For many companies, business travel is their second largest expense. That fact alone may make some travel managers nervous. A recent study showed that the average cost of domestic travel is $111.7 billion each year. Additionally, business travelers spend an average of $949 per trip, including plane tickets, hotels, rental cars, and any other expenses. For many travel managers who wish to better manage their travel programs and control travel expenses, any investment into new technology and solutions can often be seen as just more money dumped into what is already a large bill.

But what if we were to tell you that even though T&E is often the second largest expense for companies, it is also the most controllable. When we say “controllable”, we mean that there are aspects where people see and view data as something that is very retrospective. In reality, data is being used in an entirely different way. This is increasingly evident when we consider how travel programs are changing to be much more personalized and focused on aspects such as savings, well-being of travelers, sustainability, etc. There are a lot of requirements that surround a travel policy and controlling that expenditure is key to the success of an organization. That is where intelligent and robust data comes into play.

Opportunity Vs problem

How important is it really to have the right tools and technology? A travel program has a lot of different touchpoints and for many companies, managing those touchpoints can be very challenging. The fact is that T&E data can be extremely disjointed in where it resides or where it can be found. Travel programs are constantly changing, there is absolutely no reason to believe that they will stay as they are today. Whether your organization books through a TMC, an online booking tool, or directly through suppliers, the number of data sources multiplies. And what about when you bring in expense data, card data and HR data? Travel programs can be very complex.

Business Travel

But the good news is that there are new and exciting tools being introduced every day. The key is to look at your T&E data as a realization rather than a challenge. It is an opportunity to better understand your company’s true cost of travel and all the little things that add up in your travel program. Once you have a better and more accurate understanding of your travel program, the easier it will be to control it.

Spend money to make money

Invest in experienced partners that can offer you integrated, intelligent and consolidated data management solutions. Data is no longer just a by-product of business travel. TMC data alone will not provide the whole picture which is becoming a critical asset to quick and effective decision-making. Focus on a holistic data strategy that helps you turn multiple and siloed data sources into an asset rather than a liability. Harnessing your key data sources, such as travel, HR, expense, credit card and other 3rd party sources will provide greater visibility for your business to track and manage.

Be sure that your data partner really understands you and your travel program. Your program and needs will be very different to anyone else’s. Be sure to have a partnership which fits you today and which can adapt and grow with you tomorrow. Remember, a data strategy isn’t “set it and forget it”. You need a partner looking out for you, who understands the travel marketplace, travel suppliers and processes.

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