More and more companies are realizing that the key to driving their travel program forward, is by getting ahead of their data. The more developed your travel data strategy is, the further you can go with your travel program. Nowadays, some of the most developed travel data strategies have helped to connect an organization’s travel management to their overall business strategy.
The most exciting thing about where the industry is currently, is the development and availability of technology that can really push your travel data strategy forward. Since the 1990s (at least), the number of data sources that can provide potentially valuable information and actionable insight has increased exponentially. Technology puts all that data into your hands. As we like to say, “All your travel data at your fingertips, when you need it the most”. And perhaps best of all, technology provides a “touch-free” environment, eliminating a majority of manual tasks. Considering the sheer amount of data that is available nowadays, manual tasks just aren’t going to cut it anymore.
But you already knew all that, right?
When it comes to managing your travel data, implementing the proper technology and tools is only a part of the equation. This isn’t a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. You need to continually nurture this process and adjust in order to make it work for you and your business. Be proactive with your data!
The power of data is in how it is managed, not just what technology you have behind it. Your tools that automate time-consuming tasks will help you save money and improve workflows. Intelligent software will ensure that your data is not only delivered in a timely manner, but more importantly, it is accurate as well. But in order to tie in your travel data strategy with your business’ overall strategy? That part is up to you.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when implementing technology into your travel data strategy.
travel data management best practices
Have a clear set of objectives and goals that are in line with your corporate policy and corporate culture. Use key performance indicators to achieve maximum cost savings, effective spending and contracting. Start with a baseline and benchmark against yourself, not others. You need to capture a baseline average of behavior for your travelers that correspond to what your objectives are for change.
Measure and Adjust
You can measure the impact of your objectives by using key performance indicators. You may need to consistently adjust your goals or methods of measuring your progress. Based on the traveler’s role in the company or different job types or divisions, you may need to define different goals or policies. This of course depends on a multitude of criteria and it is all about “knowing your travelers”. Each division, department or line of business may have it’s own “personality” and in turn, have a different set of objectives. You probably won’t hit your targets on the first try, or your might even pick the wrong target. But keep refining and try again.
Get a baseline before you implement any objectives and benchmark against that baseline.
Validate that the actions you put in place relate to the outcome you desire by using KPIs.
Some good base KPI’s include:
- Travel percent of company revenue
- Travel percent of company expense
- Total average cost per trip
- Travel cost per employee
2. Data Sources
To put it simply, there are a lot of data sources that travel managers need to have readily available. The following some data sources should be considered for a comprehensive solution:
- Global Distribution Systems (GDS) reservations
- TMC ticketed data
- HR/ERP feeds
- Purchase Card
- Contracted Vendor Data
- Meetings Management
With so much relevant information available, travel managers need a strategy and an appropriate set of tools that can collect, clean, consolidate and report effectively on all of this data. A strategy is imperative to optimize the specific elements of the data that will have the largest impact upon your budget. This will allow you to utilize the information in your possession in a timely fashion in order to achieve your objectives.
- If you have multiple TMC’s, get all of them to submit data to you
- Work with IT or a third party to bring in expense data
- Get your card data
- Phone statistics
- Traveler feedback/surveys
3. Quantity, Quality, and Frequency
The three most important factors that will impact your success are your ability to monitor, measure and react. The endgame is having near real-time access to as much accurate data as possible.
First and foremost, in order to ensure that you are making the best decisions, you need to have as much information as possible. The more, the better and for as everyone in the industry knows, there is a lot of data in travel. But sheer amount is not everything, not even close. You need to be sure that the data you are getting is accurate. High data quality allows for an accurate measurement of your goals, compliance, and traveler types. As far as frequency goes, you need timely access to data in order for the exceptions and opportunities to be captured while there is still an opportunity to take action. Sometimes timely is better than accurate and sometimes the other way around. Define this for each KPI.
- Invest in a mid-office product and/or agent scripts to improve data quality
- Ensure quality when planning and use frequency when tracking and capturing data
- Work closely with your vendors and internal sources for data
- Dedicate a resource for monitoring
- Use tools for automation of reporting and monitoring to your goals/targets
4. Data Consolidation
Consolidate your data into a single location. This will exponentially increase the points of measurement and analysis available to you. Being able to compare across TMC, Expense, Purchase Card and other data, exposes additional variables that you would not be able to see by only looking at a single source of data.
A variety of data sources will also allow you to supplement data from a single source and greatly improve the quality and accuracy.
- Make sure you only collect what you need, so work backwards from the reports to the source.
- Enforce consistency across all partners for capture of critical data points.
- Use a unique employee identifier in all data sources. This will allow for roll-up to company/division/department and reduce PII issues.
5. Reporting and Analytics
Having the data is one thing. Making it work for you is another. The technology you implement needs to be easily deployed across your organization and be accessible to users of differing skill levels. This will greatly impact the adoption of the tool.
This in turn will better measuring, reduction of your reaction time and improved monitoring of cost savings opportunities.
- Capture use of refundable tickets
- Monitor for high fares and fare-drop opportunities
- Report on and use your unused tickets
- Look aggressively at why tickets are being exchanged
- Monitor and manage advance purchase
- Make sure you try a live demo of any reporting/analytics with a variety of skill levels
You don’t have to go at it alone! There is help out there and in order to achieve your goals, you need to have a great working relationship with the partners you choose.
When evaluating partners, look for those who will collaborate with you. This is important because a good partner should not aim to just fulfill your needs but, exceed your expectations by anticipating trends your own business as well as in the constantly changing travel industry. These partners should work with you to support and provide technology necessary for you to stay ahead of the curve.
Who you choose to work with can make all the difference and that is pretty much applicable to anything in life. Well, travel data management is no different.
- Communicate your goals and targets to your vendors so they can help and provide guidance
- Support your vendors and they will support you. Refer them to others if they are doing a good job
- Provide vendors feedback if they are doing a good or bad job and work on the relationship
- If they won’t work with you, walk away or look for a vendor that will
- Engage your travelers and management in the goals and see where there is give and take