Customer spotlight: Ann Dery, Director, Global Travel & Meetings
Egencia® customer spotlight: Ann Dery, Director, Global Travel & Meetings
Some of the best perspectives on Egencia's suite of product offerings and application to business or corporate travel come from those who use it or instruct others to utilize it frequently. In this interview series, we profile Egencia customers from around the world, and ask their thoughts on what our product team should keep in mind while solving for them, and where the future of the industry lies.
In this installment, we chat with Ann Dery, Director, Global Travel & Meetings at S&P Global.
Here’s a preview of what our Travel Manager of the Year for 2021, Ann Dery answers about travel solutions and travel technology and her own experience working with a travel management company like Egencia by American Express Global Business Travel:
- How did you first come to work with Egencia’s products?
- What inspired you to get into this business, and what have been some of the most interesting parts of being in this industry?
- What's the biggest challenge your team is facing right now?
- As a member of Egencia's Connect Advisory Board, what do you think is the most important thing for Egencia's product team to keep in mind when solving for customers today?
- What's the most helpful feature of Egencia’s product for your team currently?
- If you could add one feature to Egencia’s product right now, what would it be?
- You were recently awarded the honor of being BTN’s Travel Manager of the Year. How has that impacted your goals and direction for 2022?
- What's one prediction you have about the future of business travel?
How did you first come to work with Egencia’s products?
I joined S&P Global back in 2017. I was actually one of the first category managers they brought on board in our newly formed global procurement function. One of my first tasks was to figure out a way to fix all the customer service issues with their travel program on a global scale based on my experience (I’d already been in the industry for almost 20 years).
I presented to the operating committee that we should globalize the program. That it really was a prime candidate for working with a single supplier – which, at that time seemed like a shocking concept to management, but we went through a very rigorous sourcing exercise.
It was interesting because we invited a slew of agencies to initially join the sourcing process but only are two [including] Egencia were willing to go forward with the sourcing because they [agencies] didn't believe we were ready to transform the program into a program that was set for maturity, innovation and a single suppliers. So that's how we ended up with Egencia. We felt at the time  that Egencia’s culture and the fact that it was a more technology driven system really was in sync with what we were doing in the finance organization and S&P.
What inspired you to get into this business, and what have been some of the most interesting parts of being in this industry?
I think I’ve had a very different trajectory in the travel industry to most of my peers. I was a pre-law major and living abroad for a chunk of time in the 90s, and I became an ESL teacher to executives that were being relocated from France to United States. When I came back to the states, I joined DRS Technologies and it was the first company that I worked for once I’d returned, and worked as a corporate paralegal.
At some point in time, they decided to globalize their travel program and the legal department was kind of in a in a low. So, I asked the CFO if there is anything I could do to help them with this project, because I had really good project management skills. I knew how to read contracts and I’d worked on a lot of stakeholder engagement during my work in the in the legal department. At that point, the CFO said, ‘we really appreciate the volunteering, but we've got this we got it handled’. Three weeks later, she came over to me and said, ‘We’re struggling to get this program off the ground, and we really need someone who's dedicated to working with the new agency and [who’s] also worked on all the communications. Didn’t you volunteer to run the Program?’ I told her not really because I worked in the legal department, but I’m very willing to pitch in. And that's how it all started.
Within three months, the CFO was so impressed with the way the project had finally come together and how it was moving forward that she went to the general counsel behind my back and said, ‘We really need someone who can do project coordination and who's interested in this new concept of travel. So we want her to come work in the finance department’. And that was really the beginning of this amazing career I’ve had, and it's consistently been an exciting industry to work in.
What's the biggest challenge your team is facing right now?
We’re actually on the cusp of a very large merger, so our biggest challenge right now is figuring out our resources and our bandwidth. We’ll have so many huge flagship energy projects to take on as soon as the merger closes and they’re all related to the travel function.
Like most companies, our travel function has also been gliding through the pandemic. So, I did work on a number of major travel projects - like our return to business travel concept, the first phase, (which was enough height of the pandemic), and then the second phase. We then started becoming more accustomed to traveling in this new normal.
As a member of Egencia's Connect Advisory Board, what do you think is the most important thing for Egencia's product team to keep in mind when solving for customers today?
I do think leveraging all the expertise within the CAB is super important for your project team. I think there are members with programs at all different levels - whether they're a strategic client of yours, or a small to medium sized clients.
I think we should also participate in workshop sessions where we meet with the product team and speak about our struggles trying to manage our programs. Each share some commonalities, but they're also very different - especially if you have a global program like mine where we have different needs and different regions.
What's the most helpful feature of Egencia’s product for your team currently?
There are a lot of internal meetings on the books already, and I think it's really going to be about making sure our travelers have all the information they need to ensure a safe and healthy journey. That’s why I think things like the Travel Advisor tool is really coming in handy for us. We've been promoting that because a lot of travelers are coming to our department asking us if we know the entry restrictions or covid restrictions in particular destinations.
If you could add one feature to Egencia’s product right now, what would it be?
I think one of our biggest struggles are things like trying to manage your airline program and having better tools to manage your airline contract performance. Having that built into your online booking tool could give that agility to address market share commitments when you have a global program. I also think leveraging the expertise within the CAB is important for you.
Then additional tools that make the system more agile when it comes to sustainability messaging. There's been many enhancements over the pandemic, but I think there's room for additional growth in that area. And I hope we can actually start testing some of that in the future.
You were recently awarded the honor of being BTN’s Travel Manager of the Year. How has that impacted your goals and direction for 2022?
It was an incredible honor to be recognized for your work by your peers in the industry. I feel more empowered to bring forward the various transformative and innovative ideas I’ve had for both the travel and internal meetings categories I manage. I think winning that award or winning any sort of major award in an industry gives you that much more credibility with your peers and executive management. It also shows everyone that you have a different type of expertise within the industry, and you can be a trusted thought leader within your own organization.
So I’m hoping it’ll enable a lot more major projects to be taken on by the travel team and they'll be well-funded. So, we can look forward to really transforming the program as we start coming out of this pandemic.
What's one prediction you have about the future of business travel?
I think my biggest prediction for the future is the innovation that's going to enter our industry. There have been so many wonderful startups that gained traction during the pandemic, so I think it's going to be a wonderful advantage to the buyers in the industry. This will enable us to better manage our programs to offer a very different traveler experience in the future.
I think there's going to be a lot more standardization when it comes to the data around sustainability, and I think there's a lot of effort going on right now, especially in the air industry. I’m hoping that permeates the hotel category as well, because that’s a big challenge for all of us. I think it's really about innovation and about taking a new look at how we do things. We're all ready to embrace change, and the concept of embracing constant change is something that that’ll permeate our industry going forward.