Survey Says: Biggest Analytical Pain Points Are…

* Quantifying savings (36%), and measuring the traveler experience (16%)

* Working with travel technology tools, e.g. self-booking, expense reporting and data reporting tools (34%), and the airline category (20%)

* Deciding how to structure the analysis (22%), getting good data (20%) and proving cause and effect from the data (20%)

* Meeting the analytical demands of Senior Executives (28%), Procurement (26%) and Finance (24%)

This comes from my recent survey of 50 anonymous and self-proclaimed travel buyers  – so take this as directionally interesting; not statistically significant.

It’s curious to me that this group is still struggling with the issue of quantifying savings.  You’d think that long-standing need would by now have a well-accepted definition.   Maybe the issue is not definition, but data quality.  The Company Dime takes a deeper look at this issue here.

Worth noting is the number two pain point, topic-wise, is measuring the traveler experience.  Traveler centricity was a key topic at this week’s ACTE conference in Atlanta, so I’ll connect these two dots and conclude that companies are indeed shifting their sights a bit, with the goal of better understanding the human aspect of travel.

Travel technology tools -self-booking, expense reporting and data reporting – lead the way in being the biggest source of analytical pain.  I suspect this is a combination of things – incomplete and inconsistent data, difficulty of integrating data from multiple sources, and clunky reporting requirements, all reflecting poorly on these platforms.  Plenty of room for improving the data analyst’s experience, no doubt.

While getting good data is a key frustration, so are the essential tasks of framing the analysis, and proving cause and effect from the data.  No doubt there are a lot of ad hoc data request from travel stakeholders, so many of these are not going to be answered by canned reports.   There is a need for clear-thinking analytical types who can quickly grasp the path that leads to these more complex reporting goals.

So what did this casual survey really show us? My take, open for debate, is:

* Savings is still king, but the pendulum may be swinging back toward understanding the traveler experience.

* The biggest source of frustration is tied to the user experience – gotta make all these tools that contain data deliver data in a friendlier way.

* Analytical skills are in demand, and will be for as long as there are ad hoc reporting requests from analytically demanding stakeholders.

You can see the survey results here, which includes open-ended answers to the question “How would you describe your biggest analytical pain point in your own words?”

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Travel Buyers, What’s Your Big Analytical Pain Point?

question-mark-in-mazeA lot of folks in the travel industry don’t enjoy the numbers side of the business nearly as much as they do the people side.  Fair enough, as the whole industry is built on the premise of building better interpersonal relationships.

But what is it about the analytical efforts that are really causing you the most pain?

Maybe if we understood those pain points better, our industry could do a better job of making the numbers side a bit easier on everyone.

If you are a travel buyer, please take 2 minutes to answer five quick questions here:

Travel Buyers: This Quarter’s Travel Data Pain Points?

The survey is anonymous, and meant to shed some directional light on the problems.

I’ll publish the results here and on LinkedIn.

Please share this as you see fit.  Thank you!

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On Concur’s Future

Planet earth in spaceIt’s easy to be a Concur critic these days.  But “these days” ain’t the same as “in the future”.

I attended Concur’s annual customer event, Fusion, this week.  Let’s start with the negatives:

  • Concur clearly knows their user base has been frustrated by poor SaaS lately.  It’s a major sore point with customers, and a central issue for management. Will management make good on these promises? TBD.
  • Concur is playing catch-up with KDS on making expense reports easier to write, and making the booking process easier to use. No signs this year of any breathtaking innovation.
  • Understandable concerns about how the acquisition by SAP will affect Concur.
  • TripLink, Concur’s key to closing the gap on unmanaged spend, is stuck in low gear. Lots of sales, very few proof points of it adding value – yet.
  • Palpable angst from TMC execs about the future of their business models in the face of TripLink’s potential to enable off-channel bookings.

So if you’re not a fan of Concur, stop here, because the rest of the story is much brighter.  Continue reading

Posted in Travel Industry, Travel Technology | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

A Better Way to Manage Road Warriors, and Their Costs

You road warriors are a hardy bunch, aren’t you?

You spend over a hundred hours a year on planes, take trips on short notice, cross too many time zones, lose sleep, gain weight, get up way early and come home late, and give up more than your share of weekends.

All while being squeezed by travel policies that leave you shaking your head, wondering if the people who approved these policies really, truly understand how hard it is to be a heavy-duty road warrior.

The Travel Friction Concept

Let’s call all this wear and tear you’re taking on “travel friction“.  You get it, right?  The more trips you take, the tougher those trips are, the more you get burned out by being on the road.

Fun fact: Real road warriors, those in the top 10% of all travelers, absorb Continue reading

Posted in Sustainable Travel, Travel Management, Travel Procurement, Traveler Friction | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Why TMCs Need a Dramatically Different Sales Approach

An uphill struggleEver notice how Travel Management Companies (TMCs) have a hard time selling their value?

It’s not a complicated value proposition.  “We’ll help you book travel at low prices and help your travelers on the road, so you’ll save money and sleep better.”

That’s a pretty easy benefit statement to grasp, right?  So that’s not really the problem.

Two Big Problems

TMCs compete on the wrong metric, and they sell to the wrong people. Continue reading

Posted in Travel Management, Travel Procurement, Traveler Friction, Trip Friction | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Why Data Predicting Trumps Data Reporting

Predict What Matters Quick – name a travel metric that your CFO would pay a lot of money to predict reasonably well.

Next year’s travel savings? Maybe. Next year’s travel spend? Maybe.  But he won’t pick your firm’s future travel policy compliance rate, or next year’s average airfare, or your traveler’s future satisfaction with your online booking tool.

My point is that while firms spend a lot of money on travel data reporting, the core value that those pretty dashboards deliver is not very high – not in the grand scheme of your firm’s business.

Here’s why: Data reports are the result of the 20th-century management dictum “Measure what matters”.

Within the boundaries of a travel program there are dozens of things that matter.  And so we’ve figured out how to measure them. In order to report them.  In order to manage them.

But all those dials and gauges and stop lights really do is simply give you signals.  Signals that you have to interpret to keep your travel program  between the white lines of your side of the road.

What those travel dashboards don’t do is tell you how to get to a better travel program.

They can’t, because they have two big flaws:

  • Data reports are stuck in the past
  • Travel data reports are stuck in the world of travel

Gas Gauge vs. GPSSo that’s the data-driven solution to getting better travel programs – deal with the future, and deal with data well outside of travel.

Enter Predictive Analytics

The key is linking travel’s impact to business outcomes.  Outcomes that matter on a much bigger scale, like sales, customer satisfaction, employee attrition, health/safety costs, etc.

This will fundamentally change the way you view and manage a travel program.

Instead of seeking to minimize travel costs, you’ll be trying to maximize sales, or perhaps minimize employee turnover – by putting a travel program in place that clearly contributes to those goals.

If sales are trending down, or employee turnover is trending up, what should you, the travel manager do to help fix these problems?

Obviously, you’ll need some new lights on your dashboard – lights driven by data from Sales and HR.  More importantly, you’ll need to know how to impact those non-travel metrics.

That’s where predictive analytics comes in.  You need to have a data-driven understanding of how things like cabin policy and hotel tiers impact bigger, non-travel metrics like employee productivity, health and safety, and attrition.

You need to predict with confidence that by changing a variable in the travel policy, it will cost $X and improve the non-travel metric by Y%.

You’ll do this in one of two ways.  If your travel program is big enough, you’ll be able to mine your own data and build these models.  If your program is too small to offer enough data, you’ll depend on benchmarks and case studies from the larger firms.

Data Reporting vs. Predictive AnalyticsEither way, you’ll find yourself importing non-travel data into your travel dashboards, and exporting pro-active, fact-based advice on how to drive to your firm’s bigger goals.

Management theories evolve.  Dictums change.  It’s time to move on from measuring what matters to predicting what matters.

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Posted in Data, Metrics and KPIs, Travel Management | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Air Sourcing Moves Out of the Slow Lane

Horse-buggy vs CarsThe big bottleneck in airline sourcing projects is the time and cost of entering detailed airline contract terms.  That will soon change for the better.

Fayrnet, a product of Volaro, automates the loading of airline contracts into GDSs.

In speaking today with Patrick Healy, Volaro’s Director of Sales and Distribution, I discovered that this tool could  – and should – be easily adapted to handling corporate contracts and proposals from airlines.

Healy says it handles Category 25 and 35 fares (discounts off published fares, and fixed, aka flat, lane or zone fares, respectively).  The demo I saw quickly converted a typical Excel-based airline contract for dozens of fixed fares across a dozen points of sale in a matter of  a few minutes.

Let’s assume the tool works well.  The implications are clear:

  • Air sourcing project fees should come down.  This assumes Fayrnet can do the same job at a significantly lower price than a skilled analyst.  One of the most experienced analysts I know estimated that it could take ~ 30 hours to load a complicated Star alliance proposal for a multinational client.  Fayrnet claims to process simple contracts in minutes; complicated contracts will take a few hours, and may require special formatting.
  • Air contract analysis will be more accurate.  Automation reduces errors, right?  This should be good news for buyers, who have trouble spotting errors made by their analyst, and should give airlines more confidence that their complex bids have been entered correctly.
  • Air sourcing projects will take much, much less time from start to finish.  Most air consulting shops run a client’s proposals through the same analyst, so he or she is the bottleneck.  Using Fayrnet, the analyst can upload many contracts quickly, presumably even simultaneously.  Faster contract/bid loading means much shorter cycle times between negotiation rounds.

And for those star-gazers out there, here’s a not-so-wild-anymore prediction:

Automated contract loading will mean the end of airline sourcing as we know it.

Think dynamically-adjusted discounts based on weekly or monthly market share results, as decided by the airline.  Why spend time negotiating discounts and waiting months or quarters to see if the market shares materialize?

I think airlines will eventually get to dynamically pricing, or dynamically revenue-managing, individual corporate accounts.  Airlines see the market share data daily.  With automated contract loading, they can quickly adjust their discounts as needed to get more share, or better margins…why bother asking the buyer for a shaky “commitment”?

OK, that will strike many of you as far-fetched, but it has to get you thinking about the longer-term implications of the commercial relationship between airlines and travel buyers.

For now, let’s just be excited about the prospect of significantly improving a painful part of the travel procurement landscape. The combustion engine for airline sourcing is here.

NB1: I’ve asked Volaro for Fayrnet references, and will check them. I’ll report if they come in less than strong.

Update: I received two very favorable references for Fayrnet, and a third very favorable and unsolicited testimonial from a third customer.

NB2: I have no commercial interest in this product; just a fan of the potential for industry improvement.

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Posted in Airlines, Consultants, Travel Procurement | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Traveler Friction, Part 1: Three Key Benchmarks

Road warriors are a hardy bunch.  tClara’s data on more than 100,000 travelers shows that each month road warriors often spend more than ten nights away from home, and spend more than 30 hours on planes.  Month after month, that adds up to a lot of wear and tear.

Most road warriors can handle it – for a while.  But sooner or later, all that travel-related wear and tear (aka traveler friction) builds up, and then the traveler burns out.

Burning out a road warrior is incredibly expensive, especially if the traveler is on the road producing revenue or serving high-value customers.  So it makes sense to look hard at what causes traveler friction, how it impacts a business, and what should done about it.

Benchmarking Traveler Friction’s 3 Key Drivers

It’s a simple equation:

Traveler Friction = Trip Quantity x (Travel Footprint + Trip Discomfort)

tClara has applied its patent-pending Trip Friction™ algorithm to over 500,000 trips from 100,000 travelers around the globe.  This means that firms can now objectively understand what their travelers are experiencing.

Continue reading

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Open Booking Takes Off With United

The corporate travel industry today took a big step toward making Open Booking a practical choice for travelers and travel managers.

United and Concur announced their intention to launch a TripLink-enabled booking path on United.com by the first quarter of 2015.  It will allow corporate travelers to obtain net-of-discount pricing, and have their reservations serviced online and by UAL’s reservation department.

Booking data will be automatically sent to the Concur platform, where it will be available to travel managers for further compliance monitoring and duty of care processing.

Folks, this is the hat trick of Open Booking – discounts, data and duty of care.

What’s not clear yet is how the TMC fits into this.   Continue reading

Posted in Managed Travel 2.0, Travel Management | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Solving the Blah-Blah Travel Data Problem

Good-Bad Street SignTravel managers routinely rank travel data as one of their most important issues. Yet AirPlus recently reported that 56% of North American travel managers surveyed said they would not be willing to pay for better travel data.

OK, so let’s assume those buyers are reasonable folks.  How do we explain, then solve this conundrum?

Those buyers must not see much value – provable, hard dollar value – in “better” travel data.  I get that.  This industry has put up with mediocre travel data for so long that we’re used to ordinary, low-value, blah-blah data and data reporting. Continue reading

Posted in Data, Travel Management | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment