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BBT FORUM REPORT


WORDS MOLLY DYSON


WHY COMPANY CULTURE IS KEY


Buyers and suppliers gathered at the BBT Forum to discuss mobility, risk, digitisation and collaboration


A DOUBLE KEYNOTE ADDRESS from Uber for Business and Visa aptly set the scene for the most recent BBT Forum, which was titled “Adapt, progress and thrive”.


Delegates at the InterContinental London – The O2 heard how both companies were partnering with cities to improve mobility through technology and ease congestion for commuters. Uber said it was using data from the 10 billion trips booked through its platform to help local governments with ini- tiatives, such as setting up the infrastructure to support the mass use of electric vehicles. Meanwhile, Visa said it had increased the footprint of its contactless payments on transport links to cities all over the world, including London, where 1 billion journeys have been completed using contactless.


THE FUTURE IS DIGITAL BBT editor Matthew Parsons moderated a panel discussion on digital transformation in corporate travel programmes. Speaker Jo McQuade, travel manager at Npower, said the energy firm decided to search for a new TMC some four years ago, aiming to increase adoption of the online booking tool. Other areas of the business had started using self-service technology solutions, so she included digitalisation in the tender docu- ment and chose a new partner based on the platforms it was offering. She said adoption improved to 98 per cent and presented the firm with reduced operational costs. Fellow speaker Michael McSperrin, global head of facilities and support services at Alexander Mann Solutions, said the firm’s


chief technology officer recommended a Microsoft programme that allows users to create simple chatbots. The software was eventually used to create a bot that em- ployees could use to find the answers to any questions they had about the travel policy and to troubleshoot certain issues. Patrick de Jong, product designer at


corporate travel platform Roadmap, added: “Digitisation of a travel programme can save money, but it can also save time – it takes away a lot of the stress involved in travel and puts everything into one place so travellers don’t waste time looking for what they need.” Meanwhile, artificial intelligence consul- tant Andrew Anderson said humans were absolutely essential in order to make AI work for businesses. “A huge amount of time and effort can be saved by implementing AI, but it’s not about replacing people; it’s about helping us to be more efficient and pro- ductive in their roles by automating certain steps in everyday processes.”


CULTURAL FOUNDATIONS


The next session covered cross-departmen- tal collaboration, with Oliver Moore, head of travel agency at Enterprise, leading the discussion. The consensus among the panel was that how buyers should engage with key stakeholders within the business is almost entirely dependent on company culture. One buyer said forming a committee with


people from different departments worked when restructuring a travel policy. Another said a similar strategy proved successful with stakeholders taking an active interest in


InterContinental London – The O2


which travellers in their department weren’t adhering to policy so they could rectify this. A third buyer admitted their approach to implementing a managed solution would be straightforward, but it turned out to be a challenge identifying key stakeholders. They said: “At first I thought this policy would be all about saving money, but in talking to people in the business I realised it was more about protecting travellers.”


REDEFINING RISK


During the next discussion, Stephanie Smook, regional director, EMEA, at ACTE, asked what attendees thought was the number one future disruptor. Answers included millennials, consumerisation of corporate travel, cyber threats and terrorism. Julie Black, deputy chair at BACA – The Air Charter Association, said with everything from drones and ash clouds to multiple air traffic control strikes across Europe posing a threat to travellers’ journeys, travel managers can help to mitigate disruption by communi- cating more effectively.


One buyer said it was a challenge to adapt to what is essentially unpredictable, but all travel managers need to be able to “cut through the noise”. Determining the first point of contact for


travellers when they’re faced with a difficult situation can be a challenge, according to Emma Maslen, senior technology leader - managing director, UK&I Enterprise, SAP Concur. “Some travellers might call HR first, but people in that department might not even know that employee is travelling.”


TRAVELLER SAFETY


The final session provided delegates the chance to ask questions, with Tom Otley, edi- torial director at Panacea Media, moderating. One audience member asked how travel managers are supposed to ensure the safety of employees who need to keep their location a secret for reputational or business reasons. One answer was that it’s essential that trav- ellers let at least one person in the company know where they are, even if it means ensur- ing the information is confidential. ■ The next BBT Forum will take place on 7 November. Visit bbtforum.com


Supported by: Joint sponsors:


20


JULY/AUGUST


2019


buyingbusinesstravel.com


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