Intelligent travel reporting, accompanied by insightful data analysis, has never been more critical for your travel programme's success. Smart reporting on travel spend and activity not only provides the right data to make progressive changes to your business travel programme, but also helps inform the ‘big picture’ decisions needed to successfully restart large travel programmes and future proof them post-pandemic.
Insightful reporting that is accompanied by expert analysis also mitigates common travel pain points around traveller visibility; travel risk management; ability to demonstrate ROI; and booking leakage.
But what are the hallmarks of great travel reporting and how can businesses improve their reporting capabilities for strategic long-term programme enhancement?
Travel Programme Reporting Best Practice
Below are five key attributes of best-practice travel reporting and how they can help your business overcome some of the commonly experienced challenges.
1. Real-Time Data
Having access to real-time travel booking data is vital for any company with a large mobile workforce, particularly those that have staff travelling to remote, unique or high-risk destinations.
It is a necessary discussion to have with your incumbent or prospective travel management company (TMC) as to whether their reporting technology draws on real-time data. Many travel companies use ‘old’ data, from the previous month, rather than live data for their travel reporting.
Not having access to real time data means you’re drawing on historical reporting. Any booking, policy or payment issues are then managed retrospectively. Live data is also important for always-on visibility of your travellers – should you need to contact staff in an emergency or need to progressively track expenditure against department budgets.
Benchmarking your travel programme against other businesses in your sector or with similar sized travel programmes and spend is valuable for your approach to creating long-term cost efficiencies.
Having your TMC provide quantifiable data that summarises whether you’re generating savings or receiving the most competitive supplier deal when compared to organisations of a similar size can provide an important business travel programme health check.
Broad benchmarking capabilities against all sectors will arm you with actionable insights in terms of which suppliers you should be negotiating more strategically with, and what discount levels your company may be eligible for.
3. Data accuracy
Not having clean data or a consolidated view of your data compromises your company's ability to make decisions quickly and with confidence. ‘Dirty data’ isn't usually caused by the traveller booking, rather, by the tools surrounding that booking; ie. your online booking tool, the global distribution system or the processes that your TMC uses in the booking process. And ‘bad data in = bad data out’.
If data accuracy is one of your travel pain points - this is an important conversation to have with your TMC or a prospective TMC – will their reporting tool provide a clear picture of your total spend and activity? Don't forget that reporting tools are for analytics and visualisations only; break points for data inaccuracy can happen at any point within the data process before it lands in your TMC’s working platforms. Accurate travel reporting relies on strong data governance.
4. Data analysis for strategic planning, change and ongoing management
Travel reporting that provides spreadsheets or dashboards full of data and numbers is useless if it is not accompanied by insightful analysis and interpretation. It's what your people and your TMC does with the data that matters. Is the interpretation of the data helping your company to target any departments or policy ‘offenders’? Is the data being used by your procurement division to develop business plans for change or improvements? Or to determine what programme transformation looks like for your company?
Travel reporting dashboards that can be tailored for different users or presented in a way that focuses on your top travel programme priorities, will help your key travel stakeholders to address concerns in specific areas.
Expert analysis will also enable you to see where you are receiving return on investment (ROI). Effective reporting and analysis will drill down or benchmark aspects such as supplier contracts; TMC management fees; online booking fees; and incidental spending; with a view to demonstrating where your programme is providing value or needs work.
5. Consolidated reporting
Booking leakage is a huge area of concern for many procurement departments. Having consolidated travel data with a single TMC positions companies in a much better position to target booking, supplier or channel leakage as all the data is centralised. Consolidated reporting enables you to measure the missed savings from leakage, where the leakage is coming from, and who or what division needs support in this area.
Additionally, booking leakage compromises a company's duty of care. It’s no secret that COVID-19 has changed the face of travel as we know it, redefining duty of care and travel risk management to a whole new level. Not having full visibility into where your staff are during an emergency can impact your ability to provide support to your travellers, an essential for any business travel programme.