Travel managers: Have you ever not sent a travel report … but nobody noticed?

Screenshot of CWT AnalytIQs homepage
Screenshot of CWT AnalytIQs homepage

A couple of weeks ago, a colleague played us a video of Japanese organising guru Marie Kondo working her magic. We watched, mesmerised, as she conjured the most neatly organised closet from what looked like a department store hit by a hurricane. She started by asking the owner of said closet to imagine her "ideal lifestyle," and then proceeded to discard everything that didn't fit.

This is a sound philosophy. At work, too. Particularly in the complex, data-heavy world of business travel. And one area especially ripe for a good decluttering is corporate travel reporting.

Just like a closet filled with clothes rarely - or never - worn, many travel reports are never read. 

It's not all that surprising. After payroll, travel expenses are the second largest controllable expense for many businesses. So there's a huge demand for travel data across organisations, that travel and procurement managers are tasked with delivering. 

We work with many of the world's biggest organizations with best-in-class travel programs. We often hear from their travel managers how they have dozens of people come to them with ad-hoc requests for travel data. Finance might ask for data on total travel spend. Sales might ask for reports on all non-compliant travelers. Security wants traveller-tracking information. And so on. 

When you consider all the different people with a stake in travel, and the fact that travel data can be sliced and diced in so many different ways, travel managers overseeing large travel programmes can end up with a hundred reports flooding their inbox every single month.  

Here's a fun story: we recently met a travel manager who told us about a conversation with his sales director. That sales director had noticed that a report about his team's online booking tool (OBT) adoption landed in the department's shared mailbox every month. What was he supposed to do with these reports? The last eight had not even been opened! Upon investigating, they found that these reports had first been requested by the previous sales director six years ago, when the department's OBT adoption was just 10%. Now, with OBT adoption at over 70%, the reports weren't offering much actionable information.

The travel manager quickly discovered that the problem went far beyond Sales. He audited all the travel reports: some had almost identical data, others were no longer relevant, and many were adding no value. The company ended up axing more than a third of the reports.

A good way to start the cull is to ask the following questions: 

• Does this report help us change traveller behaviour?
• Does it help us manage our travel policy? 
• Does it give us give insights into compliance? 
If the answers are no - delete.

And stakeholders should be empowered to access travel data. Tools like CWT AnalytIQs are easy to use and can be navigated by people who aren't travel or procurement professionals. You can give all the business unit heads in your organisation access to the platform, restricting them to the relevant data sets. They can then generate the reports they need, whenever they need them, themselves, sparing you ad-hoc requests and an inbox bursting at the seams.

Fewer reports mean that you spend less time compiling and analysing spreadsheets that don't generate actionable insights. (Or ignoring them.) Instead, you can use your time more profitably.

Less clutter also means it's easier to find the important data you need, when you need it.

And of course, you'll be one step closer to attaining Zen.

This article was contributed by Koby Brice, senior director, program management, Asia Pacific, and Kerstin Sautter, global program director at Carlson Wagonlit Travel.

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