Data is critical if you want to successfully manage corporate travel. But of course, it’s not just about having access to data, it’s about the quality of data and what you do with it. Many travel managers I speak to feel like they’re drowning in data, the problem is, it’s not telling them anything that helps them operate more effectively.
Essentially, travel managers must be equipped to predict and influence future actions and trends rather than just recording what happened in the past. And access to the right data, in real-time, will enable them to extract this actionable insight that can help their business perform better.
Intelligent analysis of corporate travel data can also reveal hidden patterns of employee booking behaviours and travel expense claims – both good and bad. The ability to immediately drill down and take action to do more of the good stuff that supports efficient operations and optimises value, and less of the bad stuff that wastes time and money.
I understand that investing in a new corporate travel management system with powerful analytics capability can seem like a big step though. To appreciate the value of it, you need to understand how data insight can directly improve your corporate travel management strategy and everyday practice first.
So here are 3 ways to make the most of your corporate travel data, in order to be more accurate, productive and cost-effective in travel budgeting and forecasting:
1. Intelligent travel booking
An AI-driven travel management system will be able to take a look at the most frequently used routes, accommodations and tariffs to identify your employees travel preferences. For example, the most popular flight times, the most conveniently located hotels and the days of the week most frequently travelled. This data can help you understand where you could reasonably seek to negotiate better rates and what to prioritise when you select new locations, providers and partners.
This way, you can provide a more personalised experience to travellers when you collect their preferences over time. The system should offer their most frequently selected options first, saving them time and avoiding repetitive searching if they regularly book similar trips and itineraries. Such instant insight could also identify more convenient or cost-effective alternatives, or flag up newly added options that fall within the travel budget and might better match the employee’s requirements.
Real-time travel and expenses data combined in the same platform can show you by individual, by team and by department who’s booking corporate travel the most and how economical their choices are. It can also reveal anomalies in expense claims, either because of user error or deliberate fraud (or attempts to bypass your expenses policy).
If you identify non-compliant behaviour, you can drill down into the data to check if its occurring anywhere else. As well as re-educating individuals, you may be able to learn about the reasons for non-compliance and improve the options and processes to make for a better user experience.
It’s also important to remember that pre-booked transport and accommodation charges alone don’t give you the full picture for travel budgeting. You need to include spending on food, local transport and sundries from other receipts and categories so you can see the complete trip expenditure. An integrated corporate travel booking and expenses system means all this data is held in one central repository, so it’s easy to calculate the total cost of a trip.
Last but not least, budgeting. Predictive analytics process high volumes of historic data, right up to the present moment, to show you how spending patterns and travel and expense choices are evolving. Powerful algorithms can extrapolate this to predict future expenditures and highlight likely areas of change, enabling accurate travel forecasting.
With forward visibility, you can plan travel budgeting, assess supplier value and check you have provisions for emerging requirements – the modes of transport, accommodation and services in appropriate locations that your employees will need to do their jobs effectively.
If your corporate travel management system allows you to connect trips with projects, opportunities and customer accounts such as that held in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, you can gain further insight into the ROI of your employees’ travel spend. This helps you develop dynamic policies and plan budgets so that your teams are empowered to book trips and incur appropriate expenses in a way that drives profitability, not just performance – all ensuring that you can evidence corporate travel booking as contributing to your company’s bottom line, and not just as uncontrollable spend.