David Alexander of SAP Concur: Automating Expense and Travel Management Sheds Light on Company Spending Issues

Business of all sizes exert considerable effort keeping track of what they spend and what they take in.  And many have employees who travel to meet with customers and prospects in order to drum up business. Managing all of these expenses is a tedious, but important task. Though manually keeping track of it all could be costing you money too.

I recently spoke with David Alexander, Vice President of Marketing and Market Development for SAP Concur, a leading provider of cloud-based integrated travel and expense management services and solutions.  He shared how using an automated platform for managing travel and expense tasks can help small businesses not only be more productive, but also provides insight into how they’re spending money — which can help them save money in the end.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To hear the full interview, click on the embedded SoundCloud player below.

David Alexander of SAP Concur: Travel and Expense Automation Sheds Light on Company Spending IssuesSmall Business Trends:  Maybe you can give me a little bit of your personal background.

David Alexander:  I’ve been here at SAP Concur for about a year and a half now. And my role here, I’m the Vice President of Small Business Marketing and Market Development. So I am essentially responsible for all of our pipeline and early conversations with existing customers and new business customers for all our prospects and customers under 1,000 employees.

Prior to that, as you know, where you and I met, I was at Microsoft for about 12-1/2 years and in various marketing and sales roles over at Microsoft as well.

Small Business Trends:  Maybe you can give us a little bit of a high level view of what Concur does.

David Alexander:  I think most customers out there would probably expect us to be a travel and expense company. I think that’s traditionally been where a lot of customers have gotten to know us. But we’re more than that. We’re really a travel, expenses, invoice company. We’re providing a number of different resources for our customers, specifically in the small business segment.

I like to think of them in what we deliver to customers in three big buckets. The first is the things that we help small businesses do to thrive and grow. That’s giving them automated tool sets. That’s giving them a tool to give them access to their spends, and enable them to spend more effectively. And that’s going to be the sweet spot where I would say our travel invoice and expense products fall into. And I would say that’s where a lot of customers are most in tune with what we deliver.

The second part though, would be add ons to those services, that’s helping our customers … what we say, like see the unseen, right? That’s giving them insights into data and into their business and their operational cashflow. So that’s going to help them ultimately identify risks before it finds them, which is really critical, especially for when we’re talking to customers in small business. And also help give them visibility into their end to end total spend management.

Then there’s the third piece, which is the area where we continue to grow as well, which is more of that “better together” story that we provide small businesses. So we’re trying to enable small businesses to give them a platform with SAP Concur as a solution where they can get some of the benefits of being a … similar to being a large enterprise, even though they are a small company with the collective buying power of other small businesses.

That would include products like our new Hipmunk offering, which you may be familiar with. And several of the solutions that we provide as part of our apps, and our end solution partners as well. So it’s kind of those three buckets is really where as an organization we live. It’s beyond that category of total spend management and into kind of a newer, bigger, broader category.

Small Business Trends:  How does being able to manage that through a system like yours in the cloud, what does that bring to the table?

David Alexander:  It brings a number of benefits, right? Like I said, the primary benefits are really enabling them to increase their financial viability, right? Help them … as we all know, the keys and the tools to being a successful small business is managing your spend effectively and helping to avoid some of the risk that would put you in a financially difficult situation, especially in those early years where it can be very, very difficult. And so our tools not only help you automate the processes that can become very time consuming … as we all know, as far as managing your expenses and managing your payments as a small business. We help automate that piece, which actually can help you get to your son’s baseball game or your daughter’s baseball game, right, for example.

We also enable you to start to get insights into pieces of your business that you may not have visibility into on a spend part. As we go and talk to a number of different small businesses, it’s actually fascinating when I talk to them to hear the stories of what they see as they start to dig deeper into their spend and start to find places which, number one, may be out of compliance. But number two, may also be places where they can start to identify risks for their business as well. It’s not just that negative identify compliance issues and risk issues. But it also gives you that visibility so you can go and optimize and spend in the best way possible as well.

Small Business Trends:  Yeah, I would assume that you use the term automate as part of this process. How does this data get entered in around travel and expense?

David Alexander:  Yeah, I would say the integration piece is absolutely critical. So integration with your payment systems and your ERP systems is absolutely critical. And then getting the information into the system actually starts to become very simple at that point for our customers, and we have a number of ways that you can go and access that information. For example, the mobile app, which is very, very convenient. I use this thing weekly, almost daily myself, whether it’s approving expenses or approving invoices that are coming through the system.

You can also use that to go and set up your trips and manage the trips that you may have as well if you’re part of a broader organization or traveling a lot. So, the mobile component is key to our story as well. We know specifically for small businesses, a lot of what we do every day as small businesses is be out on the road, deal with customers, and that mobile component really helps you to be productive, keep your business moving forward no matter where you are.

Small Business Trends:  Does this also help in terms of maybe allowing employees to optimize their loyalty points or loyalty program stuff? Is there a way that this actually helps employees not only do the mundane, but also optimize their opportunities to get rewards?

David Alexander:  Sure. And that’s kind of that big community component I talked about before where as being part of the SAP Concur community, you start to gain access to different partners like American Express and ADP that you may not have had access to discounts previously. Additionally you’ll find, to directly answer your question about kind of consolidation of loyalty points and those kinds of things, our Triplink app actually does a lot of those things and really helps you manage your travel and your spend and all of your various travel suppliers in a single application.

This article, "David Alexander of SAP Concur: Automating Expense and Travel Management Sheds Light on Company Spending Issues" was first published on Small Business Trends



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David Alexander of SAP Concur: Automating Expense and Travel Management Sheds Light on Company Spending Issues

Business of all sizes exert considerable effort keeping track of what they spend and what they take in.  And many have employees who travel to meet with customers and prospects in order to drum up business. Managing all of these expenses is a tedious, but important task. Though manually keeping track of it all could be costing you money too.

I recently spoke with David Alexander, Vice President of Marketing and Market Development for SAP Concur, a leading provider of cloud-based integrated travel and expense management services and solutions.  He shared how using an automated platform for managing travel and expense tasks can help small businesses not only be more productive, but also provides insight into how they’re spending money — which can help them save money in the end.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To hear the full interview, click on the embedded SoundCloud player below.

David Alexander of SAP Concur: Travel and Expense Automation Sheds Light on Company Spending IssuesSmall Business Trends:  Maybe you can give me a little bit of your personal background.

David Alexander:  I’ve been here at SAP Concur for about a year and a half now. And my role here, I’m the Vice President of Small Business Marketing and Market Development. So I am essentially responsible for all of our pipeline and early conversations with existing customers and new business customers for all our prospects and customers under 1,000 employees.

Prior to that, as you know, where you and I met, I was at Microsoft for about 12-1/2 years and in various marketing and sales roles over at Microsoft as well.

Small Business Trends:  Maybe you can give us a little bit of a high level view of what Concur does.

David Alexander:  I think most customers out there would probably expect us to be a travel and expense company. I think that’s traditionally been where a lot of customers have gotten to know us. But we’re more than that. We’re really a travel, expenses, invoice company. We’re providing a number of different resources for our customers, specifically in the small business segment.

I like to think of them in what we deliver to customers in three big buckets. The first is the things that we help small businesses do to thrive and grow. That’s giving them automated tool sets. That’s giving them a tool to give them access to their spends, and enable them to spend more effectively. And that’s going to be the sweet spot where I would say our travel invoice and expense products fall into. And I would say that’s where a lot of customers are most in tune with what we deliver.

The second part though, would be add ons to those services, that’s helping our customers … what we say, like see the unseen, right? That’s giving them insights into data and into their business and their operational cashflow. So that’s going to help them ultimately identify risks before it finds them, which is really critical, especially for when we’re talking to customers in small business. And also help give them visibility into their end to end total spend management.

Then there’s the third piece, which is the area where we continue to grow as well, which is more of that “better together” story that we provide small businesses. So we’re trying to enable small businesses to give them a platform with SAP Concur as a solution where they can get some of the benefits of being a … similar to being a large enterprise, even though they are a small company with the collective buying power of other small businesses.

That would include products like our new Hipmunk offering, which you may be familiar with. And several of the solutions that we provide as part of our apps, and our end solution partners as well. So it’s kind of those three buckets is really where as an organization we live. It’s beyond that category of total spend management and into kind of a newer, bigger, broader category.

Small Business Trends:  How does being able to manage that through a system like yours in the cloud, what does that bring to the table?

David Alexander:  It brings a number of benefits, right? Like I said, the primary benefits are really enabling them to increase their financial viability, right? Help them … as we all know, the keys and the tools to being a successful small business is managing your spend effectively and helping to avoid some of the risk that would put you in a financially difficult situation, especially in those early years where it can be very, very difficult. And so our tools not only help you automate the processes that can become very time consuming … as we all know, as far as managing your expenses and managing your payments as a small business. We help automate that piece, which actually can help you get to your son’s baseball game or your daughter’s baseball game, right, for example.

We also enable you to start to get insights into pieces of your business that you may not have visibility into on a spend part. As we go and talk to a number of different small businesses, it’s actually fascinating when I talk to them to hear the stories of what they see as they start to dig deeper into their spend and start to find places which, number one, may be out of compliance. But number two, may also be places where they can start to identify risks for their business as well. It’s not just that negative identify compliance issues and risk issues. But it also gives you that visibility so you can go and optimize and spend in the best way possible as well.

Small Business Trends:  Yeah, I would assume that you use the term automate as part of this process. How does this data get entered in around travel and expense?

David Alexander:  Yeah, I would say the integration piece is absolutely critical. So integration with your payment systems and your ERP systems is absolutely critical. And then getting the information into the system actually starts to become very simple at that point for our customers, and we have a number of ways that you can go and access that information. For example, the mobile app, which is very, very convenient. I use this thing weekly, almost daily myself, whether it’s approving expenses or approving invoices that are coming through the system.

You can also use that to go and set up your trips and manage the trips that you may have as well if you’re part of a broader organization or traveling a lot. So, the mobile component is key to our story as well. We know specifically for small businesses, a lot of what we do every day as small businesses is be out on the road, deal with customers, and that mobile component really helps you to be productive, keep your business moving forward no matter where you are.

Small Business Trends:  Does this also help in terms of maybe allowing employees to optimize their loyalty points or loyalty program stuff? Is there a way that this actually helps employees not only do the mundane, but also optimize their opportunities to get rewards?

David Alexander:  Sure. And that’s kind of that big community component I talked about before where as being part of the SAP Concur community, you start to gain access to different partners like American Express and ADP that you may not have had access to discounts previously. Additionally you’ll find, to directly answer your question about kind of consolidation of loyalty points and those kinds of things, our Triplink app actually does a lot of those things and really helps you manage your travel and your spend and all of your various travel suppliers in a single application.

This article, "David Alexander of SAP Concur: Automating Expense and Travel Management Sheds Light on Company Spending Issues" was first published on Small Business Trends



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Boxstorm Forever Free Offers Online an Inventory Management System for Small Businesses

Boxstorm Offers a New Online Free Inventory Management System

Small businesses will now be able to automate their inventory management for free with Boxstorm Forever Free.

According to inventory software company Fishbowl, which created Boxstorm, this will be the first free online, unrestricted inventory management solution with QuickBooks Online integration for small to medium sized businesses. The company said this will eliminate the manual processes with which many small businesses must deal.

With 84% of small businesses relying on manual processes, the time and money this new solution offers will be invaluable for many companies. This is because inventory management is rife with manual processes which have to be regularly updated. By offering this free option, Boxstorm is giving small companies the opportunity to experience an automated solution without any risks.

This is not to say Fishbowl is discontinuing its other paid services. John David King, Fishbowl CEO, addressed this very point in a recent press release. King exxplaind, “Many businesses may never need more than Boxstorm Forever Free — and we’re ok with that. Boxstorm Forever Free is a product of Fishbowl, the No. 1 inventory management solution for Quickbooks. We understand the challenges small business owners go through. Boxstorm Forever Free makes it easy for them to overcome those challenges.”

A Free Inventory Management System

Boxstorm Forever Free is a truly free solution without ads, caps on items in inventory, caps on the number of users or caps on locations. The company says no one will even call you to upgrade. You also don’t have to provide a credit card. Yet you get a fully functioning inventory management solution.

It is important to note you don’t need to implement QuickBooks. You can use it as a standalone solution to track your inventory. But if you already have QuickBooks Online, it can be integrated with Boxstorm on your computer or mobile device.

The free features include functions which allow you to add items, import and export data, add or remove inventory, move inventory, scan in and out, audit trail and more.

The platform also allows integration with standard scanners as well as free Android and iOS apps for smartphone scanning. If that wasn’t enough, Boxstorm is also providing free training videos and interactive guides so you can learn how to use the service.

Yes, Free

For a small business owner with minimal workforce and a large inventory, automation can introduce a new level of efficiency in the company.

If you don’t have an automated system to keep track of your inventory, this is a great opportunity to try Boxstorm Forever Free.

If you want to upgrade — not that you have to — Boxstorm has Basic, Premium and Ultimate tiers for $19, $39, and $59 respectively with progressively more advanced features.

Image: Boxstorm

This article, "Boxstorm Forever Free Offers Online an Inventory Management System for Small Businesses" was first published on Small Business Trends



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Boxstorm Forever Free Offers Online an Inventory Management System for Small Businesses

Boxstorm Offers a New Online Free Inventory Management System

Small businesses will now be able to automate their inventory management for free with Boxstorm Forever Free.

According to inventory software company Fishbowl, which created Boxstorm, this will be the first free online, unrestricted inventory management solution with QuickBooks Online integration for small to medium sized businesses. The company said this will eliminate the manual processes with which many small businesses must deal.

With 84% of small businesses relying on manual processes, the time and money this new solution offers will be invaluable for many companies. This is because inventory management is rife with manual processes which have to be regularly updated. By offering this free option, Boxstorm is giving small companies the opportunity to experience an automated solution without any risks.

This is not to say Fishbowl is discontinuing its other paid services. John David King, Fishbowl CEO, addressed this very point in a recent press release. King exxplaind, “Many businesses may never need more than Boxstorm Forever Free — and we’re ok with that. Boxstorm Forever Free is a product of Fishbowl, the No. 1 inventory management solution for Quickbooks. We understand the challenges small business owners go through. Boxstorm Forever Free makes it easy for them to overcome those challenges.”

A Free Inventory Management System

Boxstorm Forever Free is a truly free solution without ads, caps on items in inventory, caps on the number of users or caps on locations. The company says no one will even call you to upgrade. You also don’t have to provide a credit card. Yet you get a fully functioning inventory management solution.

It is important to note you don’t need to implement QuickBooks. You can use it as a standalone solution to track your inventory. But if you already have QuickBooks Online, it can be integrated with Boxstorm on your computer or mobile device.

The free features include functions which allow you to add items, import and export data, add or remove inventory, move inventory, scan in and out, audit trail and more.

The platform also allows integration with standard scanners as well as free Android and iOS apps for smartphone scanning. If that wasn’t enough, Boxstorm is also providing free training videos and interactive guides so you can learn how to use the service.

Yes, Free

For a small business owner with minimal workforce and a large inventory, automation can introduce a new level of efficiency in the company.

If you don’t have an automated system to keep track of your inventory, this is a great opportunity to try Boxstorm Forever Free.

If you want to upgrade — not that you have to — Boxstorm has Basic, Premium and Ultimate tiers for $19, $39, and $59 respectively with progressively more advanced features.

Image: Boxstorm

This article, "Boxstorm Forever Free Offers Online an Inventory Management System for Small Businesses" was first published on Small Business Trends



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How to Make a Chart or Graph in Excel [With Video Tutorial]

Building charts and graphs is part of most people's jobs -- it's one of the best ways to visualize data in a clear, easily digestible manner. (Check out this guide for making better charts to learn more.)

However, it's no surprise that some people get a little bit intimidated by the prospect of poking around in Microsoft Excel. I actually adore Excel, but I work in Marketing Operations, so it's pretty much a requirement.

Click here to download our collection of free Excel templates that will make your life easier.
 

That's why I thought I'd share a helpful video tutorial as well as some step-by-step instructions for anyone out there who cringes at the thought of organizing a spreadsheet full of data into a chart that actually, you know, means something. Here are the simple steps you need to build a chart or graph in Excel. And if you're short on time, check out the video tutorial below.

Keep in mind there are many different versions of Excel, so what you see in the video above might not always match up exactly with what you'll see in your version. In the instructions below, I used Excel 2017 version 16.9 for Max OS X.

We encourage you to follow along with the written instructions and demo data below (or download them as PDFs using the links below) so you can follow along. Most of the buttons and functions you'll see and read are very similar across all versions of Excel.

Download Demo Data | Download Instructions (Mac) | Download Instructions (PC)

9-Excel-Marketing-Templates-

 

9-Excel-Marketing-Templates-.png

1. Enter your data into Excel.

First, you need to input your data into Excel. You might have exported the data from elsewhere, like a piece of marketing software or a survey tool. Or maybe you're inputting it manually.

In the example below, in Column A, I have a list of responses to the question, “Did inbound marketing demonstrate ROI?”, and in Columns B,C, and D, I have the responses to the question, “Does your company have a formal sales-marketing agreement?” For example, Column C, Row 2 illustrates that 49% of people who have an SLA (service level agreement) also say that inbound marketing demonstrated ROI.

Chart data about inbound marketing ROI entered into an Excel spreadsheet

2. Choose one of nine graph and chart options to create.

In Excel, you have plenty of choices for charts and graphs to create. This includes column (or bar) graphs, line graphs, pie graphs, scatter plot, and more. See how Excel identifies each one in the top navigation bar, as depicted below:

Icons for each type of graph and chart in Excel

(For help figuring out which type of chart/graph is best for visualizing your data, check out our free ebook, How to Use Data Visualization to Win Over Your Audience.)

3. Highlight your data and 'Insert' your desired graph.

The data I'm working with will look best in a bar graph, so let's make that one. To make a bar graph, highlight the data and include the titles of the X and Y axis. Then, go to the 'Insert' tab, and in the charts section, click the column icon. Choose the graph you wish from the dropdown window that appears.

Insert and Column icons for making a chart in Excel

In this example, I picked the first 2-dimensional column option -- just because I prefer the flat bar graphic over the 3-D look. See the resulting bar graph below.

2-dimensional column chart created from Excel data on inbound marketing ROI

4. Switch the data on each axis, if necessary.

If you want to switch what appears on the X and Y axis, right-click on the bar graph, click 'Select Data,' and click 'Switch Row/Column.' This will rearrange which axes carry which pieces of data in the list shown below. When you're finished, click 'OK' at the bottom.

Select Data window for switching rows/columns in Excel graph

The resulting graph would look like this:

Switching axes in Excel graph

5. Adjust your data's layout and colors.

To change the layout of the labeling and legend, click on the bar graph, then click the 'Chart Design' tab. Here, you can choose which layout you prefer for the chart title, axis titles, and legend. In my example (shown below), I clicked on the option that displayed softer bar colors and legends below the chart.

Chart design options in Excel

To further format the legend, click on it to reveal the 'Format Legend' sidebar, as shown below. Here, you can change the fill color of the legend, which will in turn change the color of the columns themselves. To format other parts of your chart, click on them individually to reveal a corresponding Format window.

Format Legend window for adjusting chart labels in Excel

6. Change the size of your chart's legend and axis labels.

When you first make a graph in Excel, the size of your axis and legend labels might be a bit small, depending on the type of graph or chart you choose (bar, pie, line, etc.). Once you've created your chart, you'll want to beef up those labels so they're legible.

To increase the size of your graph's labels, click on them individually and, instead of revealing a new Format window, click back into the 'Home' tab in the top navigation bar of Excel. Then, use the font type and size dropdown fields to expand or shrink your chart's legend and axis labels to your liking.

Increased size of legend labels in Excel chart

7. Change the Y axis measurement options, if desired.

To change the type of measurement shown on the Y axis, click on the Y axis percentages in your chart to reveal the 'Format Axis' window. Here, you can decide if you want to display units located on the Axis Options tab, or if you want to change whether the Y axis shows percentages to 2 decimal places or to 0 decimal places.

Format Axis options window to increase percentages on Y axis

Because my graph automatically set the Y axis's maximum percentage to 60%, I might want to change it manually to 100% to represent my data on a more universal scale. To do so, I can select the 'Maximum' option -- two fields down under 'Bounds' in the Format Axis window -- and change the value from 0.6 to 1.

The resulting graph would be changed to look like the one below (I increased the font size of the Y axis via the 'Home' tab, so you can see the difference):

Increased Maximum percentage on Excel bar graph's Y axis to 100%

8. Reorder your data, if desired.

To sort the data so the respondents' answers appear in reverse order, right-click on your graph and click 'Select Data' to reveal the same options window you called up in Step 3 above. This time, click the up and down arrows, as shown below, to reverse the order of your data on the chart.

Reorder data options window in Excel

If you have more than two lines of data to adjust, you can also rearrange them in ascending or descending order. To do this, highlight all of your data in the cells above your chart, click 'Data,' and select 'Sort,' as shown below. You can choose to sort based on smallest to largest or largest to smallest, depending on your preference.

Sort window in Excel

9. Title your graph.

Now comes the fun and easy part: naming your graph. By now, you might have already figured out how to do this. Here's a simple clarifier.

Right after making your chart, the title that appears will likely be "Chart Title," or something similar depending on the version of Excel you're using. To change this label, click on "Chart Title" to reveal a typing cursor. You can then freely customize your chart's title.

When you have a title you like, click 'Home' on the top navigation bar, and use the font formatting options to give your title the emphasis it deserves. See these options and my final graph below:

Bar graph on inbound marketing ROI with bolded title

Pretty easy, right? Check out some additional resources below for additional help using Excel and visualizing your data in smart ways.

Additional Resources for Using Excel and Visualizing Data:

Want even more Excel tips? Check out this post on how to add a second axis to an Excel chart.

free excel templates for marketing
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The Recent Sales Report Gave Management Some Bad Vibes

Music Business Cartoon

I don’t know if I’ve talked about it here before, but I was a music major in college. I played trombone and wasn’t too bad if I say so myself.

But I don’t really do very many music cartoons. I don’t know why, but I don’t seem to.

But one day while racking my brain for a new take on the sales graph, it occurred to me that it looked like a vibraphone. But I didn’t think anyone would recognize that, so I tried out marimba, glockenspiel, chimes, and finally settled on the xylophone.

Everyone knows the xylophone. I think.

This article, "The Recent Sales Report Gave Management Some Bad Vibes" was first published on Small Business Trends



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The Recent Sales Report Gave Management Some Bad Vibes

Music Business Cartoon

I don’t know if I’ve talked about it here before, but I was a music major in college. I played trombone and wasn’t too bad if I say so myself.

But I don’t really do very many music cartoons. I don’t know why, but I don’t seem to.

But one day while racking my brain for a new take on the sales graph, it occurred to me that it looked like a vibraphone. But I didn’t think anyone would recognize that, so I tried out marimba, glockenspiel, chimes, and finally settled on the xylophone.

Everyone knows the xylophone. I think.

This article, "The Recent Sales Report Gave Management Some Bad Vibes" was first published on Small Business Trends



via Small Business Trends Business Feeds