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Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Steve Singh, CEO of Concur (Part 1)

Posted on Wednesday, May 9th 2012

Business travel can be a pain, especially when it comes to knowing you can and can’t include on your expense account when you return. Concur is one company that will help you remain compliant with your company’s policies and still enjoy your trip as much as possible. Founded in 1993, Concur is a leading provider of integrated travel and expense management solutions that provides services for more than 15,000 clients and more than 15 million users worldwide.

Sramana Mitra: Hi Steve. We talked some time back, and of course, the cloud industry — when we talked — was still kind of hitting its stride. Now, the momentum is in full force. Give me an overview of what you see around you to kick this off, and then we’ll double click down on major things that you see.

Steve Sing: Sure. I would say that cloud computing was still pretty nascent back when we talked – in 2006 or 2007 – when folks at Salesforce or Concur were talking about it, it was still a missionary sell, not only to corporate customers but also to the broader financial and industry communities. It’s something that I think people understood the basics behind but took a wait-and-see approach to it. Obviously, he we are half a decade plus later and at this point, people get cloud computing, but just as important, they see it as central to the next evolution of the technology industry.

It’s very easy for people to say today, I get how cloud computing took off in the consumer world, but now I’m starting to see concrete, sizable examples in the enterprise world. So, that part is now well written, well defined and it doesn’t take a lot of courage to be a believer in cloud computing anymore. Even in the financial markets, billions have been made investing in cloud computing companies. We created around a $3.5 billion market cap. Salesforce is around the $21 billion market cap. You see Success Factors being acquired for about $3.4 billion, Taleo for $1.8 billion or $1.9 billion. So, you see real money being made in this sector of computing. Having said that, I would say that it’s, literally, just getting started. I think what you’re in enterprise cloud computing in the next decade is applications companies like Concur or others turn into things way beyond applications companies. They’ll turn into content and commerce companies, in addition to being applications companies.

That’s the way we see Concur unfolding. Today, we’re the second largest cloud applications company. We think in the next decade, not only will we be a large applications company but we’ll also be a content and commerce company. As you take all these big trends like cloud and mobile and social and local and big data, as those things all intertwine, you’re starting to see some interesting problems being solved and some interesting companies being created from that.

SM: On the topic of cloud computing, cloud companies evolving into content and commerce companies, could you elaborate further on what you see and where you see that going?

SS: First of all, you look at all of these enterprise cloud computing companies, and they’ve certainly picked up some interesting scale. But if you think about the problems that they’re solving, there tend to be very significant processes being automated that are pervasive across the enterprise. So, you have a lot of people who actually engage in that particular business process, whether you’re talking about sales automation or employee management or travel and expense management, as is the case with Concur. If you think about what we do as an example of that, our products are used on one side to book travel. And then we have another part that is used to manage the itinerary as you travel. And then our expense products are used to reconcile that trip information and file an expense report on your behalf.

As you take the next couple of steps on this, what you see is a tremendous opportunity to – in the travel part in particular or, for that matter, even the itinerary portion – to be able to say, look, why can’t I integrate content in a way that well above and beyond the traditional mechanisms of integrating content? For example, you look at the Expedias of the world where you can say, that’s clearly a commerce play in a consumer application. What you saw was commerce being integrated in what I would call integration generation one, effectively not very intelligent commerce. It’s just, here’s a set of choices and oftentimes, those choices are biased, based on where the company, Expedia, makes money.

What if you could imagine a world where all of that content’s available but not biased in any way, shape or form? It’s all available to you but made available to you in combination with big data. So, where we understand your spend patterns, your preferences, your companies policies, we intelligently deliver to you the things that you’re most likely to want to purchase in corporate travel. Somebody like me, for example, I’m not likely to stay at a Motel 6. I’m a business traveler. I’d be likely to stay at a Starwood property or something similar to that. And I have a certain price point in hotels that I tend to spend because it gives me the amenities that I’m looking for, whether it’s Internet or whatever. It could be that I’m looking for Internet plus gym facilities. So, I have a certain spend pattern, and if I can integrate that content in where it’s not just an understanding of my spend patterns but also being able to tie in what the supplier wants to deliver.

Think about how much a supplier knows about you as an individual. Even United Airlines with its global services people, United Airlines only has a limited amount of information about you. How much does United Airlines know about what you spend at American or Delta or whatever? How much does Hilton know about your spend patterns with other hotels? If you can combine big data in a model with cloud computing that says, I can intelligently provide information about both the spend side and the purchasing side, you’ve effectively got a commerce opportunity.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Steve Singh, CEO of Concur
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