Business Travel Fusion

Posted by Andrew Bartolini on February 10th, 2010
Stored in Articles, Events, General, Solution Providers, Technology

According to Wikipedia, nuclear fusion “is the process by which multiple like-charged atomic nuclei join together to form a heavier nucleus.” At its aptly named user conference (Concur Fusion) held last week, Concur brought together many like-charged travel, procurement, and accounts payable leaders to join together in Boca Raton. According to Chairman and CEO Steve Singh, “Relationships, community, and trust reflect the purpose [of this event].” (See the article highlighting my conversations with Steve and his brother Rajeev here).

On top of hosting more than 900 customers, prospects, and partners, Concur also had a busy week on the business development front fusing partnerships with two of the largest players in the travel industry, American Express Business Travel and Amadeus.

Concur and AMEX

The partnership with AMEX, which was announced before Fusion, extends the current Concur/AMEX relationship which kicked into high gear during the 2008 NBTA convention when AMEX dramatically invested $250 million in Concur and formalized a partnership with its Global Commercial Card group.  The new agreement links Concur with the AMEX “TMC” (travel management company) to offer clients “one comprehensive corporate travel and expense management program.” And if one-quarter of a billion dollars wasn’t a strong enough indication of commitment to the partnership, “the companies will create a joint product council which will develop new functionality and services exclusively available to companies using this end-to-end program.”  My quote at the end of the PR summarizes my take on this deal –

“Travel and entertainment is one of the largest categories of controllable spend for most organizations,” said Andrew Bartolini, vice president & group director, Global Supply Management Research for Aberdeen Group. “Our research indicates strong demand for solutions that take a holistic approach to the management of this category. Today’s agreement between Concur and American Express Business Travel enables this approach and is a logical extension of the existing partnership between these two respected companies.”

Concur and Amadeus

During his Keynote address at Fusion, Steve Singh welcomed Kay Urban, President and CEO of Amadeus Americas to join him on stage and announce the new alliance between the two organizations. Amadeus provides technology infrastructure, distribution and booking solutions to the travel industry, similar, in many respects, to Sabre but with a concentration of its business in EMEA (where it has largest share of the GDS market) and APAC. This alliance will result in the integration of Amadeus’s travel booking tool with Concur Expense (its expense management solution) and the integration of Amadeus travel content with Concur Cliqbook Travel (its travel booking tool). Each partner hopes the alliance will help it leverage the strength of its partner to drive adoption in newer markets. According to Kay, “This alliance marks a partnership of companies with truly complementary global footprints. For Amadeus, Concur brings a global brand and reputation, significant position in North America, a rapidly expanding market penetration in EMEA, and a strong relationship with travel management companies. Especially in North America, the partnership opens up the opportunity for Amadeus to further expand our portfolio of IT solutions to the corporate travel market working together with a recognized market leader. And what Amadeus delivers to Concur is similar in focus, with particular leadership in terms of Amadeus’ truly global reach and strong presence in the EMEA/APAC markets.” The aim of the alliance is to offer end-to-end solutions that provide greater choice and flexibility to enterprises managing business travel. Amadeus customers may benefit from integration to an automated expense management solution, while Concur Cliqbook users will soon have new functionality like Amadeus’ “low-fare search” and “ticket changer” that has never been available from a third-party until now.

Once the partnerships fully ramp (my estimate is two or three full quarters for each), both partnerships should deliver strong growth for Concur, particularly AMEX, which is becoming an increasingly significant partner. It will be interesting to see if any of Amadeus’ North American competitors follow suit and strike an alliance with Concur or other expense management solution providers.

For procurement and travel leaders, these partnerships mark one of the major technology trends in the business travel management space over the past few years: the push for seamless end-to-end travel and expense management capabilities. In a few years, end-to-end solutions will be “table stakes.” For now, enterprises considering an investment in travel services/solution and/or expense management solutions should be making decisions today with a vision towards a holistic future.

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