Among all the systems used by uOttawa employees, the Concur expense management system was undoubtedly the one that caused the most headaches. We say “was” because a few months ago, improvements were made to the system and the expense reimbursement process, which seem to have satisfied all, including Concur’s staunchest critics.
An uptick in user satisfaction
The Concur system was rolled out at uOttawa in 2015 to streamline the online reimbursement of travel expenses, and until a year ago, the system incurred the wrath of a number of employees. In June 2019, 36% of users rating the application gave it one star out of five, while only 6% gave it five stars. However, a year later, user satisfaction levels have shifted dramatically, with 19% giving it one star and 37%, five stars.
WOW. In my eight years here, I have NEVER had an expense report dealt with so efficiently.
Associate Professor, uOttawa Faculty of Law and Co-Director, uOttawa Public Law Centre
How did we manage to increase user satisfaction levels? First, we asked users what was not working, both in the system itself as well as in the reimbursement process. Then, we launched the Expense Reimbursement Improvements project, to ensure that we had the resources (human, budgetary and technical) to roll out the following improvements:
- Simplification and standardization of reimbursement policies, by merging them into a single policy: Policy 21 – Reimbursement to Individuals for University Business Expenses.
- Centralized Policy 21 compliance service, giving faculties and services easy, continuous access to reimbursement experts. The central compliance service currently handles 50% of reimbursement requests on campus. This has also speeded up the reimbursement process.
- Establishment of a user advisory committee to validate improvements before they are introduced.
- Creation of a “Conquering Concur” community of practice for faculty and service compliance officers and contact points. Meetings, held every two months, provide the latest updates on the process, system and policy application, and allow members to ask questions and discuss various issues.
And that’s not all — we continue to work on improving this tool. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced uOttawa employees to work from home; to remain productive, they have incurred expenses for office supplies and computer accessories. To streamline the end-to-end electronic reimbursement process, the project team has added new types of reimbursable expenses in Concur.
I wanted to give you a brief overview of the success that the transition to central compliance has been for the Faculty of Social Sciences. Bottom line: our processing time for reimbursements went from an average of 18.85 days to an average of 10.3 days. Our professors also seem quite happy with the interactions they’ve had with your team. So far, we’ve only received positive feedback and no complaints. That’s quite remarkable given that people are usually quicker to complain when things don’t go well than the reverse.
Chief Administrative Officer, Faculty of Social Sciences
In addition to the Concur makeover, which features a more user-friendly interface, the project team will continue to make improvements to the application in coming months, adding expense types and streamlining the expense approval process. The team is also exploring the possibility of rolling out an integrated online travel service in Concur. This would ensure the transparency of the reimbursement process and allow employees who are out of the country on business to be easily located. It could also be used to help those in situations of civil unrest, natural disasters or health emergencies. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how difficult it can be to obtain information and provide adequate assistance to employees in these types of situations.
Putting people first
Although expense reimbursement is just one of hundreds of administrative processes taking place at the university, it is especially important. It enables employees to pursue their research, teaching and work representing the University, thus contributing to uOttawa’s outreach and development efforts at the local, national and international levels. It shows how a single process can generate numerous headaches and complaints but, at the same time, confirms that, by listening to users and getting them involved in continuous improvement projects, we can increase their satisfaction with a product or service. Indeed, the Administrative Services Modernization Program, which governs this project and others, advocates putting people first—as shown by its slogan, “People. Organization. Processes.”
Thank you for this excellent news and all of the great work your team does. Our faculty has benefited enormously from the services of Alex and his team. The addition of the expense types is going to facilitate our processes enormously.
Chief Administrative Officer, Faculty of Health Sciences