By: Cindy Fisher - SVP, Strategic Business Development, GoldSpring Consulting
The trend towards travel and meetings integration continues to climb. This yields positive implications for both traveler experience and organizational efficiencies. In-person meetings are returning at a faster rate than business travel, making now a great time to look at both categories, where you fit as a travel or meetings manager and how you can manage toward maximum value.
Business traveler or meetings attendee?
How does your organization view an employee on the road? If the goal is to make the experience as seamless as possible, it makes sense to begin with the end in mind. Let’s start with business approach and process. Opportunity and efficiency is lost when workflows and support are fragmented.
Consider the traveler profile and the fundamental implications it holds for travel and meetings integration. Tapping one profile leverages personal preferences and leads to optimal in-trip experience from seat preference, to loyalty levels and status, and all the benefits which follow. It also sets up a single touchpoint for policy, booking, itinerary, mobile and expense across the traveler and meetings attendee experience, which in turn sets up additional process efficiencies:
• Streamlined back-end profile management and reporting
• In-policy and preferred supplier meetings sourcing
• Compliant meeting attendee bookings
• Global strategy for continuous improvement and maturity
Critical for an organization are the tenets of a business travel program and the associated value that is lost when the meeting experience operates outside the tenets. If you have fully integrated travel and meetings profile management for your internal stakeholders, job well done. If not, this is a message you may want to consider pushing internally – cross functionally and up the ladder.
Workflow efficiencies – twice not so nice
Once we’re bought into single profile management for the benefit of the travel and meetings attendee, there are many more efficiencies to be gained with travel and meetings integration. Why facilitate, support and report on dual systems for booking, payment, expense, etc.? Without aggregated data across both areas, consider the challenges (which many of us recently experienced) with cancellations, non-refundable tickets and contracted meetings. As a travel or meetings leader, you know your organization needs to understand its total exposure and the complete financial risk picture.
The opportunity exists not only to streamline processes within the travel and meetings departments, but also within the peripheral support areas including HR, IT Marketing and Risk. If IT and HR don’t connect the data collection and reporting dots, you leave efficiency and savings on the table. IT can also help streamline trip disruption notification across, messaging tools, mobile apps and reporting. Risk Management can standardize policies and implementation of processes across travel and meetings (standard clauses in hotel contracts including force majeure for cancellations is one example). Duty of care is deployed across both categories for increased compliance.
Supplier rationalization and leverage
Once profiles are integrated and internal resources are streamlined, take the opportunity to leverage spend, and rationalize and optimize supplier partnerships, specifically in the hotel category. Data and spend reporting and visibility should occur through one lens for the true picture, including:
• Highest value in hotel spend
• Agency pricing advantages
• Aligned preferred supplier approach
• Combined spend reporting in reporting tool
Added value happens with consistency in payment methods, rebate tracking, cost center application and spend tracking. Back-end data and reporting is linked together instead of fragmented for what you as a buyer need to support strategy, planning, negotiations, payment and supplier optimization.
If you don’t have the big picture today, you may want to begin building it. This type of insight on spend and supplier management is a strong, strategic proposition to push with leadership.
Your reach – owning both categories?
If you are not owning both the travel and meetings categories today, the opportunities may soon present themselves to you (or someone else) in your organization. If you don’t feel ready, take time to upgrade your skill set. An end-to-end travel and meetings view enables you to speak to a more holistic and broader business strategy, driving more contribution from you to leadership and value to stakeholders.
At the end of day it’s about savings and process efficiency for organizations, integrated risk mitigation and increased traveler satisfaction. Now is the time to shore up your strategy because of what’s happening in the marketplace today. The comeback and resurgence of meetings ahead of business travel gives travel managers time to learn about the meetings space and likewise, the meetings manager can assess opportunity before travel peaks.
One way to accomplish this is to conduct a travel and meetings assessment to see what new savings and process improvements integrated category leadership can achieve. Additionally, GoldSpring is conducting our Meetings Management Master Class. The five sessions are complimentary and focus on designing a leading M&E program, engaging stakeholders, financial modeling, the value of travel and meetings integration, and more.
This is a time when a lot of eyes are on travel and meetings, so what better time is there to brush up and bring forth strategic recommendations which can only secure value for you and your company.