Stairsteps to Data Heaven

Why is it so damned hard to get great value from the sea of travel data out there?

You’d think that corporate travel, a large and mature industry, would have cracked the code by now. And yet most buyers are still struggling to get anything more than mediocre value from their data reporting tools.

There’s no question that data reporting is essential in our industry.  This slide lists the popular topics for which most companies care about.  Hard to argue with the need to report, control and predict what’s going on, and the role that good data plays in that. So what’s the problem?

Try these on for size:

  • Nothing ticks and ties. TMC data doesn’t match credit card data, and neither ties out to expense report data.  Who or what are you going to believe?
  • We like people, not numbers. This industry is built on delivering personal experiences, and the relationships that work behind the scenes to deliver them. Not many travel folks come from finance or accounting backgrounds, so there isn’t much industry-wide demand for best-in-class data reporting.
  • We’re stuck in the swamp of stupid statistics. Our industry has no lighthouse, no beacon, no recognized best-in-class travel data reporting suite.  There’s no “Wow – we need to do THAT with our travel data!”   Instead, we have average airfares and room rates, often placed next to meaningless benchmarks.

So what’s the answer? I caught a glimpse of it at the NBTA Europe conference in Lisbon last week. Think stair steps, KPIs and balanced scorecards.  Torsten Kriedt, Nicolas Borel and I spoke at a plenary session on this topic.  In brief, I see a series of steps that travel category managers must reach as they strive to add more value to their data-driven travel programs. (See the slide at the top of this post.)

Torsten champions the use of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), and has authored this Travel KPI Whitepaper that outlines the specific uses of these in a managed travel program.

Nicolas encourages us to apply the proven concepts of a balanced scorecard, where we take key customer satisfaction, organizational learning and cost control metrics as indicators of our category’s strategic value to the organization. Nicolas presented this set of slides: Balanced Scorecard per Borel

These are early visions, but are well worth paying attention to. The alternative is to remain on the low end of the travel value staircase.

P.S. Here is the small set of slides I used in my presentation.  Best viewed in Slideshow (Presentation) mode, due to the animations. NBTA Lisbon Right Balance Gillespie’s slides

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2 thoughts on “Stairsteps to Data Heaven

  1. Scott,

    Excellent points. As an analyst and consultant, I share your sense of incredulity and frustration. I have participated in industry initiatives to standardize data (for example: most travel buyers don’t realize that different TMCs define a “transaction” differently from each other!). I mapped out all of the different industry players, from buyers to suppliers, consultants and technology companies to settlement banks, and, as I am trained in systems thinking, I observed: There must be a good reason why there is a lack of standardization and coordination in travel-related data. Someone must benefit, but who? The answer I found surprised me: Everyone! The confused data situation in corporate travel illustrates a basic tenet in game theory – imperfect or unbalanced information sharing enables negotiation. In the corporate travel business, since everything is negotiable, each party has an interest in protecting an edge in data, information and knowledge! What will it take for everyone to agree on a set of standards? Consultants like yourself, who continue to point out the benefits to all in sharing knowledge. Scott, keep up the good fight! Best, Ira

  2. Pingback: Solving the Blah-Blah Travel Data Problem | Gillespie's Guide to Travel+Procurement

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