Digital-proof your travel program

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By Lesley O’Bryan,  Senior Vice President

It used to be that a business’ competitive advantage was based on them offering the lowest price, having the best people or providing access to cutting-edge products. But digital has redefined the corporate landscape. Today, a company’s advantage is based on enabling the best decisions with the right people as fast as possible. Doing this effectively can be the difference between business wins and losses, and is the reason two-thirds of CEOs indicate digital transformation will be core to their corporate strategies by 2017 (source: IDC).

This means three things for every managed travel program. Digital is driving the need for new types of workforce collaboration. Travelers must embrace it for change to occur. And, every department is charged with boosting the organization’s agility. So, how can you “digital-proof” your managed travel program?

Think big (nope, think bigger!)

Cloud and digital technology offer managed travel capabilities not previously possible. To reap the benefits, it demands you think broader and more unconventionally about some of the fundamentals that have defined travel management.

Think collaboration, not just co-location.

Your job is no longer just about physically bringing together employees, customers, colleagues and partners in the most cost-efficient and secure manner. It must also include other ways for employees to productively work together, make decisions and service customers.

In a digital economy, travel management shifts to Total Collaboration Management. This is a strategic or cohesive way of managing and offering the right mix of physical travel and virtual collaboration options to support new ways of working and the goals of the business. Total Collaboration Management respects that there will always be a need for travel. But, in those instances when travel is not essential, budgets don’t allow, time is of the essence or the corporate culture favors it, virtual collaboration is another strategy to employ.

Think mobile workers, not just employees in transit.

The definition of your travelers and their needs are changing significantly. Travelers are not simply salaried employees on a business trip, but also remote teams of mobile, contingent, contract and home-based workers. Work is no longer a location, but an activity people do together across borders and time zones.  And, the workplace is no longer defined by 9-to-5 and corporate offices, but wherever, whenever and how people want to work.

This underscores that travelers want flexibility in how they communicate and work gets done and that traditional methods may no longer be enough or as effective. In a digital environment, your program’s success hinges on these mobile workers and supporting them to work smarter, collaboratively and autonomously, and achieve a better work-life balance.

Think interaction, not just transaction.

Your purpose is no longer just about streamlining travel buying and optimizing spend. It must support the dual purpose of moving workers to the work and moving work to the workers. In a digital environment, travel management’s purpose shifts from transactions and processes to interactions and outcomes in order to drive corporate agility. Employees are tasked to create meaningful interactions and deliver value-added customer service either in-person, collaboratively through technology or a hybrid of both. This gives employees a compelling reason to consider the worth and outcome of the trip and leads to more responsible spending.

Give ‘em a choice (they’re expecting it!)

Consumer trends now guide what happens in the enterprise and are shaping workers’ rising expectations. The pervasiveness of smart devices, mobile messaging, the sharing economy and consumer apps has conditioned your travelers to expect more choices and on-demand ways to connect. The avid use of YouTube, Netflix, etc. has predisposed travelers to rely on video in business. They expect instant access to the same technologies and innovative capabilities at work that empower their personal lives. And, they want the everywhere convenience of having the same collaborative tools and apps outfitted for mobile devices, laptops and conference rooms. Having choices gives workers control over when and which collaborative technology to use so they are more productive on and off the road.

Make it personal

As more employees are un-tethered from an office location, face-to-face time will become even more important and valuable. But, a more global and diverse workforce means not all face-to-face time is managed in the same way. Your job is to empower decision making through technology. The tools are part of a larger, collaboration strategy to present new and flexible ways of personalizing interactions and determine if the outcome is best achieved through in-person, video, phone or digital collaboration. Virtual collaboration gives employees the flexibility to provide ongoing engagement (in between trips) to prevent small client problems from quickly escalating into avoidable crises. It is also ideal for initial rounds of candidate interviews, as a duty of care strategy in the event of a business crisis or for a COO to conduct briefings with top managers across continents.

Digital is rapidly transforming companies and managed programs, reshaping legacy thinking and actively supported by a new workforce. The result is newer, holistic and more collaborative ways to carry out corporate objectives and support workers’ need for choice, flexibility and personalization.

So, is your program ready?   Find out how your potential ROI from implementing a comprehensive Total Collaboration Management program.

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