Any data strategy begins with the need to solve the problem, and this is no different for travel data management. Perhaps a corporation or business wishes to lower it’s overall travel costs. First, you need a database with thousands of data points. Then, providing the data is robust enough, it will help solve a problem. Then continue to feed that database and thus help solve a myriad of problems. The best solutions and actions require a holistic and accurate view of all the information surrounding a single issue.
Past and Present
Today, business is very different. The value of data is accepted. The results of reporting and analytics have made data integral to successful travel departments. Travel and expense data is commonly shared with other systems. For example, HR data feeds traveler profile information to make reporting more accurate and meaningful. Expense reporting information feeds both the travel department’s post travel analytics, as well as the corporations ER system. Historical data provides strategic guidance and is considered the rudder on the boat. Real-time data provides a view into traveler behavior and policy compliance. Companies need to create data strategies that match their business realities.
Travel Management Without a Data Strategy
Not long ago, “travel manager mode” was thought of as a sort of stepchild. It was seen as a necessary evil to get travelers from point A to point B, even though travel was and still is one of the top three highest variable expenses. Then corporations began to see how managing their employees effectively could lower the overall cost of travel, and reducing that expense fell right to the bottom line. Now, the very best travel teams are very much a part of a corporation’s overall data strategy. So when the CEO announces the bottom line increase in profit of 3%, they know they can count on their travel management team to manage to that promise.
Define Your Data Strategy
While most corporate travel teams think they have a data strategy, they in fact do not. They consider the reporting they receive from a TMC or a third party, a strategy. Most in that same group are looking one year out when they should be looking five years out, and then step back and define years 4, 3 and 2. They should be establishing a road map for their data futures.
Define Your Metrics
What constitutes “a win”. A team is asking the right questions when their data set answers “all questions”. Given how quickly things can change, a data strategy should be fluid, not static and this is especially true for travel data management. The best groups routinely meet to discuss where they are with their strategy and what changes need to be made.
There are multiple sources of data; pre-trip, post-trip, expense reporting, HR, credit card and more. Very few travel teams understand the data for the importance of multiple streams of information required to create a sustainable strategy. Most TMC’s and third-party data providers struggle with how to consolidate multiple streams into a cohesive data strategy.
Create Processes and Procedures
Start at the top, and work your way down. What is the endgame? Where do you want to be in 5-years, and what processes and procedures will we need to put in place to make your strategy come to fruition. Sprinkle in a little dose of reality that your “endgame” will likely change multiple times in the next several years as new technologies and new data streams are available.
The Mother Ship
Ultimately, corporations will drive to a single “Galactic” database that serves the entire corporation. That database will be capable of consolidating a corporations data streams that include all the travel and expense data available. Teams within the corporation will then have answers to their problems by picking the mother ship, and not depend on one-off solutions focused solely on individual departments.