Benefits and Challenges of Global Travel Data Consolidation

Corporations are constantly struggling to capture, report, and make critical business decisions related to travel data and Travel and Entertainment expenses (T&E). T&E for most corporations is the second or largest controllable expense after payroll and the landscape of travel data shifts and changes almost every day. Add to this the challenges of managing a global operation and it becomes even more difficult. Through vendor relationships, the right tools and proper planning, travel data can be tamed.

Global Travel Data Consolidation CHALLENGES

The first and primary challenge is the collection of all of your corporate spend data. Data lives in a variety of locations and formats. Timeliness of the collection of this data, as well, is an important factor. The following are the primary sources of purchasing data:

  1. Travel Request/Approval System
  2. Global Distribution Systems (GDS) – Reservation Systems
  3. Online Booking Engines
  4. Travel Agency Back-Office Accounting System
  5. Credit Card/Central Billing Accounts
  6. Expense Management Systems
  7. Human Resources Systems
  8. Enterprise Accounting Systems

A second challenge is adoption and use of the systems to ensure the coordination and capture of the data for each and every penny spent by employees within the organization. Even if all the travel data is captured, data quality is a common challenge. Data must be captured in accurate and consistent formats across the organization. Getting this data in a consistent and complete format and structure can be daunting. Globally there is a challenge with varieties of currencies, tax structures, and regional reporting issues when looking at a global program.

Once you fully collect and clean the travel data, there is the challenge of taking this information and applying it in a meaningful way. The data needs to speak clearly to management to allow them to make effective business decisions, set goals, and measure results. These results must then be communicated effectively to the team.

Collection of the data in a timely manner is critical to be able to act on the data to produce results, control costs and evaluate traveler behavior.

Global Travel Data Consolidation BENEFITS

Collecting a complete picture will improve visibility, transparency, and help to manage financial goals at critical moments. This can be pivotal in health and survival of companies today. Here are just some of the core benefits of a total picture of your travel and entertainment expenses:

  1. Corporate Policy Enforcement
  2. Cost Savings
  3. Transparency
  4. Traveler Security
  5. Benchmarking
  6. Goal Setting
  7. Managing and Monitoring

Traditionally reporting and analysis was primarily used to monitor policy enforcement and cost savings. With the current political and financial climate, there are many other types of reporting that have come into play. For publicly traded companies, transparency is crucial. Managing and monitoring of trends in spending and forecasting future expenditures are valuable today to control and succeed with tighter budgets. Being able to identify at a moment’s notice where your travelers are during a natural disaster or political crisis has become a standard for most large corporations.

Today, by bringing all of this data together, a corporation can begin to do predictive analysis of traveler’s behavior and spending habits. This analysis, combined with the right programs and goals can be used to measure the impact on traveler behavior.

Other benefits of consolidating these disparate data sources together are the visibility gained from comparing data across types to see if travelers are utilizing the tools provided. Some examples are online booking adoption, use of corporate travel cards, and effective use of the TMC relationship (Travel Agency). Another huge benefit is being able to leverage this data to improve vendor negotiations and monitoring contract goals and contract compliance.

BEST PRACTICES – There is no blueprint for success

Benefits and Challenges of Global Travel Data Consolidation

       #1 HAVE A CLEAR STRATEGY

Travel data consolidation requires a clear strategy. Define what you want to measure, what you need to deliver and what elements of data are required to meet your goals. Collect information from all of your current

vendors that you are working with today and determine what information they can and are willing to provide. Identify what frequency they can provide this data and in what formats that they can provide this information.

Survey your entire organization to get complete feedback on what opportunities exist for improvement. Full access to the data can help meet a team’s goals and answer questions. Look for other organizations and individuals that have implemented a consolidation program. Learn what their successes, failure, and lessons were and discuss it. See if these apply to your goals. 

       #2 CHOOSE THE RIGHT PARTNERS

Your existing vendors may not suit your long term goals or able to meet your data requirements. Evaluate each vendor and look for partners most willing to assist you and that have the ability to provide you with the most data that suits your goals.

Contract with professionals that have significant knowledge, expertise, and technology to reach your goals. These resources may be within your organization.

Work with a variety of members of your team that the data impacts or can provide benefits. The involvement of these individuals can mean success or failure. Choosing good advisory and planning team is crucial.

       #3 MEASURING RESULTS

Make sure that the end result provides measurable results and compliments the objectives of your organization. There are many business intelligence tools in the market for producing the data in dashboards and reports. Unfortunately these tools don’t know or understand your business. Make sure that you have a very clear picture of what type of data analysis you will be conducting. Use these tools to evaluate where you are at today and how your goals will impact these numbers.

Set goals based on where you are and where you want to go. Reviewing these goals periodically and adjusting your strategy is a must. Once you have access to it, the actual data may invalidate your original assumptions. Be prepared to adapt.

Deliver your results consistently to the appropriate team members and get honest feedback on the results.

       #4 FORECASTING AND PREDICTING

Explore other opportunities within the data. You will find there is limitless, valuable data within your organization that can give you a visibility into patterns and trends. Playing with the numbers and exploring continually will present new opportunities that you never imagined. Many tools today have the ability to do “what if” scenarios and you can see immediately what the impact changes in policies can have.

Data consolidation can be an exciting program to implement in an organization. It can lead to better management of travel data, travel spend and significant cost savings. Corporations will have better insight and confidence into their overall travel data picture.

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