If your company has employees who travel for work, chances are there’s at least one area of your travel program that’s costing your business unnecessary money. According to Lesley O’Bryan, principal and vice president of travel advisory company Advito, non-optimized business travel and wasted money could be coming from something as simple as an employee who travels when they don’t need to.
Business travel among the world’s corporates reached a new high in 2015 of $1.2 trillion. Analysts are expecting that value to top $1.6 trillion by 2020, so there is a lot of room for improvement in how companies finance business trips.
Key to understanding business travel spending is understanding the business traveler, O’Bryan says.
“The way that we’re looking at it is consumerization,” she said. “Travelers are people. They’re used to doing things in their personal lives, and they expect travel management companies and travel programs at their companies to reflect the easiness of how they book. They want to have sharing economy as options in this space. They want to be able to have pricing that is reflective of what they’re able to get in their personal lives.”
That’s an adjustment for many managers and travel management firms, the executive noted.
“Travel managers and corporations are really trying to adjust to that mentality of travelers, to be able to have that ease of use but also have that good experience they’re used to in their personal lives,” O’Bryan said.
A recent report from Advito found that ensuring travel managers cooperate with the travelers themselves is a critical component of optimizing business travel and, therefore, business travel spending. The most successful companies understand that optimization means finding a balance between what employees want and what a company needs.
O’Bryan offered a glaringly simple example:
“The decision to even travel is often something that can be optimized,” she said. “Oftentimes we travel because we think we need to. But if you sit back and understand what the concept is, what you’re trying to get out of that meeting, you can often stay and accomplish the same result.”
Digital meetings and video conferences can mean businesses will gain as much from an event without having to fork over the cash to get an employee there physically. Plus, O’Bryan explained, this provides the employee a better work-life balance, and supports corporates’ interest in environmental conservation, which is on the rise, she noted.
Luckily, as more business travelers deploy technologies like mobile payments, mobile booking and virtual cards, there is more data at hand with which executives can analyze and understand where inefficiencies in business spend exist.
“Data drives my job,” O’Bryan said of the importance of Big Data in this area. “It is the foundation of changing behavior and putting strategies in place for programs in general. It’s 100 percent relevant and very foundational to what we do.
“Now, with data, you can do a lot of different things,” she continued. “You have to be able to understand it and put the intelligence around the analytics to see the story the data is telling. But more than the story is what actions you can take with that data.”
In an effort to turn data analytics into actionable insights, Advito is expanding its partnership with Cisco and BDC Travel, with Advito providing the data analysis for corporates to choose which Cisco solutions they need to optimize business travel. The same day the expansion of the partnership was announced, Advito also launched a new solution, a savings calculator that enables travel managers to pinpoint exactly how they could save their businesses money based on demand, behavior and category spend.
Automating this analysis can offer a significant efficiency gain for larger corporates strapped for time and resources to take a look at travel data at the micro-level.
“Everyone in the world is doing more with less. We have a limited time frame to achieve a lot within our daily workings, within our companies, as we’re trying to maximize the opportunities within our contracts,” O’Bryan explained. With this in mind, it can often be difficult for corporates and their travel managers to take daily or even monthly examinations of business travel spend and behavior. “Time is a problem to be able to manage the contracts the way they should be managed, to perform and adhere to contract terms,” she said.
Overall, the executive added, companies may need to pay closer attention to how employees spend company resources on business trips.
“Companies are paying attention to the need to optimize business travel,” she said, “but probably not as detailed as they should.”