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Matthew Beck

How new technology is giving travel directors total spend visibility

June 28, 2019

Senior travel directors have one key mission – to optimize their corporate travel program by identifying costs savings, removing traveler pain-points and ensuring the program runs as efficiently as possible. 

As a trusted advisor, they are under increasing pressure to provide detailed, actionable insights to their constituents. Yet many are forced to base critical planning and implementation on educated assumptions and guesswork because, without new cognitive computing tools, their access to travel data is siloed and fragmented – compiled from TMC reports, T&E spreadsheets and other third-party providers. 

While gaining end-to-end visibility and control over travel spend is the ultimate aim of a senior travel director, most rely on semi-automated tools which add little actionable value that still require them to do much of the legwork.

Now, organizations are starting to explore the role of Artificial Intelligence and cognitive computing in a bid to deliver efficiencies across their travel program and while reducing leakage to off-policy providers.

“Cognitive-computing-tools“

One of those tools is IBM Travel Manager brought to market in collaboration with Travelport.  This SaaS system integrates and analyses data from travel agencies, cards, expense systems, and suppliers for end-to-end visibility of spend and compliance across all travel subcategories. It leverages advanced text mining, natural language processing (NLP), and crowdsourcing to normalize and reconcile data to a far greater degree of accuracy than possible with simpler processes.

With a single portal that combines all the data, role-based dashboards provide clear visibility of all spend while advanced analytics provide actionable insights including what-if scenarios to identify traveler behavior patterns for opportunity analysis enabling better-informed decisions to be made. Ultimately it provides the right person, with the right information at the right time. 

IBM Travel Manager also allows users to manage trend detection and alerts to highlight program changes as new data becomes available.  Trend detection and alerts are available regardless of data source or user role.

Optimized travel program
With all the data reconciled and available on one easy-to-visualize dashboard, understanding spend behavior and trends is easier. 

Senior travel directors can finally have end-to-end visibility with the ability to identify hot-points where travelers are likely to go off-policy, identify further hotel, rental car, and airline savings and run scenarios to test how changes to the program will affect overall performance. Having complete visibility of traveler spend enables travel teams to fully understand and better influence travel behavior.

Identify saving opportunities
Having a real-time analysis of travel data enables travel directors to better manage volume and threshold targets that have been negotiated with suppliers. Results are at their fingertips and can be utilized and modified during the actual conversations with supplier representatives.  Additionally, they can build a complete picture of where non-compliant spend is happening and take steps to reduce it. 

What-if scenario management
Without cognitive computing solutions, it can take senior travel directors hours to fully work through various policy adjustment scenarios. With Travel Manager they can run multiple ‘what if?’ reports at the click of a button – gaining savings visibility for shifting the share from one vendor to another, changing advance purchase windows and improved utilization of negotiated rates, for example.

Maximize traveler experience
With total visibility of travel data and the ability to test scenarios, senior travel directors can finally gain a granular level understanding of travel behavior and identify steps to take to deliver a frictionless travel experience. 

Combining IBM Travel Manager with other tools such as their online booking tool and the mobility solution Travelport Engage, directors have an integrated platform to do everything in their power to deliver a smooth travel experience right from the moment the need to travel is identified to the moment they return safely home and submit their expenses.

Duty of care
At the heart of all corporate travel programs are people not data. Every company has a duty of care to safeguard its people’s safety and wellbeing. An optimized travel program reduces leakage to non-compliant booking channels ensuring companies always know where their people are, can keep in touch with them throughout their trip and support and advice when needed.

A trusted business advisor
As a senior member of the business, a senior travel director needs to become a trusted advisor to peers throughout the organization and other stakeholders. The foundation of achieving this is to have in-depth, expert knowledge which only comes from having complete data visibility. In this way, they can leverage data in real-time discussions with c-suite leaders, gain credible responses for missing contracted volumes with suppliers and negotiate from a position of strength.

IBM Travel Manager in collaboration with Travelport enables senior travel directors to deliver on the travel program’s potential. With end-to-end visibility of travel spend and the ability to effectively test scenarios they can make better decisions, deliver better outcomes and ultimately fully optimize their corporate travel program.

Optimizing corporate travel