You might think business travel is easy to describe, but the details quickly get blurry. Without effective business data analytics and visualization, management discussions about a travel program might start to resemble a guessing game.
The issue comes from the fact that business travel seems to be a simple topic: People go places. They spend the company’s money to fly, take trains, rent cars, and stay in hotels. It appears pretty straightforward, but it isn’t.
In a large, multi-national company, with thousands of people traveling at the same time, the volume and complexity of travel data can become overwhelming. How many people booked in advance, like they’re supposed to? Are enough people using their business’ travel management company (TMC)? Common questions like this require data and data analysis to answer.
But not all businesses and travel managers have the skill set or resources to crunch the numbers. This can create a difficult and challenging situation. If you can’t provide easy-to-understand data visualization reports, conversations about your business travel program can devolve into the simplistic “how much did you spend, and why didn’t you spend less?” trap.
The answer is data visualization. Data visualization simplifies thousands of rows of data into easy-to-understand charts and graphs. This eliminates the need for advanced analysis and allows travel managers and business decision makers to stay on top of their business travel program.
Until now, the data visualization tools that were available were expensive, hard to use, or both. But travel managers, arrangers, and companies looking for a clear understanding of the impact corporate travel has on their business no longer face these limitations.
The Egencia Analytics Studio is the solution. Built with the travel manager and their day-to-day reporting needs in mind, it’s a user-friendly platform for people who do business travel for a living. With the Analytics Studio, you can explore data visually, discover hidden insights, and identify new sources of savings. Track trends over time to help you optimize spend across travel categories like air, hotel, train, and car.
The Analytics Studio goes beyond a standard business dashboard. With rich, fast data visualization, it allows you to quickly communicate important travel data and results with internal teams and executives.
In our work with large multi-national organizations, we’ve found five ways the Analytics Studio helps travel managers excel in their work.
1. Understand how your travel program is performing
With Analytics Studio you can create compelling reports to share with your organization’s HR, finance, executive, and procurement teams. The product makes this possible by providing a consolidated view of business travel data. This is enabled by Egencia’s business travel platform, which stores all your travel data in one place, whether booking occurs online, offline, or in the app. As a result, you see a complete picture of your travel program when you use Analytics Studio.
Visual renderings and customizable widgets can analyze your organization’s unique travel program. The use of graphs and filters make it possible to highlight key findings to senior managers. Examples include visualizing the impact of advance purchase in correlation with policy across different types of travel such as international, domestic, or regional.
2. Quickly view multiple layers of travel data
Relevance is critical to effective communication about travel data with peers and senior managers. For instance, if you manage travel for one region in a company that operates in a dozen countries, you’ll primarily want to know what’s going on in your region. The bigger picture may be helpful, but your managers are usually interested in their profits and losses (P&L) and budget and not the entire organization.
Travel managers can assign different levels of access in the Analytics Studio to employees based on pre-defined roles. The system is flexible, so it can adapt to your business needs. The rules allow users to see what they need to see to do their jobs, but not more. This way, people aren’t privy to data that doesn’t concern them, and they aren’t overloaded with information about areas of the business that don’t relate to their work.
The product also gives users rich drill-down capabilities. You can filter data visualizations by department or travel group. Let’s say you want to compare Business Unit A to Business Unit B on how well each group follows advance booking rules. Analytics Studio has simple, click-based controls to generate comparative visual graphs on the fly. This way, you can uncover patterns and trends in your travel program that might merit the attention of upper management, present savings opportunities, and refine your compliance strategy.
3. Bring travel data in-house without IT or data specialists
The general trend in data analytics has been to move away from departments dedicated to this kind of work. New visualization tools have put graphical presentation capabilities into the hands of generalists. The Egencia Analytics Studio delivers this ease-of-use to consumers of business travel data.
Data visualization depends on data access. The best visualization tools won’t work if people can’t get to the data. The Analytics Studio solves this problem because it can pull in travel data from the Egencia travel management platform.
The ability to import data from multiple sources isn’t new. What’s different with the Analytics Studio is the simplicity of the process. Bringing travel data in-house used to require an IT project, usually executed by dedicated IT staff. It meant engaging with either in-house or outside application integration specialists and database administrators — a process that was invariably expensive and time consuming. Now, you can assemble data sets from disparate sources without triggering a complicated project.
The Analytics Studio also lets users export the actual underlying data sets, if that’s required. You can pull the real numbers into an Excel spreadsheet if you need to do further offline analysis. You can then work on the data in the most granular ways possible, all without a call to IT.
4. Do the hard “what ifs?” without a struggle
Data analytics can provide actionable insights for corporate managers. The catch, however, has often been the complexity and time lag involved in bringing these insights into focus. The Analytics Studio gives users a tool kit that can quickly show the insights in graphic presentations that make them easy to understand. These visualizations answer the “what if?” questions that typically arise when managers review travel program reports.
Imagine that you’re trying to evaluate why policy compliance is better in one European subsidiary versus another. The Analytics Studio has a mapping feature that puts abstract concepts like policy compliance into a visual form that overlay on maps. Modifying the query could lead to an insight, along the lines that a particular country’s employees are not booking far enough in advance, as required by policy. You could do a “what if?” scenario and compare rates of advance booking for all countries in the region, for example.
An exercise like this might give you insights into how a certain route or air carrier was booked out of compliance more than others. You could model what the costs would look like with different currencies, different carriers, one-stop versus nonstop and on and on. From there, knowing the facts, you can take action. In the future, the Analytics Studio can help you model how changes in policy would affect your program through predictive analytics.
5. Look good on the job
Data visualization is, of course, about more than creating intelligent graphical depictions of your business travel program’s data. It’s also about you. With Analytics Studio, you get a tool that propels you into the right kind of conversations with the people who count in your organization.
Travel managers sometimes find it hard to present their work as strategic and essential to the business. To senior leadership, travel may seem overly simple, abstract, or routine. Effective data visualization lets business travel programs have a meaningful dialogue with management. By providing useful insights and answering tricky “what if?” questions with Analytics Studio, you can demonstrate the business value of travel in real time.
Rich, visual travel data is available to you now, but all the data in the world is useless if you don’t know what to do with it. The challenge is to know what actions to take to advance your company’s business. The Egencia Analytics Studio can put this capacity in your hands. It moves your travel program from a guessing game to concrete knowledge. Unlike earlier generations of analytics and data visualization tools, Analytics Studio is built for ease-of-use for the people running business travel programs in their day-to-day jobs. It gives you the ability to understand how your travel program is performing, as well as how it might perform better — and how you can effectively communicate up and down to anyone in your company.