Travel procurement in a data-driven enterprise

Sound familiar? How we seek information and find solutions for our non-work activities is the regular forerunner of what happens at the office. Travel managers used to receive a cube which was actually printed data reports. Then reports went online. They are still online but now accessible not only on the desktop but also from mobile devices anywhere, even the kitchen counter.

Can you remember watching your mother cook? Every time she needed inspiration for something new she consulted a cookbook which was a printed volume of recipes on a bookshelf.

Do you ever watch your son or daughter cook? They poise their tablet or smartphone on the counter and browse sites which take account of their profiles and offer options for what they’re looking to cook.
Making information and data integral to a company’s way of working is what defines a data-driven enterprise. And it can yield big benefits for procurement, especially travel procurement.

Here are the five key differentiators for procurement in a data driven enterprise and how such an approach can help you get the right solution for the right problem.

1. Company culture

Employees in a data driven enterprises always use data as the basis of decision-making. Some experts suggest making this mandatory for all departments across a company so that it becomes everyone’s normal way of working.

Using data in the procurement decision-making process may sound obvious but it is not always practised. Think of how many times a hotel has been chosen for a conference because of a long-standing good working relationship with the manager. Items such as travelling distance for delegates or facilities for those with special needs or even WiFi speed are all data points that can go into the evaluation. Relationships might be desirable but that is different from being the basis for the final decision.

2. Technology

A procurement department can only make data-driven solutions if the company has invested in technology that can capture the data. Travel departments need a platform with the content travellers want and a user-friendly tool that travellers will use consistently so that data is comprehensively captured.

3. Machine learning

People have always sought data to answer questions. The challenge is to ask the right question and that’s where machine learning can be invaluable. It uses algorithms to identify the trends that are relevant and highlights the issues that are important in relation to the objective – and their solutions.

4. Objectives

Travel management can produce many KPIs from the 10 most popular city pairs and cabin compliance to online adoption. Procurement managers need to identify those that are relevant for achieving their own travel programme objectives.

5. Understanding

Travel buyers and managers need to be comfortable enough with the numbers to know what they mean – it is only then that they can find the solutions. Management is ultimately about identifying the actions most likely to deliver the solutions necessary to achieve the objectives.

Having comprehensive data helps procurement managers to be flexible, stay nimble and move quickly if necessary. If there is an economic event, e.g. Brexit, and procurement managers get asked to cut the budget, they need to know how and where they can do that.