I attended Concur’s annual customer event, Fusion, this week. Let’s start with the negatives:
- Concur clearly knows their user base has been frustrated by poor SaaS lately. It’s a major sore point with customers, and a central issue for management. Will management make good on these promises? TBD.
- Concur is playing catch-up with KDS on making expense reports easier to write, and making the booking process easier to use. No signs this year of any breathtaking innovation.
- Understandable concerns about how the acquisition by SAP will affect Concur.
- TripLink, Concur’s key to closing the gap on unmanaged spend, is stuck in low gear. Lots of sales, very few proof points of it adding value – yet.
- Palpable angst from TMC execs about the future of their business models in the face of TripLink’s potential to enable off-channel bookings.
So if you’re not a fan of Concur, stop here, because the rest of the story is much brighter. One walk through Concur’s exhibitor hall paints the picture.
Concur invites its business partners to set up stands during the week’s event. I’d guess there were 50 to maybe 100 firms here. TMCs, time tracking, mobile apps of every flavor, identity services, healthcare data integrators, human resources players, tax analysts, VAT reclaimers, etc….a remarkably diverse set of business partners.
The breadth of services these folks are selling through Concur’s open platform is the key to Concur’s future.
Steve Singh talks about the value of deeply vertical networks. The ability to understand a set of processes really, really well, all designed to solve a significant problem. Then exposing those answers, those insights, those solutions and the still unsolved problems, to others.
What is a problem to one party is a business opportunity for another. It’s the power of the network, the power of the platform, that puts Concur in such a valuable position.
It’s one thing to think about Concur’s trajectory as a T&E player. It’s a very different challenge to think about Concur’s future as a business enabler.
I don’t see any other travel-related supplier offering this kind of opportunity to the industry, with industry defined as broadly as you like.
Concur estimates T&E expenses to be 6-8% of a firm’s revenue. Imagine the additional reach into the business value chain via Success Factors (human capital management services), Ariba (B2B procurement platform) and Fieldglass (contingent labor management) – all SAP companies, and except for Success Factors, under Steve Singh’s remit.
This puts what, maybe 80% of a firm’s entire cost base in scope for improvement by the kinds of deeply vertical networks that Concur knows how to build.
That, my friends, is a remarkably big and bright opportunity.
NB: Concur paid for my flight and hotel to attend the Fusion event.