Just four years ago, French luxury leather goods giant Longchamp was stuck with an old-fashioned, time consuming, clunky expense process, despite having a 3,000-strong workforce that travels a lot through the year.
This painful process, familiar to many, was one which required paper receipts, Excel spreadsheets and time-consuming manual approval by the HR and finance teams.
In this exclusive UNLEASH interview, Longchamp’s IT director, Thibault Constantin, lays out what solution it chose, the impact on its business, and the new approach to employee communication.
He says the €500 million company chose SAP’s Concur solution because it needed “a modern, up-to-date system” that made staff “feel like they are in a modern company – not one stuck in the 20th century.”
Expenses are a top priority for Longchamp because it is a business with a large global footprint: it has 1,500 stores in 17 different countries across six continents.
Of course, this footprint brings significant financial regulatory complexity and challenges.
“SAP Concur was a good choice for us,” Constantin shares. “We wanted a complete solution [and] the same process for everyone in the world”.
For Constantin, the transition to SAP Concur is an ideal situation where the legacy history of a company that was founded in 1948 remains, while its processes have been refashioned to be fit for purpose in the modern world.
Rollout impact: HR tech drives efficiencies for employees
The transition from a clunky, manual process to SAP Concur was supposed to be a short-term, two month project. But, as with many businesses, timing became stymied by COVID-19, and the project took a year.
The rollout was staggered; first Longchamp deployed Concur in France, but three years later, “it is now part of our kit, and our finance, accounting solution in each country,” explains Constantin.
And employees have taken note. The flexibility to digitize and access records from an app has made work more seamless for its global teams.
Instead of having to hold onto receipts while travelling, digital copies can be uploaded from any location at any time into the app; they then go through an automated verification process.
The tangible benefit for Longchamp is that the payment of expenses, once approved, is now, on average, just four days.
SAP Concur also drives efficiency for Longchamp’s HR and finance teams. Constantin shares: “In the new technology, it is much less time consuming to verify an expense. When you have everything in one system, it shortens everything.”
He notes: “It’s also an easy tool to maintain. And with issues, we can log a ticket with Concur [and] it’ll be resolved in one day maximum.”
The Longchamp team hope this will help them continue to successfully attract and retain talent, and demonstrate “we are moving in the right direction” on improving employee workplace experience.
The challenges of adopting new HR tech
While the main aim of introducing SAP Concur into Longchamp was to streamline the expenses process for employees, it was also crucial that the tech implementation had user buy-in.
“When you have 3,000 employees in a company, you find some people don’t know how to use it or don’t want to use it.” Constantin said.
And while SAP Concur has been a game-changer for expense efficiency for Longchamp, it hasn’t come without its challenges.
Initially there were some technical, compatibility blockers.
Longchamp was used to using other SAP products, particularly the AFS (available-for-sale) solutions. The issue was that the other SAP tools were “not completely compliant at every point”.
However, Constantin is clear that Concur is compliant at every stage, so after a few months of discussion between SAP and Longchamp the blocker was overcome.
Another technical challenge for the HR and finance teams was that they still had to manually create a new user account for every new employee. “That’s because our HR system isn’t fully integrated,” Constantin notes.
However, as with many large multinationals undergoing large scale tech rollouts, the biggest issue that Longchamp has faced is a communication one.
Constantin was candid that during a recent employee survey, employees shared that one way Longchamp could improve is in communication.
In terms of SAP Concur directly, Longchamp has been grappling with sharing the news with employees and making sure they know about the tool, and that it is available to them now.
“We have 3,000 people. How can we tell them easily without setting up hundreds of calls?” asks Constantin.
While SAP Concur has shared lots of resources to help, Constantin tells UNLEASH that an ongoing challenge for the HR and finance teams are still fielding user questions and tickets.
Even despite this ticketing process, SAP Concur “is still less time consuming than the old process”, notes Constantin.
This is because the majority of employees are making use of the new expense process – Longchamp has paid out millions of euros through Concur.
For the minority of users who are reluctant and holding out on using the new tech, Constantin is open in framing the issue as one of leadership.
He states: “It is for management to say, we have this tool and we want you to use it. You have to comply.”
Although Constantin characterizes Longchamp as a welcoming, open company, honesty and clear communication from leadership is necessary in any HR tech transformation.
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