This is Part I of a series I am calling Love Your Data. To truly “love your data” it helps to understand the lifecycle of data from creation to coalition, to examination. The perception that data is static information could not be farther from the truth. The germination of pieces of information, the Petrie dishes of data if you will, is a dynamic process that incorporates multiple variables that produce facts and figures at a rapid pace. The catalyst for generating new data in the travel industry is the traveler. There are also separate customer segments, travel buyers, travel sellers and technology partners that play a crucial role in generating and evaluating all of this data.
Data created by the traveler’s journey begins with thinking about a trip. From the moment a trip is conceptualized, numerous information sources are poised to be ignited that eventually filter down into pieces of data. Let’s follow a typical business trip itinerary:
Susan needs to attend an annual conference and wants to make sure she visits with one the company’s largest clients on the trip. She begins to visualize all the details to make the trip successful, attempting to maintain a lifestyle balance with her family while remaining aware of company policy. She checks with her travel agent on compliance, uses the booking platform approved by the corporation, and begins her search for air, hotel and car. Immediately she begins to see the flights within the adopted guidelines are not only ridiculously expensive but also have long layovers and horrible time schedules.
Susan jumps over to look at a favorite online travel site and is pleased when she finds flights that are economical and reduce overall travel time. Knowing how quickly fares can change, Susan books the flight even though she knows this is outside of corporate compliance. Susan feels empowered booking her own flights because she feels in control. She perceives that she is saving the company money, saving herself time, and overall, this will have an impact on trip productivity. Next, she asks his assistant to book the hotel at the conference host hotel, arrange a rental car and make dinner reservations at a high-end steak house.
As most any road warrior, Susan has her mobile phone with her at all times and leaves for the airport worried about flight delays and cancelations. She does have the assurance that if there is a trip disruption her mobile device will receive an alert. Boarding the flight, with no delay, Susan arrives at the destination and is frustrated to find the vehicle that she rented is not available, so decides to jump in a cab instead, and then use Uber to get to appointments.
Susan took the cab over to the hotel where she had requested an early check-in. Paying the extra $25 to check in early was fine for her as she needed to get ready to head over to the conference. Susan decides to order room service so she won’t be hungry at the conference even though she is aware this is outside company policy.
After freshening up and having a bite to eat, Susan pulled out her phone and ordered an Uber to take her to the convention center. The day was highly productive and at 4 pm, Susan jumps into another Uber to pick up her client and head to Ruth Chris steak house for dinner.
Susan’s trip was successful because she received a verbal commitment on renewal from the important client and is returning with numerous hot leads from the conference. Each step of the way she has created fragments of information that will turn into data for collating and examination. Some in compliance, others outside of the approved company suppliers.
Susan is not worried how the data is collected nor what the analysis will say. She closed a deal, and helped her company begin to onboard a new customer and now has shifted focus into following up and the next steps. Travel data and its analysis is not her concern.
Travelers like Susan create a challenge for the individuals responsible for pulling together the numerous touch points to be examined, especially when travelers arrange and book travel outside the agreed upon conventions and channels. Data around a trip flows in through numerous sources, credit card data, GDS, online bookings; mobile bookings expense management and business intelligence. The problem is these data sources work autonomously and in many cases require manual collation. This is where the three customer segments come into play – buyers, sellers and technology partners – all working together, harmoniously collecting proper information for analysis.
The Corporate Travelers Buyers Job
The role of a buyer is to be the curator of the entire corporate travel program. Overall, they administer policy controls, manage suppliers, and negotiate contracts all while maintaining budgets. This highly specialized profession of buying travel services is an alignment between travel management and procurement’s best practices.
Travel and procurement need to create a functional relationship, as continued education in regards to the complexity of trip programs and technology are more intricate than other static purchases made by procurement departments. On the procurement side, controlling spend is a top priority, working with budgets and playing devil’s advocate on which trips are necessary over the alternative of video conferencing. Procurement is continually working toward controlling spend.
As the master of all things travel, buyers have access to incredible amounts of data. They assist in supporting the company’s travel standards and methodologies through the examination of this data. The pain point they experience is the difficulty in aggregating all of the data to answer the numerous questions asked by upper management. This complexity compounds when travelers break policy by booking outside of endorsed channels.
The Corporate Travel Sellers Job
TMCs have extensive access to both human and technical resources. According to The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), a properly managed program will see a 10-12% savings in overall costs to the enterprise. TMCs can build a successful and profitable business intelligence strategy based on four core principles; the foundation of service automation, subject matter experts, communication and most significantly, cost savings.
Travel sellers are busy booking and managing all the elements around trip planning. They are the primary support for travelers and most importantly are responsible for pulling together data. All the fragmented information, whether within company guidelines or not, needs to be collated in a visual representation that is clear, actionable and meaningful. This is where choosing the right partnerships with technology companies becomes increasingly important.
The Travel Technology Partners Job
Technology should simplify or enhance the travel process. Companies likeCornerstone have proven leadership in developing software solutions for the traveler journey and the examination of a trip. The recent launch of TravelOptix™ solves the data aggregation problem by incorporating travel statistics into a rich visualization that highlights actionable data that is leveraged by the TMC or a corporate travel manager.
TravelOptix™ visualizes the decisions a traveler makes from profile setup to expense reporting. It then shows the flow of data generated through various platforms that the traveler, manager, and TMC can use to optimize a company’s trip performance.
Through this NextGen of data management, a TMC can eliminate productivity drain, invigorate travel confidence and oversee policy control while balancing flexibility that may be better for the traveler or the company.
Data is created through multiple sources throughout a travel journey. The current environment of extracting data is fragmented. There is difficulty in retrieving information from multiple sources and collating the statistics so that these touchpoints can be interacted with in a meaningful way. The goal at Cornerstone is to provide a framework to bring many disparate data sources together within the travel management sphere. This will create standards where none currently exists within the industry to increase data connectivity. Cornerstone is passionate about this and is continually working on next generation solutions for business intelligence helping all parties involved to love your data!