- 16th April 2018
- Posted by: Manolis
Spend on business travel is already at an all-time high, and was predicted to jump by another 3.5%. Learn how utilizing the right data, the right way can keep organizations one step ahead of the curve.
The phrase ‘Big Data’ is thrown around a lot and in multiple contexts – whether it’s to mean the large amounts of consumer data collected via social media platforms or output generated by disparate enterprise systems.
What’s often ignored is its ability to truly transform on-ground reality. Big Data isn’t just numbers stored away in large warehouses for retrieval at an indefinite ideal moment. Data streams have to feed active systems, capable of processing, analyzing, and translating all the information into actionable insights.
In HR and workforce management, Travel and Expense (T&E) is a major data-heavy vertical. Information pours in from a range of sources – employee expense reports, the accounts or finance department, statements of the corporate credit cards, and third-party travel management company’s records.
For global businesses or even rapidly growing startups, travel is an indispensable part of daily operations. Critical tasks like fundraising, customer acquisition, sales, expansion, and more all hinge on travel – domestic and international. And the expenditure involved is equally layered: from umbrella costs like flight fare or hotel stays to micro-spend such as luggage fare or meals.
The ideal T&E management tool should be able to handle the needs of the entire organization, beyond those heading the corporate travel function. The key is to centralize the system end-to-end, collate all the ‘Big Data’, pass it through intelligent analytics layers, and use the resultant ‘Smart Data’ to inspire change.
Let’s break it down into 5 rational steps.
With T&E information – and requisitions – coming in from different sources, departments, and touch points, having one unified platform to govern them is simply ground zero.
A centralized data repository takes in the information to churn out consolidated views, reconciling multiple metrics (in units like currency formats, day or hours spent, number of employees deployed, and more). This allows each expense item to be correctly understood as part of the bigger T&E picture.
Once a central repository is built, the next step is to apply analytics to make sense of the data. Here’s a simple use case: imagine all the spend is categorized according to service types, and within the sets, air travel is highlighted. Here, one airline services provider stands out among the four, a high percentage of the spend is through a single operator – this could be to the tunes of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Using this data, T&E teams could negotiate a competitive pricing package from or bulk discounts with that operator, adding significantly to the business bottom line.
Analytics helps dive into the data at a more granular level. While traditional solutions have focused on flights, stays, and other big-ticket buys, advance tech considers less expensive items as well – such as catering spend for internal meetings, baggage fees, airport parking and taxi services.
Leniency around these processes is open to abuse, and potential fraud. When managed correctly, micro spend tasks could unearth thousands of dollars in latent savings.
Bringing them under a pan-organization travel and expense management platform helps define budgets, set spending limits, and put guidelines in place, based on the insights uncovered by data analytics.
‘Blackbox’-ing the whole process via digital solutions, helps streamline the procurement, spend and, claims pipeline. PLANNET is one such product that takes data from popular sites like Expedia and Booking.com to make travel spend management easier than ever before.
Advanced solutions even support individual profiles which factor in ‘frequently used’ accommodation, meals and seat settings for regular business travelers.
Tools that cover inner Big Data and analytics capabilities with a refined UI enhance employee experience and HR efficiency – making it more likely that travelers will actually opt for corporate solutions and comply, instead of ‘going rogue’ when traveling.
One of the major benefits of having a tool dedicated to T&E data processing and analysis is that it automates tedious processes and shrinks timelines. Storing e-receipts to ensure expense claims are settled swiftly and efficiently, is a good example.
Further, predictive analytics looks at historic data to map possible future trends. This makes budgeting and resource allocations more accurate and in-sync with real-world needs. The time spent on gaps elimination and realignment post facto is reduced.
TRX, a travel data and T&E management firm (now part of SAP’s Concur) is well versed with the many applications of big data in the space. “We recently helped a company that spends over $1 billion a year on travel identify and solve a duty of care need,” said their SVP of BI and consulting, Tom Tulloch.
The company needed to identify employees who frequently traveled outside their countries of origin for extended time periods – giving rise to several additional taxes. TRX delivered a solution that seamlessly communicated the possible risks to employees, as well as their managers.