A View into the Future of the Meetings & Travel Industry

Corporate Meetings Summit Keynote: A View into the Future from Steve Sighn

Imagine the following scenario:

You need to fly from Seattle to London at the end of the month. Instead of going through methods available to you today, you pick up your phone and speak "Book me a flight from Seattle to London." Your phone responds, "Got it, what date would you like to go?" Normally you would then expect to book your hotel, but, you don't have to. Your phone is taking care of it automatically. Your phone knows your history: it knows where you've stayed in the past, the types of features you like in a hotel, the price you're willing to pay. In addition, it can compare your itinerary and corporate travel policy to automatically book the hotel for you.

When you get off the plane in London, technology knows you've landed and starts the hotel check-in process for you. From the beginning of the jet way to the end, you will be completely checked. No need to stand in line when you reach the hotel after a 13 hour flight. You can walk through the lobby, head straight for the elevators and go straight to the room, using your smart phone as the room key.

Your phone will then create the expense report and submit it for you, including taxi fares to and from the airport.

Maybe you read this scenario and think, "No way. I want to control the travel process" or maybe you think, "Yes!! Where do I sign up? I want it now!" The good and the bad news is, the technology is there for this to happen now. The scenario above is on its way. The beauty of the rise of the smartphone is that it's always connected. It has more computing power than the technology that put man on the moon. Soon, we won’t need to carry around a set of keys and a wallet with us. We will only need our phones. The smartphone is quickly becoming a procurement device. Question is what do we need to manage that?

During his keynote at the 2012 Corporate Meetings Summit this week, Steve Singh, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors at Concur, outlined this scenario along with other technology trends that promise to completely transform the industry in the next several years. Steve has been in the technology industry for over thirty years. When he started, he was programming on a Macintosh computer. Technology wasn't pervasive. It wasn't everywhere. Today, technology is a central part of how we operate. It touches every part of the organization. To be successful, you need to figure out how to harness technology in a way that drives value.

Change is the single biggest variable in our world, but it's so hard to embrace change because it challenges us and forces us outside our comfort zone. But change is progress and advancement. Change is what is going to allow us to check in to our hotel without ever stopping by the check-in desk.

The overarching theme of Steve's presentation was about technology and, as it often happens when we talk about adopting new technology, change management. Overall, the keynote could be summed up simply with this quote by Charles Kettering:

The world hates change yet it is the only thing that has brought us progress.

Going forward Steve predicts the travel and meetings industry is going to become traveler-centric. The traveler, the person going to the meeting, is going to begin demanding change. They will download a consumer oriented app on their phone, and then they are then going to demand similar applications for their organization. This is going to drive change the behavior within the enterprise.

So how can you bring revolutionize your organizations' processes? First, you need to find the right vendors. For customers to thrive and succeed there needs to be integrations across platforms. However, only the best organizations can invest in those integrations. Select the vendors with open platforms and open APIs.

This is exactly what Concur’s Connect platform is trying to do: open the application for others to plug into to meet their specific needs. Third party developers are building fantastic apps on top of what Concur offers. Taking just one example, there are 2000 travel applications listed in the App Store. No one company can innovate at that rate. To win, you have to innovate from everywhere.

We have to embrace technology. It never stops changing and our ability to drive value for the organization is dependent on our ability to adopt new technology across the enterprise. It’s an exciting time to be in the meetings and travel industry! 



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