Five ways data can help travel managers identify missed savings
The growing importance of data and automation to manage business travel spend
The rapid acceleration towards digitalisation, data and analytics as a result of COVID-19 have significantly reshaped the business travel landscape. As regions begin opening up and more green lanes are developed between countries, many companies have started to consider returning back to travel in one way or another, hoping to achieve some semblance of pre-COVID business travel in the new normal.
While grappling with ways to deal with an uneven recovery among countries, businesses also face the painful truth that historical data and analytics will be of little use post pandemic. New analytical models and reporting tools will be essential to drive business decisions moving forward. This means that strategic business budget planning, particularly when it comes to business travel, is more important than ever before.
Ultimately, the focus should not be on cutting down, but rather on maximising the funds available. Taking into consideration the intense financial challenges shouldered by businesses, FCM is committed to helping companies save money through optimising business travel spend. After all, travel should be seen as an investment.
To start, it is important to understand the role of data and automation on the strategic financial roadmap. Here are five clear ways data and automation can help business travel managers identify missed savings in a post COVID world:
1. Use automation to improve your operations
Automation isn’t a new trend, but the COVID-19 pandemic has fast-tracked most companies’ automation efforts. As Skift1 recently pointed out: some companies are deploying more automation to limit the interaction between staff and passengers, while others are automating processes to cope with reduced staffing during the recovery.
Consumers are also more accepting towards automation now as they become used to the concept of social distancing and interacting digitally during lockdown.
One example of automation that eliminates manual processes is FCM’s custom data analytic dashboard, which integrates compliance and expense information. Not only can this dashboard help managers detect programme leakage and missed savings, but it also saves time otherwise spent with manual reporting.
By ensuring travel managers have access to key metrics in real-time with reporting that blends historical travel and expense data with up-to-date data dashboards, we can provide immediate visibility of your organisation's comprehensive travel spend. You can’t manage what you can’t see, so this is a crucial step towards using data most effectively within your business.
- Katy Byrne, FCM Global Data and Business Standards Leader
2. Make data-driven decisions
Data holds massive potential to create cost savings and efficiencies for corporate finance teams, travel managers and travellers alike. And fortunately, business travel programmes collect reams of data – from flight and accommodation bookings to individual preferences and per diem expenses. But making this data work for you requires the right technology to mine and analyse it for actionable insights.
FCM’s developed data technology can optimise business travel programmes by uncovering patterns and trends in data to help companies make effective decisions at the highest levels of a company’s future spend and travel preferences.
3. Optimise travel programmes
Data technology has the potential to index, track and analyse historic pricing trends and individual booking behaviours. Understanding these trends can help businesses build an optimum pricing strategy, shape travel policy, and still deliver greater personalisation options for the traveller.
New analytics even allow users to simulate policy changes and weigh the impact on cost and individuals before implementing a change. Smarter technology, coupled with improved and more plentiful data sources means companies won't be looking at how to shave small and often inconsequential individual traveller amounts of money from their spend. Companies will no longer be penny wise pound foolish as they will be able to know exactly how and where to make the greatest savings across the board.
4. Increase policy compliance
While some companies choose to impose some method of disciplining non-compliance, a better approach is often to identify the reasons behind the behaviour and create and implement initiatives to foster a culture of support rather than using the “carrot and stick” method to enforce policy.
Transparent and accessible data empowers travel and expense managers as well as travellers to make informed decisions and comply with travel policy. FCM’s Business Intelligence 3.0 has decentralised data, putting it in the hands of those who can use it, and removing the need for repetitive reporting.
5. Maximise safety
Based on data gathered for FCM’s State of the Market report for 2020, there is a consensus amongst businesses that it is time for business travel to resume. Over 87% want to get back to travel to help acquire new businesses during a time where new accounts and clients are absolutely crucial to keeping establishments afloat; while 84% want travel to resume to help manage existing customer relationships; 62% are hoping to revive MICE travel (meetings, incentives, conferencing, and exhibitions) in the near future.
As the travel sector gradually reopens amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, there needs to be a strong focus on maximising safety and fulfilling duty of care for all travelling employees.
Data will be helpful in figuring out which corporate travel suppliers are going that extra mile to curb the spread of the virus, how to optimise safety within stipulated budget constraints, and to determine which COVID ‘hot spots’ should be avoided at any given time.
1 Travel Industry to Switch On More Automated Processes to Cope With Reduced Staffing
2 McKinsey study on Asian Business Travellers: Five Things You Need to Know