From all the enterprise cloud software vendors I’ve watched more closely, Concur has been my role model for making best use of the SaaS concept to create real change – not just cheaper, faster, more user friendly or more standardised, but pushing the boundary of what’s feasible and fundamentally changing processes.
I’m talking about their 3rd party integration here. It’s fascinating they integrate with 400 travel agencies globally and all major credit card companies, but most customers would only need one or a few agents and credit cards. What’s a real game change is their capability to integrate 100s of vendors directly – from airlines to hotels and car rentals to unexpected examples like Starbucks, airBnB or Uber. You just couldn’t do this on premise. I mean: go to see your CIO and say: “Here is a list of 300 organisations we need to get talking to the T&E software on our server downstairs. The list comes with their interface protocols, IP addresses and ports.” 300 individual interfaces going behind your firewall and talking to your own system? 10 pounds on either you or your CIO going through some 22nd floor window within 45 seconds after you saying that would not be a reckless bet, would it? But it works in the cloud: only the cloud vendor has to manage the 300 connections and they do it once for 1000s of customers.
Obviously, the travel and expense process lends itself more easily to this kind of scenarios, but I believe there’s a lot of mileage to be gained from this concept in HCM, too. think about learning. Yes, even the on-premise LSO allowed to integrate 3rd party vendor catalogues, but each integration is a project in its own right. You can only do that with very few main vendors.A strong cloud software like SuccessFactors could come with interfaces to 500 training firms globally out of the box. The customer would only have to switch on each relevant vendor integration, filter the results, assign them a branch in their catalogue and allow users to book or pre-book directly through the LMS (so everything is tracked there) into the training vendor’s system. Sounds like a no-brainer to me.
Let’s goo on: banks, tax advisors or landlords could – after being authorised by the individuals in their ESS – directly access pay data they need for loan approval, tenant background check or tax return. And that’s just me starting to think about…
So, I’m pretty sure we are going to see the network economy hitting HCM systems big in the not too distant future and if SuccessFactors can build on Concur’s expertise in that field, it would most likely help.
But there’s also a leaf for Concur to take out of SuccessFactor’s book. The current Concur partner concept has virtually no service partner element. It’s mostly the classic referral partnership and that’s not what SAP customers expect. Many of them have a very long standing relationship with a service partner and would like them to run their implementation. Of course, I’m biased, because we are a partner and obviously would like to help our customers not only in change / project management or process design and interfaces. But customers often have the same issue: they want to do more of the implementation work themselves (that’s also an issue for SuccessFactors) or with their service partner. That would increase the capacity for Concur to take on new customers migrating from SAP on-premise immensely. It’s also a sales driver, because in the relationship SAP service partners have with their customers it rarely goes as quickly “We know this great tool – you should get it”. Customers expect their consultants to be a bit more elaborate in this cases, so they can understand the value before they are exposed to a sales team.