At Concur Labs, we collaborate with engineering, design and product teams to challenge our thinking and push the boundaries of what’s possible: How can virtual assistants like Amazon Echo help travelers? Is there an easier way to submit receipts from your Outlook Inbox? Can drivers capture expenses from their car dashboard?
A Continual State of Idea Flow
There’s a constant flow of ideas in our daily work, and inspiration comes from many of the latest development methodologies: Design-thinking, design sprints and a lean, startup approach.
Design-thinking is a key part of how we experiment and prototype. It’s a human-centered approach to solving a problem that integrates diverse points of view and helps validate business ideas with real people. The process involves running “sprints”: Researching, thinking, prototyping, producing, gathering feedback and starting the loop all over again. In Labs, we use this methodology to explore ideas and validate whether or not we’re going in the right direction.
“We’ve been experimenting with several different processes and almost immediately found success in a ‘mini design sprint,’ a modified Google design sprint where we identify a problem, ideate, prototype and validate in one day. By getting our multidisciplinary team in a room at once, we’re able to quickly gain consensus on a problem and potential solution,” explains Sr. UX Designer Alicia Christman. “To encourage creativity across the company, we’ve also experimented with one-hour meet-ups, called Lean Coffee. In these sessions, participants decide the agenda and talk about everything from processes to programs. The key is getting different teams within the organization to share their perspectives, no matter what the topic.”
Global Hackathon: Surfacing Ideas from Teams Worldwide
Another big part of what Labs does is instigate, in a good way. We like to introduce new collaborations that involve different groups in creative problem-solving through meetups, lunch-and-learns and hackathons.
Hackathons are run company-wide to try out new integrations or services. For the first time, we co- hosted a global hackathon series with the Office of the CTO and R&D. The goal? Challenge teams on a worldwide scale to build new travel and expense solutions in a 24- or 48-hour time period.
Fueled by coffee, treats and creativity, the global series led to a completely new set of features, integrations and services for product roadmap consideration—think iOS 10’s 3D touch, bots, messaging services and itinerary tools. Teams from Prague, Paris, Maidenhead, St. Leon-Rot and across the U.S. participated, and several of the features proposed are already being built into products.
The global series also gave participants uninterrupted time to experiment. "You get to act on something that’s been on your mind," explains Developer Bruno Marinho. "And you’re given an opportunity to try to make a difference.” Hackathon Finalist Arun Mannava reports: “Because of the hackathon, I got to implement the ideas we have and present them to the company.”
What’s Next for Concur Labs?
We recently released a beta integration with Microsoft Office 365 that makes it simple to submit expenses right from your Outlook Inbox. Our Concur IFTTT (If This Then That) beta, ifttt.com/concur, lets you combine your favorite services to perform tasks like turning your house lights off while you’re on a business trip. Our “Personal Card” beta enables you to submit expenses from your personal bank; and we’re also experimenting with virtual assistants and chatbots for quick expensing. All these initiatives are designed to discover new ways of delivering the “expense report that writes itself” and the “perfect trip.”