Concur Technologies Inc., the travel and expense management applications juggernaut, has stuck to its tried-and-true formula of helping business travelers ease the pain associated with trip booking and expense reporting.
Although the formula is far from perfect, Concur is on the verge of gaining increased support from a range of key stakeholders including travel managers, government buyers and new partners who used to compete with Concur.
That’s on top of nearly half a billion dollars that Concur now charges annually its more than 18,000 customers and over 20 million users for using different Concur apps to standardize their travel planning process. Without skipping a beat since 2002, Concur’s quarterly revenues have multiplied 12 times to reach $127 million in its latest three-month period ended March 31, 2013.
With the impressive track record, Concur aims to make the business travel experience perfect through technology enablement, a lofty goal that is going to put to test its all-time-high stock valuation of $4.6 billion. At its recent user conference held in Las Vegas with more than 2,000 attendees, Concur laid out a series of initiatives to ensure the odds were in its favor.
For example, the new Concur App Center, which aggregates business-travel applications from partners like Taxi Magic for ride booking and erstwhile competitors like Replicon for timesheet management, will be instrumental in helping Concur create an extended platform that connects suppliers, buyers and travelers.
Concur has also launched a $150-million Perfect Trip Fund in order to invest in partners that could contribute heavily to its quest for reshaping the global travel industry. So far seven vendors including Yapta for fare tracker and Cleartrip for travel booking in India have received funding from Concur.
At the product level, Concur has rolled out ConTgo for mobile messaging that allows companies to notify travelers with real-time information. Another handy tool for facial recognition will allow smartphone users to crosscheck faces of people they come across against those in Concur T&E Cloud in order to verify names for expense reporting.
Other upcoming enhancements include Integrated Benchmarks, which will put massive amounts of Travel and Expense Management data and analytics to work for both financial users as well as travel planners.
One of the most closely-watched new products from Concur will be ExpenseIT, which is designed for users to quickly submit expense reports by scanning receipts with their smartphones without the burden of converting multiple receipts into a master electronic file. ExpenseIT is due out in summer 2013 for Concur customers, followed by a subsequent release for non-Concur users in the fall.
These new products will coincide with Concur’s push into verticals like the US federal government where it recently won a contract from the General Services Administration to provide public-sector employees access to travel and expense management applications and services such as online travel booking, travel authorizations, and voucher processing. Concur projected the ETS-2 contract could generate up to $1.4 billion in revenues through the next 15 years.
All the new products as well as the government push could multiply the number of Concur users from the current level of 20-million-plus to 100 million or more in just a few years, rivaling the reach of popular social networks.
That could have profound effects on existing Travel Management Companies(TMCs) whose livelihood depends on how they maintain their advisory and decision-support role on behalf of large companies with some of their annual T&E budgets exceeding a billion dollars. In fact, TMCs like Carlson Wagonlit filed protests with GSA after losing the contract to Concur. Suffice it to say that the continuing success of Concur could come at the expense of these TMCs.
Still some Concur customers express their support for their TMCs, which continue to add value through service delivery, online fulfillment, as well as a personal touch when travel plans are upended even with sophisticated technologies from Concur, according to Martin Lagler, head of Accounting & Travel at T-Systems NA.
That may well be the gating factor that could determine Concur’s ability to succeed in the new era of modern travel that increasingly embraces open booking with vast amounts of information coming from the Internet and smartphones. It remains to be seen whether technology alone represents the panacea that cures the ills of business travel and if travelers and travel managers are willing to trade personal touch for everything electronic in unison.
Whatever the case, Concur appears to be well positioned as the gateway for anyone wanting to improve their business travel experience and perhaps realize the promise of a perfect trip.