Concur Delivers Mobile Travel Moments on a Cloud Technology Platform

The following is an excerpt from The Mobile Mind Shift, Groundswell Press, 2014, pages 153-4. Click here for more on Forrester's mobile mind shift market imperative.

Steve Singh knows about the challenges of building technology platforms for great mobile moments. He learned them honestly by moving his entire company and its customers to a cloud technology platform.

Steve is CEO and co-founder of Concur Technologies. Concur helps businesses and government agencies manage their corporate travel bookings and expenses.

Concur’s technology platform, which Steve calls the Concur Travel and Expense Cloud, is designed for the demands of mobile moments: It supports applications that make it easy for travelers to focus on a few tasks and complete them quickly. Travel and expense (T&E) software is by its nature complex, but at Concur, the complexity remains behind the scenes in the servers, not in the user interface because busy travelers and business expense managers have no time to puzzle out complexity. To make this work, Concur invests 40% of its research and development budget in the applications and 60% in the cloud technology platform that provides the services.

The success of the strategy and technology platform is reflected in the rapid growth of his company, from a startup in 1993 to more than $540 million in revenues in 2013.

Concur’s cloud technology platform delivers four benefits.

  • First, because the Concur software running in the cloud is the same for every customer, developers working on it can fix problems continuously and roll out new services daily.
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Facebook's Mobile Ad Revenue Signals The Escalation Of The Mobile Mind Shift

Facebook's steely revenue march is fueled by mobile ads: 62% of Facebook's Q2 2014 advertising revenue came from mobile ads, up from 41% just a year ago. This ad revenue may still just be a paper castle waiting to fall -- my colleage Nate Elliott's analysis that Facebook is still failing marketers suggests that. But right now over a billion people around the world -- 81% of its entire member base -- access Facebook on mobile devices every month, twice as many as did just two years ago (see Figure 1). And they are seeing ads.

Source: Facebook

I see three important conclusions stemming from Facebook's results:

  1. The mobile mind shift is hitting critical mass around the world. People increasingly engage with people, information, and services on their mobile devices first. Forrester forecasts that 2.4 billion will have smartphones by 2017, twice the number as in 2012. So if your customer isn't mobile today, they will be soon -- across every generation. Firms must serve their increasingly impatient mobile customers with great mobile experiences. It's what our book, The Mobile Mind Shift, is about. Facebook is both driving and benefiting from the mobile mind shift as it delivers ever-more services on the devices people crave.
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A Mobile Mind Shift Infographic To Celebrate Our Publication

We published The Mobile Mind Shift this week! You can buy it herehere, or at your favorite bookstore. 

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Apple's iOS 8 Focuses On Developers Building New Mobile Moments

Yesterday in San Francisco, Apple showed once again that it cares about developers. And well it should. With Flurry reporting consumers spending 86% of their smartphone time in apps, not Web sites, the 1.14 million apps in the US App Store are just a drop in the bucket. We expect to see that number swell to 10 million apps by 2020. But that will only happen if Apple and the rest of the mobile industry focus relentlessly on developers.

Apple's goal is winning all the mobile moments. [See our new book, The Mobile Mind Shift, for much more on this important way of looking at the mobile revolution.] Developers are key to reaching that goal. Here are the things that struck me from Apple's announcements yesterday:

  • More tools for developers. A new development language, "4,000" new APIs, a new testbed capability, and access to Touch ID, basic Siri language processing, and look-ahead typing are just the most obvious new capabilities that Apple is offering developers. To build innovative new apps, developers need all the tools and support they can get. These announcements reflect Apple's paced but steady rollout of things developers care about.
  • More access to more sensors, hence context. Though Apple downplayed the healthcare opportunities a bit, it knows that developers need access to all the sensors on the devices in order to build interesting mobile moments in health, fitness, and location-based applications. These applications need to take advantage of all the context of that moment. 
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How Do New “Systems Of Insight” Power Great Mobile Moments And Customer Experiences? -- Launching New Research

Customers crave contextual and personal experiences on their mobile devices. Companies are looking to the reams of location and behavior data spun off mobile device to deliver them. Meanwhile, executives long for the insights lurking just below the surface of the new data they collect on customers and prospects to improve services and chart the best business strategy. 
 
In most companies, mobile engagement, customer analytics, innovation, and business strategy happen in silos and often half-heartedly. But disruptors like Uber, TripIt, Netflix, Flipboard, and Starbucks deliver great and personalized mobile and digital experiences -- and optimize outcomes -- with insights derived from all the data they can gather.
 
We believe these disrupters deliver great mobile experiences by building what my colleague Brian Hopkins has termed a “system of insight” that goes far beyond traditional analytics or big data approaches to gather, analyze, and operationalize all the data to deliver great mobile moments. These companies are different – they take a systematic approach to linking mobile data to big data analytics technology, staff, and operations. This lets them take advantage of mobile data to improve customer experiences and their business.
 
Brian and I believe that these firms are building systems of insight by:
  1. Gathering and mining mobile and location data to continually find and harness new customer insights. 
  2. Embedding predictive analytics engines into their engagement platforms to deliver contextual and personalized mobile and digital experiences based on each individual’s unique score and context.
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How InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) Makes Mobile Guest Moments Great

IHG, owner of InterContinental Hotels Group, wants to fully inhabit the mobile moments of its hotel guests in their journey from booking to arriving to staying to departing. Bill Keen is the Director of Mobile Solutions at InterContinental Hotels Group. You can try out his app here. He shared his experiences making mobile a cornerstone of IHG’s customer strategy in this interview at Forrester's recent Technology Management Forum in Orlando, Florida. My take is that three things drive mobile mind shift success at IHG:
 
  1. Bill and his team relentlessly focus on mobile moments that improve the guest experience, from booking in to in-room services.
  2. Bill’s business team works side by side with the business technology team to build apps. Bill describes a special "team chemistry."
  3. The multi-disciplinary team uses a sophisticated agile process to quickly extend things that work and fix things that don’t.
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Wendy's, Mobile Payment Moments Need To Be One-Touch Easy

I love Wendy's Dave's Hot 'n Juicy 3/4 lb Triple burger as much as the next Neanderthal, especially after riding 50 miles in the rain. And I love mobile payments because while I often leave my wallet at home, I'm Strava-ing the ride so I always have my phone.

Now while Wendy's mobile payments app has the potential to make it easier to eat burgers on the road, it's getting bashed in the app store. And it has one more annoying problem that I'd like to focus on here: I have to read off a six-digit code for a counter clerk to enter to make it work. While reading off a code to inhale a burger when starving may not sound like much, it's harder than swiping a debit card, so it ain't easy enough.

In our research for The Mobile Mind Shift, we found that what matters most is delivering a great mobile moment -- a point in time and space when someone pulls out a mobile device to get something they want in their immediate context. Getting the mobile moment right is critical to being present in the small and important moments in your customers' lives. Two principles define a great mobile moment:

  1. Deliver huge customer benefit and value to the firm. If the moment isn't hugely beneficial to a consumer, then the mobile moment won't exist at all. The app must do something truly useful it won't earn a place on the screen.
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Dropbox For Business Pursues A Sensible Consumerization Path Into The Enterprise

Dropbox has 275 million users. It's steadily improving the business capability of its Internet file system. That makes it important to understand what Dropbox is doing and why it matters to business. Here's what they are doing:

  • Last week, Dropbox secured a $500 million line of credit. My take is that Dropbox will use this money to build datacenters as well as global business capacity. Today, the company uses cheap storage from Amazon S3, but it keeps all the juice (like user permissions, search metadata, and application data) in its own data centers. This cheap funding (debt is much cheaper than equity) gives it a reasonable capital structure to buy lots of servers to build global applications.
  • Yesterday, Dropbox made its new Dropbox for Business "linked folders" generally available. This feature lets technology managers give employees a business Dropbox that it can secure and own. Employees can link the business Dropbox to their personal Dropbox so they see all their files in a consistent way. When an employee leavers the firm, the business Dropbox disappears from personal devices (if it works as designed). Customers like Facebook are using this product and seeing a big shift in its employees moving business files from a personal Dropbox to the new business Dropbox.
  • Dropbox has attracted 100,000 disrupters -- many of which are targeting mobile moments. Mobile moments open up a universe of new personal and business applications to get things done in a small moments of need. This level of partner investment is a huge deal because it signals that Dropbox is becoming a file system for the Internet era. Using Dropbox, these innovators can simply inherit the entire file management and storage sub-system they need.
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Bill Gates: Run Silent, Run Deep During Microsoft's CEO Transition

[Updated February 7, 2014]

Satya Nadella is Microsoft's new CEO. Check. He's the right person for the job, insider, change agent, provocateur. To see his 10-point todo list, see this Forrester report.

Bill Gates is leaving Microsoft's board to "substantially increase time" spent at Microsoft. Check. What, huh? How can both things be true? How can Bill Gates leave the board, but remain involved in the company?

Here's what I think will happen: Bill Gates will play a critical though invisible role in Microsoft's future. By leaving the board of directors, he won't be making strategic decisions as chairman. He won't be driving the strategic decisions as chairman of the board, but he will be a vital force behind the scenes. Here are three jobs that Mr. Gates must get right:

  1. Be silent on the strategy, transition, and plans. I believe that Mr. Gates new role is to advise and support Mr. Nadella as the new CEO pushes the company faster on a pivot to the cloud. The company has much to do. 1) Mash the products together into SaaS offerings. (Mr. Nadella has already done this with Azure, but now must do with Office 365, Skype, Dynamics, Bing, and much much more.) 2) Create a more comprehensive private cloud offering (beyond Office 365 Dedicated). 3) Break the lock between Windows and the rest of the business. (It's the only way subscription services are interesting to today's consumers and businesses. For example, Office must run everywhere.) Mr. Nadella will need help, not interference.
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Mobile Needs A Four-Tier Engagement Platform

Michael Facemire, John McCarthy, and I recently published a clarion call to the technology industry: It's time for a new architecture! The aging Web isn't designed to handle mobile apps or sites. And it certainly can't handle the real-time demands of connected products.

Here's how we summarize it:

Mobile is pushing aging web architectures to the brink. The three-tier architecture built for a browser-led PC world can't flex, scale, or respond to the needs of a good mobile experience or the emerging requirements for connected products. Mobile's volatility and velocity of change require a distributed four-tier architecture that we call an "engagement platform." The engagement platform separates technical capabilities into four parts: client, delivery, aggregation, and services. The new requirements of modern apps will force content distribution networks, application server vendors, mobile middleware vendors, platform-as-a-service suppliers, a myriad of startups, and enterprises to coalesce around this four-tier architecture. CIOs need to start planning immediately for the migration from three tiers to four.

It's time to throw out the old notion of a three-tier architecture -- presentation, application, data -- and replace it with a four-tier engagement platform that can handle the new demands:

An engagement platform suppports a distributed, four-tier architecture natively engineered to deliver compelling experiences, excellent performance, and modular integration on any device over any network at Internet scale.

 

Figure 1 The Four-Tier Engagement Platform Makes Delivery Its Own Tier

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