their approvers interact through a FIORI user interface not only from desktop, but also through mobile. The FIORI apps are constantly being improved, but as previously mentioned, SAP’s main development effort is focussed on the cloud, not on the SAP ECC configuration.

SAP Cloud for Travel and Expense

Due to the acquisition of Concur by SAP in late 2014, SAP have officially put the SAP Cloud for Travel and Expense solution into maintenance mode, as of the February 2015 version. SAP now offer Concur as their only cloud Travel and Expense solution, but for completeness, I felt SAP Cloud for Travel and Expense was worth inclusion.

UK37This former cloud solution for Travel and Expense management was developed in line with SAP’s strategy to embrace the cloud and offered all the functionality required for an end to end travel solution, but with the advantages of the cloud.  These advantages included lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), continuous improvement through quarterly updates, enhanced user experience via HTML5 user interface, free mobile applications and tight pre-packaged integration to your SAP ECC backend system.

Being a cloud application this meant that all the customising was done in the application itself so unlike FIORI there is no requirement for a fully configured ECC backend system. In fact your SAP ECC system was only optionally used to supply data such as employees, organisational structures, etc… and to receive the financial postings used for reimbursement.

Concur Travel and Expense cloud applications

Concur is SAP’s most recent, and only, cloud Travel and Management Expense solution they now recommend.

Since its inception Concur has become a market leading ‘Travel and Expense Management platform’ that has many components forming an ecosystem of Concur and its Partner solutions and services.

Concur is classed as a complete SaaS solution – Software as a Service – and works on a subscription based model. For this subscription Concur offers the full suite of travel and expense management functionality as well as a whole lot more. Some of the functions covered are:

  • Cloud application, accessible from any desktop or mobile compatible browser.
  • Travel request and booking with approvals.
  • Expense capture and approval.
  • OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology to ‘read’ receipts and automatically create expense items from the data.
  • Credit card integration direct from the credit card providers.
  • Integration to partners in the Concur ecosystem allowing receipts from said partner to be electronically sent to your Concur application by the vendor.

So many choices, so what do you do?

It’s great to have options, but I realise that it can be a little overwhelming with so much choice. Having worked with all the solutions, and now being an inaugural Concur Customer Success Partner, I know that it’s important to determine what your business requirements are.  Once these are determined you can look at the available options to see where the best fit for your business is now, and in the future.    

About the author

Peter Asigbetse

Principal Consultant

An SAP Troubleshooter passionate about Integration, Workflow and Concur.

Bluefin and SAP S/4HANA - welcome to the one horse race