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Author's profile photo Sven Ringling

What might 2015 bring for Concur and SAP Travel&Expense customers looking at the cloud?

*** Update 09/05/2015 ***

1) At our own conference, iProConference in London this week, we’ve seen a huge interest in Concur Expense as well as travel. Not really surprising, except maybe for the fact that a lot of corporates headquartered in Germany seem to going for it.

Some already started projects and some plan it. However, there are also quite a few, who look very sad, because they like the solution, but know they won’t be able to implement it for many years due to internal policies.

Anyway, there is an increasing number or large and medium sized organisations, who schedule exploratory workshops or demos with us to start defining a roadmap.

So, at least confirming the trend expected in the first version of this post, if not raising it a bit.

2) Clients and prospects coming from the SAP on-premise world as well as Concur themselves seem to realise that Concur, whilst having a great solution partner network providing additional apps, they urgently need an improved service partner network to help customers with implementations. Most partners / advisors so far would only refer new customers to concur and get a referral fee back. Some, like us, did occasionally help customers with project management and change management, process design and, if needed, with the front end configuration usually left to customers. The heavy lifting of technical implementation is almost always done by Concur themselves. My guess would be this will start to change end of this year.

Advice to customers:

For a software vendor, selling the subscription is the most important point.

For you as a customer users using it and being happy with it is very important. For large number of users, you may struggle to manage change and communication without help. Check your available resources before you start and consider 3rd party help.

3) For European organisations, who’d like to get a brief overview of the Concur solution, there’s a free 30min webinar available from Concur on 20th May. Click here to register.

*** start original post ***

I’ve been asked recently to contribute a piece about Concur to Jarret Pazahanick‘s “The Future of SAP HCM and SuccessFactors Consulting – 2015“, and then ended up with far too many ideas for poor Jarret to accommodate in his blog. So, thanks a lot, Jarret, for giving me some extra time to provide a more focused contribution to your blog, which I feel honoured to be part of.

And for those, who want a few more thoughts about Concur in particular, here we go (just remember: this is my personal view, with no claim to have inside knowledge of SAP’s plans or a magic crystal ball):

Concur is the latest big addition to the SAP universe and one I was very happy to learn about, because I’ve worked with the solution before and loved it. What would I expect to happen in 2015?

Travel and Expense data is certainly something most customers would be more relaxed about regarding perceived cloud security issues than many other sets of data. Also, by the nature of the process, T&E is shouting for easy to deploy and easy to use mobile apps as well as 3rd party integration (vendors, audit services, VAT reclaim, travel alerts, you name it…).

These are strong arguments for a cloud T&E solution. So, why haven’t customers queued up for SAP’s home grown T&E cloud – it should be selling like hot cakes? Well, it seems to try too hard to replicate the old solution and falls short of really leveraging the advantages of cloud based design. The big advantage of the old solution is it’s adaptability by means of BAdIs, function exits, modifications and custom programmed workflows. Loose that by moving it into the cloud and you’ve got the worst from both worlds. And to be fair: as cloud T&E solutions go, Concur has been leading the market by such a huge margin that it”s almost inconceivable anybody could catch up soon. So, my most confident prediction is: the old SAP cloud solution for T&E is dead.

Still, I don’t think there’ll be a huge rush of on-premise Travel Management users to switch to Concur early this year. Customers reasonably happy with a stable system including Self Services will not see the urgency and therefore watch the solution, integration and licensing model develop while waiting for a real business need to change. Having said that, I’ve spoken already to customers, who are less than happy with their on-premise solution (as always: this is not necessarily the fault of the product, but often down to how it’s been implemented) and are exploring options to switch.

Towards the second half of 2015 I’d expect a trickle of on-premise customers starting the move, because they are at a point where considerable investment is required anyway and they’d rather make this in the cloud than in their old solution. Triggers may be:

– extending the process to travel planning and booking

– a strong need for easy and reliable vendor integration

– introducing self services

– introducing mobile access (above and beyond a simple approval step)

How fast these customers will be making a move depends a lot on SAP clarifying with some credibility what the roadmaps for enhanced integration and the licensing model are. The experience with SuccessFactors has shown that customers hate paying twice for the same process from the same vendor (surprise!) and that over-promising and under-delivering on integration in the early stages post acquisition is a sure way to give a great solution a bad name. SAP seems to have come round to these ideas last year, so I’m confident it will be handled much better with Concur.

My recommendation: if you consider any significant changes to your Travel Management now, look at Concur as well, before making any investment.

This leaves customers, who don’t have a T&E solution in SAP yet. Some of them may have evaluated the on-premise solution and found it’s not for them. Others may have it in their wish list already, but haven’t got to do it yet. Both groups should and will look at Concur now and I expect many of them to go for it. Again: the schedule will depend on SAP’s integration roadmap. Sure, even some new T&E customers will still chose on-premise, unless SAP is strongly discouraging it. Reasons for this could be:

– a “no cloud” strategy

– complex statutory rules not covered by Concur out of the box (possibly some public sector rules outside North America)

– a preference to have highly customised rules for workflows and posting carved in stone via custom programming (translating into BAdIs etc. in SAP on-premise)

– a focus on the expense side only

Ok, so I expect a good number of takers for Concur, albeit no flood gates opening yet. What do those new Concur disciples get for their troubles?

To begin with, certainly an excellent user experience and efficient process. Having implemented the tool myself for our small UK team in December, I can confirm this as a user as well. One colleague, whom I had to chase for his expenses every single month so far, was now ready to go on the evening of his last trip of the month, commenting “Wow. Expenses are fun now!” (Well, Marc, happy to serve 🙂  ).

So, user experience, travel planning and vendor integration are on the plus side for sure. Integration into an existing SAP landscape is still in it’s early days. There is a standard solution for FI/CO integration based on DELL Boomi and IDOCs. There are tools available for limited integration in HR master data and payroll. But it’s not what you may be used to in your existing SAP package.

My recommendation for customers: look at the existing options. You will probably find a pragmatic solution that’s good enough and helps you to reap the benefits of the Concur offering. Then watch the SAP roadmap for improvements – some may even become available by the time you go live with Concur. I’m mildly optimistic about SAP delivering on FI/CO, HR master and payroll integration in 2015 – probably on a choice of platforms, even though SAP HANA cloud will be the long term objective.

What I don’t expect to happen yet in 2015:

– in the long run SAP will aim at a unified user experience. That will take some time. But as T&E is  a pretty independent process, it’s not a big issue for now

– Concur is flexible enough for customers to use it for contingency staff and – using central agents – scenarios like candidate expenses or international transfers. In the long run, integrating the solution with Fieldglas and SuccessFactors recruiting is desirable, indeed. Don’t expect anything like that in 2015: this is the year to get the basics right.

Some further thoughts:

– the acquisition of Concur gets SAP onto a completely different scale when it comes to the small and medium business market. Whilst the solution is being used by large global corporates, there are also thousands of small businesses and micro businesses using it as well. It will be interesting to see whether and how SAP

a) accommodates those customers in their future licensing, support and partnership models

b) goes beyond that and manages to leverage this new capability to eventually master that market with other solutions as well – something they’ve been trying since ca. 2001 with limited success

– Together with Ariba, Concur looks like SAP’s ticket into the network economy, where integration with travel vendors and value added services opens up completely new options for customers.

– With “tripit” Concur even has an app catering for the consumer as well as the corporate market. Is this a starting point for SAP to offer further apps to deliver as part of the enterprise package as well as opening them up to consumers to use independently? Say, barcode scanners, translation tools, currency converters or tax calculators to name just a few ideas? A ver ylong shot, indeed.

– It remains to be seen, what the fate of “Concur invoice” is going to be. I’d expect it to be merged with other solutions in the long run.

SAP will have to act on these opportunities in 2015 – even though the impact will only really be felt later on

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      Author's profile photo Jarret Pazahanick
      Jarret Pazahanick

      Well done with this article Sven and it will be interesting to see if some of the learnings from the SuccessFactors acquisition and growing pains have been learned from and are not made again with Concur as it wouldn't be hard to see the sales team going to customers with multiple messages and stories if not which we have seen in the past can be very very confusing.

      Author's profile photo Christopher Solomon
      Christopher Solomon

      Great write up and knowledgeable predictions! My curiosity is much what you alluded to....Does SAP position Concur to continue to live as a "non-SAP" required/integrated product (ie. stand alone) as it has a HUGE market lead? Do they open it up for ease of integration into other (often competing) products or do they go the opposite way and make it easier for SAP integration? Do they offer an assortment of options/products under the Concur line of business? It will be interesting for sure.

      Author's profile photo Sven Ringling
      Sven Ringling
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks, Chris!

      Being an internal change lead at Concur - or indeed SAP corporate - must be a very intetesting job these days.

      Author's profile photo Bala Guruswamy
      Bala Guruswamy

      Thanks for the details. It would be nice to have Concur roadmap at this point of time. Especially we have another option to submit travel expense through ESS/MSS using EP. It is not clear how Concur would overlay into SAP T&E solution offerings. 

      Author's profile photo Sven Ringling
      Sven Ringling
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Barla,

      It won't "overlay into". It's completely replacing it. Concur is SAP's go forward solution for T&E. The old on-premise traven management will not get many innovations any more and is not part of S4.