How Travel Managers Harness Bionic Business Intelligence

In our previous two blogs, we learned that travel managers are super heroes and can embrace change with the power of agility. Now, we will turn our attention to how they can use the power of business intelligence to keep up with the rapid pace of technological change. 

 

There are moments in time that become seared into one’s memory. Times when something magical, transforming, enlightening, or even tragic took place, and you knew you just witnessed something that may never happen again.

Throughout the past 60 years I have had the benefit of absorbing many life shaping moments into my cranium. Most times, though, I didn’t fully understand how what I just witnessed would shape the future until later.

 I can say now is that Plato had it right: “Necessity is the mother of all invention.”

SAP Travel Heroes

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

 

Technology picks up speed

For me, one such moment happened in the late 1970s, when I was working at the Hilton Hotel in San Antonio, Texas and we took ownership of our first Fax (facsimile) machine.

While this may seem trivial now, back then it was pretty amazing!

This modern wonder of science would spit out information at the blinding speed about of a page every three minutes, and messages would magically appear upon rolled up paper that would leave your hands blue from the ink.

Not quite as fast as Wonder Woman’s invisible plane or The Flash’s super speed, but it was simply marvelous!

No sense boring you with going down technology memory lane to get us where we are today.

As mentioned in part two of this blog series, technology has already ushered in the age of combing the capabilities of both humans and machines to develop more productive operations, reduce human inadequacies, and create bionic companies.

Our future will witness accelerated scales of innovation that could only have been imagined until recently.

Companies across industries are embracing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to create a competitive advantage and improve customer and employee relationships. In addition, suppliers of companies are clamoring to be fully integrated within one another while attempting to sell the power of one single solution set made up of many. Thus, I feel in 2020 we are entering into a new era of ecosystem dependency and those companies with platform solutions or ecosystems are pivotal and at a distinct competitive advantage going forward.

At SAP Concur, and in partnership with our TMC partners to better aid travel managers, we have been building our platform services for years in our expense and travel management systems. To us and our platform partners it only stood to reason that business processes would have to become more automated, augmented, and synchronized. 

One such partner in our ecosystem, which is also the U.S. TMC partner for SAP Concur, is Travel Incorporated. Travel Inc. has been actively servicing SAP Concur since 2012 and is engaged with us in the development, testing, and implementation of solutions in our Compleat platform to better serve its travel managers’ customer community, as well as that of SAP Concur.

Some of the solutions we have been jointly working on include, but are not limited to: Concur Seat Finder, Automated Schedule Change Processing, Group Travel Partners (GTP) Auto Ticketing, Government-Post Ticketing Remarks, Air Rate Check and Traveler Self Service (TSS).

Travel Inc. has also been instrumental in helping us track our TripLink bookings and reporting of such.

We asked Travel Inc. CIO Linwood Hayes to provide some insight to how Travel Inc. is approaching the changing dynamics across the travel industry.

 

As we enter 2020, how is Travel Inc. preparing for all the technology changes and disruption challenges we will face in the travel industry?

The turn of a new decade falls in line with the Travel Incorporated (TI) mission: “To be the easiest company to do business with in our industry.” Our focus is on aligning the correct technology concepts and tools, whether in place or to be developed, that properly service all of our customers, whether they be the road warrior, C-suite executive traveler, or travel coordinator. 

A few examples of these concepts are technology integrations to provide real-time traveler tracking, the design and engineering of ongoing push technology, and proactive traveler services. These concepts utilize predictive business intelligence in order to embed our travelers’ habits and preferences.   

 

One of the business-critical elements in servicing your travel managers’ programs using CTE is directly tied to our T&E data. How have SAP Concur solutions enhanced what reporting you are able to provide to travel managers?

Travel Incorporated will continue to provide real-time travel data for business intelligence purposes. Working with SAP Concur tools, we have been able to integrate TripLink transactions into our global Trip Insights reporting, as well as analytics and duty of care offerings. The global travel managers have accurate insight into domestic, global, and TripLink transactions either separated or integrated for business intelligence or duty of care.

In 2019, we also engineered a data quality control process providing filters in order to deliver raw data to our travel managers, that seamlessly accepts our data as often as needed into unique internal business intelligence platforms. This method of data delivery gives the travel manager the ability to incorporate credit card, T&E, and G/L detail into their invested BI platforms. This method of data delivery brings a customer the ability to use the data however they choose in conjunction with cost savings and ease of use to the business. 

 

Can you elaborate on how you use the Compleat platform to aid travel managers?

The Compleat platform is more than just a quality mid-office tool. We have utilized Compleat as another means to build custom services for business travelers. Our HotelRate Check product is a great example of listening to our customers’ hotel cost recovery needs by building a custom solution to automatically search for cost savings while maintaining travelers’ preference and property bookings. This is just one example as to how we can utilize Compleat to flex to meet any customer requirements. 

Compleat is also bringing increased productivity and automation that eliminates all manual ticketing and schedule changes. We're currently working with SAP Concur to incorporate the Compleat module, Traveler Self-Serve (TSS), to push travelers’ booking attributes back to them to avoid any inconveniencing while booking a reservation online. This is all while lowering the security risk for keeping traveler sensitive information up-to-date. When a traveler books a reservation online with Concur Travel or by directly engaging with a TI Travel Consultant, we are avoiding unnecessary delays because a booking data element is out-of-date or missing.     

 

How does Travel Inc. deal with the topic of having enough transparency across all travel booking channels to clearly get to the right data points/metrics your customers need?

In today’s marketplace, API libraries are available for most booking channels. The SAP Concur API library is a great example of accessing data points from their booking channel to supply the data necessary for our travel managers to better control their expenditures. Whenever we build a new relationship with a partner or supplier, the API discussion is always part of the conversation.

We provide an in-house tool for our consultants which delivers CRM services to their desktop from TI’s proprietary eProfile application. This leads back to the discussion of understanding and having access to our travelers’ preferences to apply proactive services. As we’ve discussed, it’s amazing the amount of data we have access to in order to apply bionic business intelligence in every facet of the services we offer.     

 

It would seem prudent that travel managers align with their senior leadership as to what is considered important in measuring their T&E program success. How do you convey this message to travel managers as an important first step?

Great question Ralph! We begin these discussions during the sales process and make it a point to develop relationships with senior leadership. We advise the customer on how to apply both integration and automation concepts to assist in simplifying the measurement of the T&E program’s success. Lastly, Travel Incorporated has developed an integrated scorecard solution that gives senior leadership the ability to easily check the elements of the scorecard daily. 

 

We want to thank Travel Incorporated for sharing its insights with us, and the broader travel community. Without question, business intelligence is critical to any travel and expense programs success,

When it comes to T&E data, it is critical that you are aligned on where to obtain your data. What will be your single source of T&E spend truth? In my view, it is and remains that expense data that is in sync with your G/L data. While the devil is always in the details, the location of those details is always in Concur Expense!

And if you are using CTE and our suite of service offerings, then you have all this T&E information within our closed loop system of Intelligent Spend Management. Thus, you are now ready to start creating your own Business Intelligence and we want to help you realize the potential of the Intelligent Enterprise. We can help you seamlessly connect your financial, human resources, and reporting systems, as well as connect previously siloed solutions while helping to lower your IT cost.                               

 

Now that is Bionic Business Intelligence!

Make sure you align with your SAP Concur representative to see a demo of what Business Intelligence can bring to your T&E program!

 

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