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IT IS well known that the use and accuracy of data has always been a bugbear of mine and that, if data is the 'Holy Grail' and at the heart of so many business decisions, let alone those specifically relative to business travel management, why, when we are presented with it, are we so sceptical about its accuracy? Warren Buffett once said that “risk comes


from not knowing what you’re doing”. How true that is when applied to data management. Times they are a-changing, though, and many owners of corporate business travel are now managing data as a valuable resource. They use structured, formatted data to deliver accurate and relevant reports that have been through a quality assurance process that profiles the data to discover inconsistencies and other anomalies in the data, and performs data cleansing activities to improve the data quality of the information. Just as technology is an enabler, data as an enabler allows you to not only measure performance but also equips you with the information you need to make better informed decisions that lead to improvements across all components of business travel management. The majority of travel management companies and hotel booking agencies can now produce a cube of interactive data, ready to cut and dice to your heart’s content, with graphs, pie-charts, bells and whistles et al at your fingertips. Yet how many simply deliver the data instead of pro- actively managing it, or is it that you are not asking them to do so? When you start to analyse what data you


duty of care and security; policy compliance; demand management; and traveller productivity and satisfaction. Let’s now look at an overview of these individually, although it is for you and your company to decide what impact each has when mapping out your data requirements.


Overall cost effectiveness The definition of overall cost effectiveness is often subject to debate and can vary from one company to another. Structured and agreed key performance indicators determine both the definition and the correct data to measure cost effectiveness. The cost of managing the programme, delivering the service, your supplier programme and the payment and reconciliation process should all be factored into your overall measurement matrix, along with benchmarking each and every component of the end to end process.


“The majority of TMCs and HBAs can now produce a cube of interactive data, ready to cut and dice to your heart’s content”


Supplier contract performance and management Doing the deal is only the beginning. Are you getting the negotiated rates, where are your volumes against budget, what feedback do you get from your travellers?


Sustainability Again, definition can differ


want, let alone need, you must realise that it’s not only about data measurement, it’s also about data intelligence and bringing in all elements of the end-to-end process. You cannot obtain all relevant data from one source to effectively manage and improve your business travel programme. Whether you are a multinational company or one operating in a single or smaller number of countries, combining data will give you the fullest picture. This is particularly so through the vehicle of a data warehouse/consolidator where you have multiple travel management companies, hotel booking agents, card providers, travel expense management and accounts payable systems. Data should be at the heart of both your business travel management programme and your strategic key performance indicators (KPIs) and will encompass all elements of: overall cost effectiveness; supplier contract performance and management; sustainability;


from company to company. Is it just about the environmental impact of your travel programme – if so, carbon emissions reporting and carbon management is all that you are looking for – or does it extend to offering alternatives to travel, in which case data on the 'reason for travel' is essential.


Duty of care and security Recent legislation has now brought this to the forefront of the travel manager’s agenda and discussions with both your human resources and security departments will enable you to agree what is actually required for reporting purposes and therefore the extent of appropriate data.


Policy compliance Your travel policy drives your business travel management programme and therefore data will help you shape your ongoing review of your policy to ensure that it is aligned to both your travel department’s and your company’s overall strategic objectives.


Demand management Wikipedia states that “Demand management is a planning methodology used to manage


forecasted demand”. Within the business travel arena, planning needs data to identify historic trends both in supplier capacity and in terms of price impact.


Traveller Productivity and Satisfaction Traveller productivity is aligned to traveller wellbeing and, ultimately, to traveller satisfaction. A travel policy that does not align cost and value will invariably lead to traveller dissatisfaction. Feedback data from your travellers and travel booker will enable you to gauge exactly how successful your travel programme is across all elements of the end to end process. Managing as well as measuring your data


will help to identify your challenges and opportunities, thereby enabling you to take positive action to make your programme even better in the future.


*Tony Pilcher is a director of consultancy Pilcher Associates Ltd and was formerly a buyer with HSBC.


AT THE HEAT OF THE MATTER


• Transactions and spend data are the minimum data requirements, says Torsten Kriedt of Advito, so the client can slice and dice it themselves. Over and above that, clients may get a bill from the travel management company's consultancy arm. “A consultancy shouldn’t be used to spit out the numbers but for any analysis only,” advises Kriedt. How to get the right data to improve travel programme management? Use KPIs. “KPIs focus the mind and they can identify which data you need,” says Kriedt. “Most companies don’t have a grip on their total travel spend because no one data source covers it all.” Multiple sourcing of data, he says, is the nub of the problem for most corporates. Another is the mapping as most TMCs push this out to a third party and they find it difficult to reconcile the inconsistencies, be it the employee number or the spelling of the employee’s name.


• Travel managers know good data is crucial for their work. But which data do they need? Are they combining the appropriate measurements for true performance management, building a full and actionable picture of what is going on in their travel programme? And do they have the information which tells them whether the travel programme is being managed in line with their organisation’s overriding strategic objectives? In many cases the answer is no. Corporations often bring the wrong data sets together to make comparisons which lack important context. 'Numbers to Action', Advito 2010


• There is a cost to building a data warehouse, a phrase which can cover everything from a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to a more expensive self-built solution or a package bought from a third-party specialist provider. Investment (which includes dedicating internal human resources to maintain the data warehouse and extract and analyse the information it provides) needs to be weighed against likely returns, but generally the larger the travel spending, the more justification there is for the project. 'What travel payment is all about', AirPlus 2011


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