Using images and predictive analytics can catapult your travel program into management’s field of vision
Back at work after another travel industry conference and still basking in the glow of the rave reviews your panel session received? But have you returned to an office where you're invisible to senior management and don't see a way to climb the career ladder? It may be time to step back and figure out how your colleagues could start seeing you less as the travel bean counter and more as one of tomorrow’s movers and shakers.
Starting to think, act, and communicate like a leader
According to Amy Gallo of the Harvard Business Review, one way to prove your potential is to take on projects and problems that others aren’t willing to tackle or don’t even know exist. Gallo also stresses that your success will be linked to your boss’ success. She quotes Maignan Wilkins, who suggests “you have to execute on your boss’ priorities too. Lean more toward yes than no whenever your boss asks you to help with something new. Find out what keeps your manager up at night and propose solutions to those problems.
Where can travel take you?
Travel is a business support tool. It's not the central objective of most organizations. Travel managers are often isolated and unlikely to be in direct contact with key decision-makers. Being the only one doing something means most colleagues probably don’t even know what you do. How many in your company think that your job is only about finding suitable flights and hotel rooms? Or that you're the go-to person to complain about the clunky online booking tool your boss selected? It’s time to set them straight. Travel managers are paid to be experts in controlling travel costs, but you'll grab management's attention when they discover you’re doing more than they think and what someone else wouldn’t think to do. Business travel analysis is part of your job but remember that raw data only reports the past. Data visualization and predictive analytics, however, are about understanding the present and knowing how to act in the future. Take the initiative and use dynamic visuals to provide quickly understandable evidence. Boil all of your travel data into a single powerful story, backed by data. Management will sit up and take notice of your company policy recommendations and see you in a different light.
How do you get there?
You need to highlight your deftness at business travel analysis. Sending Excel sheets attached to a weekly email update may fulfill your obligation to report data, but senior management rarely absorbs the implications of a sea of columns and rows of numbers. It’s like using bullet points on a PowerPoint presentation: The content might be there, but audiences will take more notice of a visually intriguing example. Data visualization summarizes the message all those numbers are sending and effectively demonstrates patterns. It allows you to see the “where” and, most importantly, identify new possible cause-and-effect relationships. It allows you to easily introduce a visual into your updates and presentations that make travel and the travel booking patterns of different departments stand out alongside cost implications. Such a storyboard might suggest to your line manager how traveler satisfaction could be improved and corporate costs reduced by introducing some modifications to travel policy. A visual snapshot of what the numbers mean is a way of presenting your ability to find savings for your company, personalized solutions for your different travelers, and your potential for imaginative problem-solving. According to PwC, “the best jobs right now in America include titles like data scientist, data engineer, and business analyst. CEOs tell us they're looking for employees who can problem-solve in technology-rich environments and link their work to business value.” Recruitment consultants love to talk about transferable skills. If you want your career to take off, demonstrate that you don’t need to be a data scientist to be effective. Embracing data visualization and predictive analytics to communicate business intelligence in an imaginative way can propel your career.