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Decision making in the dark: Why it’s time to shine the light on corporate travel programs

June 18, 2019
Matthew Beck
Matthew Beck

Many senior travel directors are finding themselves left in the dark when it comes to gaining greater visibility and control of their corporate travel programs.

As they know all too well, more data doesn’t always result in greater insight, yet they find themselves trying to balance c-suite demands of an ever more optimized program without securing the investment in the necessary tools to deliver.

Some are left to manually join the dots between third-party reports and expense spreadsheets that provide little correlation or actionable insights while others have the data equivalent of night-vision goggles – a digital solution that gives them improved visibility of spend but the picture is still fragmented and incomplete.

A corporate travel program’s success can be determined by the visibility and control a senior travel director has over their organization’s data. Gaining total visibility of T&E spend is an ultimate aim but, with teams spending up to 40 hours a month trying to reconcile data many are left asking if end-to-end visibility and greater control is really achievable?

Having real-time visibility across all aspects of their company’s travel spend, with clearly identifiable actions enables travel directors to make informed decisions, plan for and take action on a range of potential scenarios and ultimately gain control of spend.

As a result, they can strengthen their negotiating position with suppliers and third parties and optimize service, thereby reducing leakage to off-program channels and better plan future spend and activity. It also significantly improves their position when seeking sponsorship of the program from the c-suite, not to mention the benefits of having complete spend visibility when entering into supplier negotiations and review.

Pro-active directors seek out numerous sources of data which is often siloed with little or no way of combining the disparate data sources or standardizing the information to make thorough analysis feasible.

Less than one-third (29%) of travel program owners currently utilize systems that automatically merge all data sources. Today, most rely on semi-automated tools that still require them to do much of the processing.

Analyzing and making sense of this data can pose significant challenges. A recent report found that 64.79% of respondents said matching-up different data sources and having data in many places are the biggest blockers to achieving 100% visibility.

Beyond data aggregation, standard reports primarily focus on spend statistics - the ‘what’ - and fail to identify patterns and provide insights into the ‘how’ and ‘why’, let alone suggest ‘what-if’ scenarios on the impact of potential improvements.

The future of data management

So, what’s the solution?

As companies explore the digitalization of other parts of their business, senior travel directors too are exploring the benefits cognitive computing can provide to their operations. New technology designed specifically for the travel industry combines and standardizes all data streams into one easily visualized real-time dashboard that provides a single point of reference.

The tool makes in-depth analysis easy, enabling travel teams to gain end-to-end understanding of travel spend behavior, identify opportunities for additional savings and invest their time actioning the insights to optimize the program rather than reconciling the data.

Rather than relying on guesswork or taking days to run scenarios, senior travel directors can quickly run a range of ‘what if’ scenarios to understand how changes in behaviors impact a travel program and how even small program adjustments can deliver big benefits.

Finally, senior travel directors can have the right tools at their fingertips to shine a light on their corporate travel program and take action to deliver a fully optimized approach. Better insights lead to better decisions. Ultimately, they can identify further savings and efficiencies, enhancing user experience and deliver an optimized program.