How Travel Managers Embrace Change With Agility

Ralph Colunga |

When we left our heroes, we learned that travel managers are really superheroes and possess the power of trip-o-vision. We catch up with the tale as they encounter the forces of change and activate the power of hyper agility.

If we follow the script of almost any superhero story, the world is depicted as turbulent, uncertain, and complex. Citizens often face multiple crises, which highlight the very worst of humanity and greed, teetering on the brink of the abyss, whirling deviously into a volatile vortex with minimal time for anyone to react.

Then, as if on cue, a caped crusader enters. Calm, cool, and collected, they know exactly what to do to prevent the catastrophe at hand, and the hyper agility to react in the nick of time.

Wham! Bang! Zap!

Crisis averted.

SAP Travel Heroes

The time has come to celebrate travel managers for what they are – heroes.  


Sounds like something from the pages of a comic book, right? Maybe not. We actually do live in volatile times.

Organizations – and their travelers – face frequent changes to business standards, the economy, and political environments, requiring a flexible mindset in order to adapt quickly. That’s not only at the local or regional level, but globally. Just consider how GDPR, a European law, is changing the way in which businesses around the world treat personal data, and therefore operate on a daily basis.

New and changing legislation that affects the ways in which companies run will always be around the corner.  So, it’s imperative to think a couple of steps ahead in order to survive and thrive. This means continually adapting to new technologies, and doing so rapidly, especially in the fore coming world of artificial intelligence (AI) coupled with machine learning (ML).


How travel and expense management can keep up

Riddle me this: What do these changes mean for corporate travel and expense management?

The signs are as clear as a bat-signal in the sky: Travel and expense leaders are not unsusceptible to change. Now is the time to  embrace the ever-fluid environment of digital disruption as an opportunity to bring even more value to this role.

In the past five years alone, we have seen tremendous change driven by the dominance of tech in the workplace. Business technologies have had to keep pace with consumer technologies in order to deliver an employee experience that satisfies their expectations of usability and mobility.

That seamlessness of the T&E experience is a key factor in retaining or losing employees. And in the Era of the Traveler, employee retention is essential as the fight for key talent continues to grow.

To address both the above business needs and traveler desires, we are now seeing traveler-centric T&E programs that empower and engage travelers, while streamlining process workflows, optimizing productivity, boosting compliance, and enhancing employee agility.

Hyper agility – the next power in a travel hero’s arsenal --  is rapidly becoming a requirement in the world of employee and traveler safety. Today’s employees expect companies to look after their safety and wellbeing, be it in the workplace or wherever else in the world they are for business. This is a tall order for a business of any size.

Can we say more here about what hyper agility means and what it gets you?


How SAP approaches travel and expense management

We spoke with John Coovert, VP of global physical security at SAP about how SAP handles T&E management on a global basis in partnership with travel management and some hyper-agility. 

  • How many countries does SAP operate in and what role does SAP security play across this global landscape?
    • We currently have 418 offices in over 75 countries currently then of course we have employees traveling to other countries where don’t have a physical footprint. Some of those are high risk countries as well.


  • What tools does SAP to help monitor its travelers?
    • We utilize tools like our Concur Travel & Expense system, Triplink, TripIt and corporate credit cards as well to identify the locations of our employees around the world.  Changes in itineraries are updated to our system as well so we have visibility should we need to contact our employees.  Our employees can also manually check in on our SAP Concur Mobile App to identify their location.


  • How important is ’booking transparency’ in traveler safety and how do you close this gap?
    • This data gap is a risk for us but we believe we have put somethings in place to help us reduce that such as TripLink and the ability for our employees to forward their itineraries to our system so we have that visibility.  We’ve also created internal marketing campaigns to bring awareness to our employees about the services available through our team in providing assistance so they then see the benefit of making sure we have their travel information.


  • What methods does SAP use to communicate with its employees and travelers in the event of a crisis?
    • Within our Concur Locate tool we have the ability to send communications to all of our employees via SMS Text, Email and Mobile App Notifications so they can stay aware of incidents and events in their area that can affect their travel.  The tools are capable of two way communications so we can stay in constant touch with the employees once we’ve opened up that channel.


  • How important is your partnership with travel management in providing ‘Duty of Care?’
    • My partnership with travel is extremely important because we both share the same belief and approach in being proactive about the safety and security of our travelers around the world. We continually look at new ways to better our service support and provide a better experience for the employee traveler. 


In conclusion, just a couple of key points for Travel Managers to remember:

  • Digital business agility is essential in order to be successfully competitive.
  • Be proactive vs. reactive in your travel and expense program transformations- be aware of the continual need
  • Build programs that can change with the times.
  • Help built hyper agility across your company’s workforce.
  • Embrace solutions that can help you better manage the changing business landscape.


Tune in next time to see how our heroes embrace their bionic powers.