In April 2013 Concur CEO Steve Singh took his mountain bike out for a spin that ended with a wreck leaving him badly injured in Seattle, an accident that caused him to miss Fusion, his company’s biggest customer conference set to take place in Las Vegas. Doctor advised him not to travel by plane. He looked fine, but his voice was a tad raspy on the Skype link that piped him into the analyst meeting. Despite the injury, it was just another adventure for Singh, who relished risk-taking more than anything else. The conference went on without him.
One might even ask why anyone would embark on an adventurous bike ride on the eve of an important event. But that was Singh’s style, or for that matter the culture of Concur – a fair amount of risk taking, a lot of fun, and always ready to shake things up in the travel and expense management applications market.
Fast forward three years to the same venue (Venetian in Las Vegas) for Fusion 2016, which I attended along with a crowd of 2,700 corporate travel and expense executives in early March. At first glance, Concur is very different as part of SAP following its acquisition by the giant German software company in December 2014. However things probably have not changed much at Concur since Singh first joined as its CEO in 1996, three years after his brother Rajeev Singh and Mike Hilton founded the company. Both founders have left Concur since the purchase.
Still, the familiar feel of taking risks, shaking things up and having fun (suffice it to say that travel and expense managers know how to party in Las Vegas) was evident throughout the three-day annual conference where Concur once again aimed to stay disruptive as many tech companies strive to achieve these days.
With the support of SAP, Concur appears to be taking on bigger risks. In September 2013, Concur had $546 million in annual revenues and 2,800 employees. By the time SAP announced a year later that it would buy Concur for a staggering price tag of $8.3 billion, the biggest purchase in SAP’s history, it had reached $703 million in annual revenues and 4,900 employees.
Fifteen months after the completion of the acquisition, Concur has continued to add resources now topping 6,000 employees with plans to another 1,000 over the next 12 months. A few of the additions at Concur were attributed to internal transfers.
For example, Hendrik Vordenbaeumen, who used to be in charge of SAP Travel and Expense products in Germany, is now based in Bellevue, WA, working as Concur’s Global Vice President of Product Management. Today, Concur is considered one of SAP’s chief growth drivers behind its recent reported triple digit growth in cloud business, and it has been given plenty of autonomy to pursue new initiatives.
After folding some of its back-office functions like finance and HR into SAP, Concur has retained considerable autonomy with its president Elena Donio, an 18-year Concur veteran, in charge of sales, services and Cloud operations after leading different divisions like SMB.
The same level of autonomy has been replicated and extended to other SAP Cloud operations like SuccessFactors.
“We are having massive impact on SAP,’’ said Singh, who now heads SAP Business Network Group covering Concur, Ariba and Fieldglass.
At the conference, Concur announced that its Invoice product grew triple digits in 2015, while other metrics also shown sharp increases across different products. For example, TripIt, the travel itinerary planning app, now has more than 12 million users, up from eight million in 2013.
Concur’s corporate booking tool is processing tens of millions of transactions every year, generating as much dollar volume as Uber. Its continuous growth will drive dollar volume further since it covers the full scope of a business trip – planes, hotels, cars, rails, etc. In the up market of business travel, Concur’s travel solution could end up combining the attributes of the likes such as Uber, AirBnB and Expedia.
Over the past year, Concur has done well selling into the SAP’s installed base. A multinational company with a big SAP footprint and 65,000 employees told me that it recently switched to Concur after years of running IBM GERS, the legacy expense management solution from IBM. Concur and IBM formed a partnership in May 2014 where IBM would market Concur’s T&E solution to their customers. Concur continues to see the fruits of this alliance.
Beyond such large enterprises, Concur is gearing up to shake things up in different segments of the ERP market. Christal Bemont, senior vice president and general manager of global SMB at Concur, said the company has been particularly effective in cracking the SMB space – mostly companies with fewer than 1,000 employees – because of its ability to deliver simple to use, easy to deploy and massive amounts of reporting and compliance expertise to high-growth companies in search of new tools to rein in spending while expanding their operations in multiple geographies all at the same time.
Singh said Concur stands a good chance delivering new applications – especially in the financial management space – that could disrupt the lower end of the ERP market, an area that SAP has underperformed, compared with its successes among Global 2000 accounts from BASF to Walmart.
Singh runs the SAP group that serves as the central nervous system for businesses, it includes: Ariba which transacts more than $1 trillion worth of B2B eCommerce and growing every year, helping a wide swath of big and small companies track the costs of issuing invoices, purchasing goods and services; Fieldglass which helps with requisition of contract labor; and Concur which helps with managing travel and expenses. At a time when volatility is on the rise, such best-practices cost containment could well define who’s going to win or lose in the business world.
Higher education is another opportunity that Concur is poised to seize. Corporate services managers from two private colleges told me that they are actively helping Concur expand further into the vertical, forming advisory group to develop more tailored offerings for school administrators.
Concur, on the other hand, is boosting sales function as well as implementation methodology to help it penetrate the education vertical following successes at schools like the University of Colorado. Concur is also eying to expand in other verticals such as life sciences and government contractors.
Meanwhile, Concur is gearing up to reshape things at SAP, helping its parent succeed in areas that might have proven to be too difficult and fragmented to lead. On the other hand, the latter is shoring up Concur’s global support and services capabilities.
Inevitably Concur will change over time with regards to its go-to-market strategy and the responsibilities of its key executives – similar to the gradual shifts that have happened to SAP’s other acquisitions from BusinessObjects to SuccessFactors.
Always up for the challenge, Steve Singh and his team are gearing up for more fun, enjoying the ride, while taking risks and shaking things up along the way.