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SAP Concur's Jim
Lucier & Mike Koetting talk:
BTN chief editor Elizabeth West sat with freshly minted SAP
Concur CEO Jim Lucier and chief product strategy officer Mike Koetting.
BTN: Jim, what are the strengths of SAP Concur as
you walk into the CEO position?
culture of the company has always been focus No. 1. It's one of the remarkable
things over the last nearly five years since the acquisition [by SAP] was
announced: The culture's just gotten stronger. We've been lucky to have leaders
who emphasized culture … [because] in the modern global war for talent, culture
is what brings people and keeps people. Second, we've got a product mix that
remains unique to this day. A truly integrated travel and expense product is
not available elsewhere, certainly not on a global basis. The breadth of our product line
is extremely compelling. Third is that we have a lot of people who care deeply
about the customer and how we can continue to focus on customer success. So those are the big strengths of the company. They're things that
I've been involved in in various ways over time, and we're going to continue to
emphasize those things.
BTN: You've been
with Concur for 11 years. In what ways will you lead differently from your
predecessors, change focus or bridge areas where you've found gaps?
Lucier: I don't think there are many gaps, in
part because I've been on the executive team for a long time and so I would be
indicting myself. I'm not coming in to change things dramatically. Our growth
pillars remain our growth pillars, our culture remains our culture and we need
to continue to invest in those things. That said, the timing of the
announcement of the integrated spend group, our combination with Ariba and
Fieldglass, is quite opportunistic. I do want to emphasize that we will continue
to embrace SAP. [Concur has] been run as a stand-alone line of business for
quite a while, but we have a lot to bring like a lot of cloud culture that
complements SAP's incredible globalization capacity. There's a lot of cross-pollinating
that can happen. And it's not that past leadership wasn't in favor of this, but
it's now something we can talk about more openly, particularly as we combine
under a comprehensive spend management business.
BTN: There's a lot
of competition brewing in corporate travel booking technology. As you watch
what the startups are doing, does it change Concur's development strategy?
Lucier: There's a lot of money getting poured
into this space right now, and I'll be the first to say it's great to see more
innovation coming in. It's healthy for everybody because it makes the tent
bigger for customers looking to buy travel technology. That's good for our
business, so I'm a big fan. In terms of how we respond, SAP Concur has a point
of view about where business travel is going and what the solutions are. Under
Mike [Koetting's] leadership, in particular, we have a three-year road map.
[Other companies] coming in with a new product or feature is not going to
influence where we think our product road map needs to go. We are going to
focus more on what customers think than on what the competition is doing.
BTN: To that point,
then, what do customers think?
Lucier: Customers are forever asking for new
technologies around artificial intelligence and machine learning. That's
something we've been doing for a number of years even before anyone called it
by that name. But there's much more realization on the potential power of this,
so the customers are asking for that dynamic. Traveler experience is another
big one. We are hitting a tipping point [in travel management] where [buyers]
have squeezed [out] most of the costs that can be squeezed, so experience is
the next dynamic to work on. The focus on the traveler experience is in the
heritage of our business and has been the magic of integrated travel and
expense. From the company perspective, integrated travel and expense doesn't
make that much sense: Travel rolls up to procurement and the metrics they're
concerned about are cost savings, price and that sort of thing. Of course,
expense goes in through accounts payable. They have a very different set of
things they care about. It wasn't until you said, "Wait. From the business
traveler's perspective, this is one process." Concur cleaned that up and
delivered it as a single process for the business traveler. We were also very
early into mobile, and we talk all the time about how Concur technology can help
BTN: It occurs to
me that SAP Concur has been talking about broader travel spend management and
visibility since the advent of TripLink. Can one of you talk about those
parallels and intersections and what's next for Concur?
Mike Koetting: The very foundation
of our value proposition is spend management. We started this holistic view
when we integrated travel and expense. Then, we took an honest look at what
spend management was really going to require and made the investments and
developed the technology to capture spend that was happening outside of just
the one [agency] channel. That was eight years ago with TripLink, when it was
heresy to even suggest [looking outside the channel]. But we just saw in a flash
poll [that we conducted at the Global Business Travel Association convention]
that fully 71 percent of travel buyers expect within the next 12 months to have
a mechanism to capture off-channel spend. Collectively within SAP and the
partnership with Ariba and Fieldglass, we all have this shared vision of
delivering spend management in ways that are augmented by better analytics,
machine learning, AI and customer experience. So I think you will see Concur
continuing to elevate the experience and value of that core proposition of
spend management and recognizing that as you evolve this idea of spend
management, perhaps there's less magic in just automating a transaction. There
may be more magic around the traveler experience around the breadth of
transactions that you can capture and the number of channels that you can
capture and the amount of content you can touch.
BTN: What about New
Distribution Capability? Concur has integrated British Airways and Lufthansa content from
outside the global distribution system. How much demand are you seeing for
Koetting: Part of our
challenge and why it takes so long is our desire to integrate that with the
TMC. So that is a non-GDS solution in Concur Travel that is designed and
intended to enable integration with the TMC should the TMC be willing to pursue
it. To the degree that you'd have clients who say it's less important
that this [content] is integrated in the Concur Travel booking tool or the TMC,
then we can point them to TripLink. BA has worked for a year now [in TripLink], and Lufthansa
should be there very shortly.
Lucier: We are
listening constantly to customers to understand where they want to go. I have
anecdotal data from going out and talking to customers a lot. If you're
impacted by a carrier that's moved [content out of the GDS], you're looking to
access this content.
BTN: Where do you see the most growth?
Lucier: We've grown more in the last four years than we
grew in the first 21 [years]. Our international business has grown really
quickly and continues to. Second is small business, which is also
international, but small business has been a growth engine for five years. The
awareness [around] AI and machine learning has fueled our [existing] client
business. We are making investments into helping customers see the value we are
providing, and as they see more value, they tend to want to buy more. That's a
third pillar and it's great. The fourth is the public sector. Our foray into
the U.S. civilian government taught us an awful lot about what you need to do
for, actually, every central government, so we are making a huge push there and
have set up a team to pursue central government business around the world. It's
a huge opportunity for us.
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