Concur launches structured partner program in travel and expense industry

2016_Concur_Logo_Reg_VT_ColorConcur, the cloud-based leader in the travel and expense management space, is introducing what it is calling the first structured channel program in that industry segment. It is particularly targeted at the SMB space. The program is now available in both the U.S. and Canada, with the U.K. and Australia soon to follow.

Concur was acquired by SAP for $8.3 billion in late 2014. Since then, Steve Singh, Concur’s CEO, has made a rapid rise at SAP, in which he appears to have responsibility for all SAP’s applications except for HANA. The Concur Solution Provider program falls into the bailiwick of Sachin Vora, who had been worldwide SMB partner lead at Microsoft, and who came to Concur as Senior Director of Global Business Development. Concur will be leveraging Vora’s Microsoft background at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference [WPC] in Toronto next week, where Concur has Booth 429.

“WPC is a good venue for us, and we are looking at Microsoft partners for our program,” Vora said. “By making the announcement before the event begins, this lets us avoid getting lost in all the WPC conversation.”

What makes this partner program interesting is that Concur has always had a direct sales model – and that won’t change with the program. They are not adding a channel component to sell into the SMB space. They are using the program to expand their presence in the SMB space through partners willing to work on the referral model.

“Concur sells to a market which extends from small companies to large enterprises, but our fastest growing customer segment is SMB,” Vora said. “We have always been strong believers in the power of the ecosystem. In SMB, you need to work with the influencers, and that’s the channel. The channel is a great force multiplier for us in the SMB space.”

Referral models in the IT channel tend to be more the domain of consultants, and are usually less attractive to solution providers, who generally want to maintain control of the customer. However, Vorin said the distinct nature of their offering, combined with the structure of the managed services industry, should make this appealing to quality partners.

“Cloud partners are looking to expand their cloud offerings to their customer base, and travel and expense management is the second largest area of controllable business spend,” Vora stated. “We are the leader in the space and there is a clear need for the solution. Concur lets partners expand their cloud-based offerings to include this area. They don’t have to invest. It’s the fastest ramp for the partner to add an important new solution in the cloud.”

“For partners, most growth comes from SMB, so its key to win there in the cloud world,” he added. “With Concur, they have the opportunity to extend their cloud business.”

Vora said that the Microsoft channel is a strong fit here.

“The Microsoft ecosystem has adapted to Office 365,” he said. “They are now targeting value beyond Office 365 to augment their profitability. Concur is something where an Office 365 partner can provide immediate value-add and augment profitability with the rich incentives we are providing.”

The program has three tiers – Registered, Platinum and Diamond – although Vora indicated that Concur isn’t looking to create the kind of massive channel found in some cloud segments, where thousands and thousands of partners are common.

“We don’t want to get overdistributed,” he said. “The program is structured to cater to both ends of the spectrum – from highly focused at one end, to opportunistic at the other.”

Vora noted that even partners at the Registered level will be carefully selected.

“We are targeting partners who are already cloud providers, as well as next-generation VARs looking to augment their practices with a fast-to-market cloud model,” he stated. “We will provide them with resources around product marketing and sales.”

For the Platinum and Diamond tiers, Vora said Concur is looking at partners ready to establish a business model around the cloud.

“The support for these tiers is primarily around go-to-market, including helping the partner drive demand generation at Concur-supported events,” he said. “They are also eligible for revenue sharing, which is based on customer wins from referrals.” Partners get a certain percentage in the first two years of the deal. After that, the revenues cease, but Vora said that the partners are still eligible for other continued benefits around the program.

“The program is also structured so they can move through tiers based on performance,” he added.