Have you ever thought about the perilous life of a travel manager? The always-the-manager-never-the-traveler? With employees traveling for business more than ever before and rising travel costs, the role of a travel manager has evolved to become quite the juggling act. It starts with making different plans simultaneously, complying with corporate travel policies, keeping the costs within the budget limits, getting multiple approvals for each trip and doing it in record time because, well, everyone needs to travel yesterday.
Now add the woes of flights and hotel rooms selling out coupled with 2 am emails about rescheduling. These unsung heroes find themselves on this relentless quest every day, with no appreciation for the job done, but basking in the wrath of the travelers, finance controllers and managers whenever something breaks. Sure, now you email them instead of calling, but their ‘way of life’ as essentially remained unchanged for about three decades now.
Over the years, the pace, scale and impact of technology on businesses has visibly increased with the travel sector as one of the best examples of an ecosystem that has evolved parallel to this, but with a major caveat. While the personal travel space enjoys agility, mobility, the business travel story has been a bit drab. The travel managers, who are perennially in the firefighting mode, have been able to make limited progress towards improving the overall value add of business travel to the organizations. However, with the idea of Digital Transformation penetrating every aspect of businesses, a new hope is emerging.
Automation is Their Ally
Travel, for organizations, can account for up to 5%-6% of their annual budget, especially in industries like technology and pharmaceuticals. It’s a $1.4 Trillion market globally, with India accounting for $46 Billion. with most of it being managed over emails and calls. Imagine if you could automate the workflow, the activities generating mounds of paperwork and endless email trails, limit an individual’s involvement to business-critical cases, and direct the human focus on activities that help in improving the travel program of the company.
Transform Travel into Growth Strategy with Advanced Analytics
Travel speaks volumes about a company, but in an email driven work environment, it’s hard to keep track of all the generated data. With insights generated by leveraging this data, travel managers can understand the business travel dynamics better, leading to better control and transparency. Data Analytics also lets them forecast the company’s travel requirements and take actions to optimize the infrastructure. As industries work towards making digital transformation a reality, the current goal of business travel tech players is not just getting cheaper tickets, but using travel as a growth strategy for the businesses.
Let the Employees Own the Travel Process
Workplaces are a direct reflection of their workforce, and the best organizations have systems, processes and tools that help employees be productive. Imagine planning a business trip to a far-off destination. In most companies, the planning will involve a multi-hierarchical approval, coupled with endless conversations with the travel agent that lead nowhere. This is cumbersome, and ultimately results in procrastination until the last day. Using AI, predictive analytics and machine learning, one can create smarter, personalised recommendations that are offered to the traveler directly. A smart tech-based proposition can empower employees to make an informed decision in a fraction of time taken earlier, reducing the burden of trading emails and making travel planning a delightful experience.
The Big Cost Saving Edge
Traditionally, policy enforcement and supplier negotiations are the areas through which most companies optimize travel costs. They simply don’t make the cut anymore, especially when implemented in silos. An all integrated platform complete with tech integration is a much better option any day. What’s more interesting is when introducing a democratized process and incentivization, employees feel a sense of ownership of the travel process and go above and beyond to ensure the best RoI from every business trip.
Tech enabling business travel with such enhancements can empower organizations to build travel as a strategic lever for growth. Technology has the capacity to deliver significant cost and time efficiency as well as unparalleled employee experiences consistently. Smart organizations realize that making an intelligent intervention at the right time gives you a significant edge. It is time to stop thinking about just the price of a ticket and start maximizing the true value of business travel to the company.
The author is Founder and Chief Executive Officer at ITILITE.
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