By Lexi Benakis, Senior Director, Intelligence & Analytics
Every travel manager or procurement professional needs to report on their program. The C-suite wants to know where travelers are in a crisis, whether the program’s on target to meet savings goals, or how much the company spent with particular suppliers. The data is all there, but it needs to be more accessible. That’s why travel managers need a data analytics strategy and platform. The question is, how can they convince those holding the purse strings that this is a worthwhile investment?
Why Companies Should Invest in Analytics
According to Forbes, within the last four years, the percentage of companies investing in analytics has risen from 17% to 53%. Companies want to turn the petabytes of data out there into something they can use to drive ROI, and investing in analytics does just that.
Data unlocks insights into what’s going on in your company, but “big data” is only a buzzword if you don’t have the tools to leverage it properly. For some companies, this means practicing what they preach. For example, Microsoft used its own data analysis tools to understand how it interacted with different stakeholders, and where it could improve customer satisfaction.
Plus, using analytics helps companies grow. According to one study, 87% of companies who invest in analytics have annual growth of more than 7%. When flower delivery e-commerce company, From You Flowers, started crunching the numbers and acting on results, their previous growth rate of 10% increased to 30% the next year.
In terms of travel program management, investing in analytics helps companies gain transparency into data and provide insights beyond just the numbers. Analytics can also help businesses increase leverage with suppliers and key stakeholders, enabling negotiations based on provable facts. Finally, it can help travel managers understand key performance drivers for their program and see what’s affecting program performance in real time.
Getting Away From the “Gut Feeling” Approach
Most importantly, it shifts companies away from decisions based on gut feelings, an approach that’s guaranteed to leave money on the table. As the Harvard Business Review points out: “Analytical decisions and actions continue to be generally superior to those based on intuition and experience.”
Up to 10 years ago, as a travel manager, you’d have some basic data which guided your negotiations. Or you might negotiate based on a stakeholder’s existing relationship with or feeling about a hotel chain or air supplier. Now, with the developments in technology and data availability you can validate those feelings and make informed decisions based on real data and current trends. And that drives revenue growth.
Although the potential revenue gains are huge, investing in analytics isn’t just about the money. Business intelligence (BI) can drive insights into the traveler experience, employee satisfaction and retention trends, company culture and even financial risk and tax liability.
Without the data narrative, travel managers are just guessing, and guesswork is a poor basis for doing business.
3 Steps to Building the Business Case for Analytics
So, since you know that investing in analytics will help you deliver a better travel program, how do you convince those who need to fund that investment? Here are three steps you can take to lay the groundwork for the case for your BI investment.
1. Identify Your Goals and Objectives
Work out what you want to achieve with your travel program and how better analytics could help you meet those goals, or even surpass them. Goals like improving traveler safety, reducing expense fraud and improving supplier negotiation strategies are powerful incentives to crunch the numbers. More importantly, demonstrate to company leadership that these goals can drive the organization’s overall business success and revenue growth. For example, if increasing the employee retention rate is a company-wide goal, using travel data to drive and measure traveler satisfaction can contribute. This is true across business units. Travel program data is valuable to procurement (supplier management and cost savings), HR (employee satisfaction), sales (sales optimization) and even finance (operational risk management).
2. Start Crunching Your Own Numbers
Even before you get your new analytics platform, you can start to crunch your own numbers, because there’s so much more data around. Simply showing key stakeholders what kind of data exists within their own business operations, and what insights business intelligence has the potential to unlock, can help start to build your business case. Getting started on your own will help you see where the gaps are and identify where you need more data to make an informed decision. It will also help you quantify the number of hours this takes. Getting expert help will save time you could productively use doing something else.
3. Work Out Potential Savings
If you know where you are missing opportunities, you also have some idea how much you could gain. Weigh these numbers against the investment in analytics to make your case. For an even more powerful argument, identify where there’s an immediate improvement you could make. For example, BTN says most companies can immediately save on travel expenses, and demonstrating where the investment can drive quick wins will only make the case stronger.
Building Your Data Strategy
One of the issues companies struggle with is how to be strategic about using data when there’s so much of it out there. Advito can help companies get to what’s truly valuable and what matters for their travel program and corporate goals and objectives. You’ll be able to identify and report on:
- Who’s traveling where, when, how, and where they’re staying
- Traveler well-being
- Meeting corporate social responsibility goals
- Risk and crisis assessment
- How travel is driving sales
Every travel program is different, so it is important to identify the drivers that are affecting your program and build a unique analytics solution that makes sense for your program needs.
How can Business Intelligence pay off?
Investing in analytics and business intelligence can really pay off for travel programs and corporate stakeholders. Here are several examples of how BI can make a difference.
Expense management is one area where big savings can be realized. Before investing in business intelligence, one financial services company allocated each traveler an annual budget via a special account, and reconciled expense data at the end of each year. That meant towards the end of the year, there was no way to easily track what was left in that traveler’s account.
Once the company started tracking expense data with analytics, it could see who was regularly overspending on travel, and look for ways to drive savings. This allowed the company to make better decisions about when travel was permitted, and improved travel budget management overall.
Another way to leverage data analytics is to look at total trip cost. You can pull together information on meals, ancillaries, accommodation, and transportation. You can then add other trip expenses like printing, direct booked reservations (ex. Rail or car hire/Uber) and shipping by integrating multiple data sources. Looking at the total trip cost makes it easy to check on policy compliance and to track expense data. Plus, you can easily identify the overall cost to the company and work to eliminate program leakage
You can link it to other metrics, too, like sales. In one instance, this helped improve the performance of a sales team because the travel manager could determine which types of trips resulted in sales, and which didn’t. That meant the company could use video calling or other virtual communication for low-return trips and save the spend for those which resulted in revenue.
There’s no doubt about the value that comes from having a holistic picture of your travel program. Even more valuable is the affect that investing in business intelligence for your travel program can have on the organization overall. Using historical and predictive analytics to make your data actionable can improve traveler satisfaction and wellness, supplier negotiation, traveler compliance, revenue, and so much more.