Great reporting: the backbone of smart travel programs
Universities that are not armed with clean data; tailored travel reporting; and analysis; compromise their ability to make strategic long-term program change.
Intelligent travel reporting, accompanied by insightful data analysis, is critical for best practice academic travel programs. Smart reporting on travel spend and activity not only provides the right data for universities to make progressive changes to their business travel programs, but also informs the ‘big picture’ decisions needed to successfully futureproof large travel programs.
Insightful reporting that is accompanied by expert analysis also mitigates common university 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 universities improve their reporting capabilities for strategic long-term program enhancement?
Travel program best practice
Below are five key attributes of best-practice travel reporting for universities and how they can help your organisation to overcome some of the commonly experienced challenges.
Having access to real-time travel booking data is vital for any organisation 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 faculty or department budgets.
Your travel company’s ability to benchmark your travel program against not just other universities but other businesses across sectors with similar sized travel programs 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 public, private or even non-profit organisations of a similar size can provide an important business travel program health check.
Broad benchmarking capabilities against all sectors will arm you with actionable insights in terms of which suppliers your university should be negotiating more strategically with and what discount levels your university may be eligible for.
The bane of many universities! Not having clean data or a consolidated view of your data compromises your university’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. In short, the result of incorrect data sourced from your travel platforms and then used for your reporting will present an inaccurate view of your overall spend and activity. As they say, ‘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? If not, what does your university need to focus on if the issue is data related. 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. Break points can happen online and offline during a manual booking process.
In short, accurate travel reporting relies on strong data governance.
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 is what your people and your TMC does with the data that matters. Is the interpretation of the data helping your university 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 program transformation looks like for your university?
Travel reporting dashboards that can be tailored for different users at a university, faculty or school level or presented in a way that focuses on your top travel program 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 program is providing value or needs work.
Booking leakage is a huge area of concern for many university procurement departments. Having consolidated travel data with a single TMC positions universities 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 university’s duty of care program. Not having full visibility into where your staff are during an emergency can impact your ability to provide support to your travellers.