Voice of Experience: Charles StahlBy Joshua Weinberger | Posted 2003-04-01 Print
Global Project Manager and Manager of Reimbursements
Manager's profile: Stahl oversees expense management worldwide, and the operation of a global network covering the roughly 42,000 employees (out of DuPont's 80,000-member workforce) who file expense reports.
The early '90s: "We developed a mainframe application for expense reimbursement—mainly efficient, but lacking any information capabilities. To bring it up to [date] would have required a lot of investment." Overseas, "we were relying on Excel spreadsheets with macros for currency conversion, and a lot of people stapling receipts to reports."
What Dupont deployed: Concur, and a lot of it. The company wanted "one standard global application. It's [now] the designated and only tool for employees of Dupont—including subsidiaries and most joint ventures."
Was it hard? "Our more than 20 business units each had a reasonable degree of autonomy, so any effort to be enterprise-wide meant selling it to each of those units." But they all bought in. As the rollout got underway, there was individual resistance at first, but "it becomes easier as you go on—the phenomena of learning and the phenomena of change."
What's the upside? "In the first 2 years we had a 625% return." DuPont has implemented in 60 countries—and is "saving the [annual] equivalent of about $10 million on a pretax basis." An example: thanks to data, DuPont discovered it was spending $1 million a year in parking fees at a local airport; the firm negotiated a bulk discount to the tune of $300,000 per year in savings. Another: "We were spending about $1 million per year on express mailing of receipts—that's essentially gone."
The secret? "Achieve top-level support and make it a mandate. That gets you the benefit of leverage, the benefit of information. Then you can begin the reengineering of processes and automation." In one dramatic example, DuPont managed to rework its agreement with its credit-card company, and reduce its client-held days from 26 to nine.
What's stopping other companies? Some "just haven't been able to see the big picture—the power of information. That's where the payoff is. You can probably cut your [accounting] staff by 75% if you're going from a manual operation—but that's small change compared to what you can derive from the data. There are still millions of dollars of potential there."
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