Why Concur's Ecosystem for App Development Is Expanding

Within the hospitality vertical, travel is becoming a go-to software development destination, and mobile devices are a natural target.

concur platform

Enterprise software development continues to develop itself and its methodology in new and creative ways.

Only a few years ago, most enterprise software development was tied up in proprietary development and major open-source projects such as Apache, MySQL, Linux and Java--not to mention mobile development for Apple, Android and Windows mobile and laptop devices. Now app creation is becoming a lot more granular and aimed at vertical sectors, thanks largely to the precipitous growth of connected mobile devices.

There always have been independent developers creating apps for specific use cases, such as gaming, business productivity, health care, financial services and government/military applications, but now things are getting even more specific. Within the hospitality vertical, for example, travel is becoming a go-to development destination, and mobile devices are a natural target.

"The ecosystem is really growing," Steve Singh, CEO of Seattle-based Concur, the world's largest cloud-based enterprise travel service, told eWEEK. "At our first developers' conference a year ago, we were expecting, five, 10 or maybe 20 people to show up, and 150 came. This year we had 350. But what I am most pleased with is the diversity of companies that are starting to build much more specific applications around our platform."

Second Devcon Conference Doubled Attendance

Concur, which was acquired by SAP in September for a cool $8.3 billion, concluded its second Devcon 2014 conference in San Francisco last week. A good number of entrepreneurs and software developers interested in building travel-related apps for the Concur portal were in attendance.

Concur, founded in 1993, currently serves more than 23,000 enterprise customers and 25 million active users in some 150 countries. The company, which has 4,200 employees and has expected revenue of $700 million for 2014, is the leader in the multi-billion dollar market for travel and expense management software.

It's easy to see why SAP saw Concur as a major player in the annual global corporate travel spend of $1.2 trillion worldwide. It also makes perfect sense why a growing number of software developers are now developing--or are planning to develop--apps to run on its platform.

Among the startups in attendance at Devcon 2014 was LoungeBuddy.com, which turned out to be one of the more innovative startups at the event. Its app allows users to buy day passes at airport lounges around the world on an ad-hoc basis.

Now a traveler doesn't have to be a subscribed member of a pricey airline "club" to get to use the amenities in a high-end lounge. It's a simple-to-deploy income stream for the airlines that serves the needs of delayed travelers, so it's a win-win for everybody.

Innovation Comes to the Fore in Travel-Related Apps

"When you download the app, you add your photo into the app," Singh said. "Then, when you buy the lounge pass, the authorization plus a picture of you shows up in the lounge attendant's version of the application [in the airport you may be in]," Singh said. "So when you walk in, they know it's you, and you don't have to show an ID. It's actually a cool little app."

Another example is Paradine, now in beta release, which analyzes anonymized expense information from Concur and makes available information that you probably can't get anywhere else. "For example, you can use Paradine to find out where people within your company like to eat, and within various cities," Singh said. "It integrates across OpenTable and Table8 to actually do the booking."

Then there are the big travel guys like United Airlines, Singh said.

"United will be the first to tell you that they haven't done a real upgrade to their Web or mobile booking apps for years," Singh said. "You're about to see a pretty massive-scale upgrade. Within Windows 8, for example, they will have a special Concur tile within their new app that will give you a totally seamless experience across the booking of flights, reserving cars and so on, and then automatically putting it all into Concur expense.

"It's cool to see where the innovation is going. We've seen so much innovation in consumer travel, but corporate travel has been a space that has been largely closed because of the incumbent [and very proprietary] leaders in that market," Singh said. "Companies like American Express Travel or Sabre are very happy about not opening up the marketplace because they control it."

Concur is the first company of scale to open up the technology stack in the market through cloud services and enable developers to use their creativity and build their own apps on top of it, Singh said. As a result, "an amazing amount of innovation is starting to happen in corporate travel," he said. "And this is in a market that is 2X the size of consumer travel."

Concur Has 350 Apps Being Integrated

There are now about 350 different apps being integrated into the Concur application set, Singh said.

As for Concur itself, Singh said, "We like to lead with mobile, and we came out with a new mobile interface last January. We also have a new desktop user interface which we're really proud of. We're really focusing on making the user experience better all the time."
To obtain more information about developing on the Concur platform, go here.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...