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APAC invest in tech to build resiliency during uncertain times

By Catherine Knowles, Tue 22 Jun 21

Asia Pacific (APAC) businesses are turning to intelligent technology solutions to combat stress over business competition and employee safety.

This is according to a new study commissioned by the SAP Concur organisation about the business impact of COVID-19 and businesses resilience.

The study, 'Ready, Reset, Grow', shows that slowing economic growth, employee safety and well-being, and increased or new competition, are the top three challenges for APAC executives as they embark on business recovery.

Given the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers write that it's no surprise that APAC executives are worrying about and focusing on the fundamentals of their businesses.

Technology supports remote working and economic uncertainty

The pandemic has highlighted a need for increased investment in technology with executives reporting greater spend, as a result of COVID-19, across a range of technologies, especially remote work tools (59%) and cloud services/solutions (56%).

New remote working patterns are here to stay, the researchers state.

Looking ahead to the business recovery phase of the pandemic, 78% of the APAC respondents expected their company to increase reliance on remote work in order to meet business goals.

Over the next six months, the top three technologies APAC executives see their firms harnessing are artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) (52%), cloud computing (49%), and 5G (38%).

They view these technologies, particularly AI/ML, as being capable of enabling their firms to make more informed business decisions and consequently, enhance growth and development within the organisation.

In addition, the respondents see substantial opportunities for technology to improve operations in the travel, expense and invoicing side of their businesses.

About 86% agree that having good control over company spend is necessary for weathering economic uncertainty.

They said the most important travel, expense and invoicing capabilities needed for their company to negotiate the next six months are the abilities to identify cost saving opportunities (73%), access to real-time data and analytics (72%), and accurately forecast and budget (72%).

Through these investments, APAC executives hope to boost business process efficiencies (37%), reduce operational costs (36%), and make smarter, data-based decisions (35%).

Employee health and well-being top priority

Given the omni-presence of COVID-19 today, it was also natural that employees health and well-being are uppermost on the minds of most employers, especially from the perspective of business travel, the researchers state.

Emerging expectations around personal and community health and safety will mean a new era of decisions, processes, and innovations across the travel industry.

As travel resumes in a new way, employee safety will be of the essence, the study finds. As a result, companies need to adapt and adopt, in part by harnessing technology that gives employees the ability to make safe travel choices while still keeping costs manageable for the company.

Travel management technology today enables companies to update travellers of hazardous situations, and locate and notify them in times of emergency, helping employers fulfil their duty of care to their workforce.

With the integration of advanced analytics, both AI and ML are also well equipped to handle calamities impacting the company or the traveller travel information can be pulled into reports from travel booking sites, emails, and corporate credit cards.

On the finance side, such intelligent technologies give greater visibility and control of travel spend before its booked, and provide the data to strengthen negotiating positions with vendors.

Building resilience in spending and invoicing

SAP Concur VP head of strategy for APAC Dr. Carl Jones says, “With COVID-19, businesses need to build more resilience into their travel, expense and invoicing operations by reinventing the way they identify cost saving opportunities and manage spending.

"Embedding flexible controls and intelligent technology throughout the entire spending process will help organisations stay on top of costs and compliance, while positioning their business for growth."

Jones says, "The pace and timing of COVID-19 recovery is still uncertain, making it even more crucial for businesses to review their current strategies and priorities when resetting for growth.

"While many organisations have made commendable headway in enhancing their processes with new technologies, business leaders must ensure that this effort is sustained as we collectively navigate this crisis.”

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