Over the course of several weeks, we’ve shared with you the stories of our Innovation Award winners, clients who have transformed the way they do business with Concur solutions. Last week, you heard from Elizabeth Arden. This week, we feature Cognizant Technology Services, a global leader in business and technology services. Learn how Cognizant is using Concur solutions to drive compliance, delight their Associates and save money with their travel program. Global Travel Manager, Kathleen Kaden, took the time to discuss with us how in her four-year tenure, Cognizant is at 97% compliance to air and car in the United States and has gone on to implement Concur in 20 other countries.
Concur: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your role at Cognizant?
Kathleen: My name is Kathleen Kaden, I am the global travel manager at Cognizant and I am the first travel manager at Cognizant. When I first started in 2009, there had not been any managed travel in the organization. At the time, we were approximately 80,000 employees and we are now over 160,000 employees. In the four years that I have been here, we have been able to get a managed travel program in place both for the TMC and the online booking tool and we have rolled out that online booking tool with Concur to more than 20 countries at this time. It is working fabulously.
C: Why did Cognizant choose Concur?
K: I did not shop around when I went with Concur. I had a lot of experience in the past implementing Concur and using Concur. Since I was the first travel manager at Cognizant, there was a lot that was unknown, so I chose to go with what I knew and what I was comfortable with--what I knew would work as opposed to a solution I didn’t know quite as well. I was better able to manage the unknown which is what I was going to have to manage anyway.
C: What is your adoption rate?
K: We actually have to talk people off of the tool so our adoption is 75% in the U.S. and that is 75% of everything, not just 75% of what’s possible. Considering the amount of relocations we do, which is more than 300 families a month, we see a lot of our folks do a lot of their relocations through our online booking tool. We are really quite pleased with the results and obviously people like it, so they are trying to use it for all purposes.
C: That is a lot of relocations! How do you manage compliance and risk management with such a large quantity?
K: Our compliance to air is 97% in the U.S. and while it is a huge savings because we are now able to negotiate with our airline partners. The bigger piece is the risk and security. If you think back to four years ago and having 10,000 employees traveling on any given day, we had no idea where they were. So now, we are easily able to track our employees wherever they are. That’s even more important to us than the savings, particularly because our associates travel to countries that are not necessarily the most safe and secure places to be in on a regular basis, so we look at it from an associate standpoint, associate delight and associate wellbeing: are they happy to use the tool? Are they happy to make their own reservations and have some control. At this point, we are able to be proactive and find out where they are, help them, if there was a strike, a bomb threat, an act of god, and be able to bring them home in a timely fashion.
C: How does this contribute to Cognizant’s level of transparency?
K: It’s a true sense of transparency. Being able to look at our associates or find our associates, which gives them a sense that the company cares for them, because we will reach out to them and say, “Hey there is a strike planned tomorrow.” Then we are able to rebook them and get them out of there before they are impacted by it
C: Do your associates like using Concur?
K: It is even more than our associates having to like the tool to use it, we are a technology company and I have 160,000 consultants who are happy to tell you how to build it bigger, better, whatever, but they are happy to use Concur which means they think it was built well. It makes me feel great! When you think about the sheer numbers of bookings that go through Concur every day and the fact that we have absolutely no escalations from 180,000 consultants, I think that is a beautiful thing and it makes me a very happy travel manager.
C: That’s great! You clearly care about your role. What matters to you most as the global travel manager?
K: I think the thing that matters most to me is the overall wellbeing of our associates. And that is they are happy with what they are doing, where they are going, are they taking care of, do they feel like they are taken care of. It is really an end-to-end process: from being able to book the travel, being able to find them and help them along the way if there is an issue, and of course being able to respond to anything when they come back, if there is a concern.
C: Have you implemented the use of TripLink? If so, how has it improved how Cognizant does business?
K: We are a pilot company for TripLink and so far, it’s been really successful. It’s a simple step for our associates and they are using it, happy to use it, and they are getting one solid PNR. So far, it’s been an exceptional pilot experience. The travelers are able to have one seamless record with everything in one place. They’re able to book where they need to in order to fulfill the agreements that they have with clients, but they are also able to have it one place. So, for the company, TripLink solves the data issue. We can certainly see where our folks are spending their dollars by pulling our corporate card reports, but that doesn’t tell us what the per night’s spend was and it doesn’t tell us the detail we need. TripLink actually allows us to see what the hotel rate was, how many nights they stayed, what type of room their staying in, which gives us a much better level of detail.
C: How does using Concur help Cognizant innovate?
K: Cognizant is a technology company, by name, we are Cognizant Technologies Solutions so innovation is something that is expected, it’s not something that we shy away from. We like to be on the leading edge, we like to try new things. I like the fact that by working with Concur, we are frequently on the edge. We get to pilot new tools so innovation is something that is in our day to day lives. It isn’t something that we think about in the future.
C: Speaking of the future, open booking is becoming a trend in the managed travel industry. What are your thoughts on open booking? Is this something that you see at Cognizant?
K: I am rather passionate about that topic. I feel open booking is perfect for Cognizant. It may not be perfect for every company, so I wouldn’t necessarily say that every company should go that route. But at Cognizant, being a consulting company, the majority of our travel is on behalf of our customers. Frequently, our folks are using our customer’s hotel rates, staying in hotels that are not part of our program so they are booking outside of our system. It doesn’t mean they are doing the wrong thing; they are doing exactly the right thing for all of the stakeholders for Cognizant and for our customers. It means they are booking the hotel through their customer and they are getting their customers rate which would be lower than our rate. They are staying on the customer’s preferred property, which is exactly the right thing that they should be doing. We are using that data now, and if we go back to the risk of our associates, not knowing where they are staying, that is a gap. Not knowing what we are contributing to the volume of these hotels is a data gap. For me, open booking would allow the best of both worlds. It would allow the associates to do what’s right for all the stakeholders and it would give me the data I need to ensure my travelers are safe and I know what the contribution is to the hotel.
C: It sounds like open booking works for you. Okay, last question for you, Kathleen: what’s your idea of “The Perfect Trip”?
K: The perfect trip for me is one that goes off without a hitch. From the booking, to the travel, to the return, one that goes seamlessly. That’s the perfect trip for me. It’s a bonus if they are using preferred airlines, it’s a bonus if they’re getting upgraded-- those are all bonuses. But one that goes off seamlessly and does not require a single escalation is the perfect trip.