Technology – such as enterprise and cloud technology – is now critical for businesses to ensure they are attracting and retaining the top talent. Arlene Coyle, Chief Commercial Officer and Global Head of Corporate Solution Sales for Amadeus IT Group SA discusses why.
Legacy technology systems, entrenched intermediaries and lack of transparency in commercial relationships have hampered innovation in the corporate travel space for many years. The consumer travel experience, in terms of the process to book, execute and pay for a trip, has outpaced procedure.
Coyle is charged with driving the commercial strategy and development of Amadeus, one of Europe’s most valuable software businesses and one of the world’s largest platforms for global bookings and pricing data.
Her recent trip to Australia focused on releasing new Amadeus research which found that Australian travel and expense systems are contributing to hidden costs to a company’s ROI.
The research also found that travel policies are a major driver in Australians taking and remaining in jobs, with 44% of all professionals saying they would leave a job due to a poor travel policy and 50% saying that a company’s travel policy would impact their decision to accept a job contract. From a CEO’s perspective, the main driver for corporate travel is ‘growth’. There is an understanding of how important business travel is, it’s up to individual organisations to get their policy right.”
Ultimately, a comprehensive framework for managing Travel & Expense (T&E) is central to maximising value. T&E is a major line of expenditure for many companies. Still, despite this, best practice processes are often overlooked or implemented poorly, leading to cost and productivity inefficiencies, limited strategic oversight of travel management – and frustrated employees.
“National and international business travel is becoming an increasingly large part of people’s working lives, with IBIS predicting business travel growth to increase at an annualised rate of 8.5% over the five years from 2017,” Coyle says. “In fact, corporate booking policies today are becoming a recruitment question and a means to attracting talent for certain Australian organisations. We’re already seeing examples of flexibility in travel policies to reflect desire, status and expectations of employees. The challenge is for organisations to understand and act upon the changes which are shaping our market.”
Coyle joined Amadeus in 2000, and has held various management and leadership positions in the areas of commercial and marketing functions, leading global teams and working with clients around the world. “My insights and advice for corporate policy is very much based on experience as well as research,” she says. “Tech has caught up with corporations. It’s moved faster than the processes in place around managed travel. A large proportion of what we’re doing is playing catch up. The reality is we don’t really have the answers to lots of questions about chat, AI or block chain right now. What we do know is the pace of change is rapid so we must be flexible, nimble and open to change. Complexity is only going to increase. We can achieve better business through smarter travel.”
To secure greater ROI and business benefit from travel, Coyle first stresses the importance of looking at the data. “Corporations need to look at what’s working and what’s not. Only through analysing both is it possible to look for savings. A lot of travel is being booked out of policy simply because it’s not in the policy to book. Corporations need to look at the booking data, see what people are actually doing. If you’re not offering it, it will be done out of policy so look carefully at analytics. If 70 per cent of employees are heading to a specific hotel, for instance, find out why. Your supplier policy needs to be relevant and the first step to making it relevant is understanding what your people want. So, ask them.”
Automation is also helpful. “The visual guilt of pricing options work,” she says. “Ensure you need to provide a reason to justify extra spend and automate all stages. Using alerts as prompts can also keep the process in line with policy.”
Travel and expense is commonly viewed and managed in two phases – buying and expense. “In reality, there are five stages to look at,” says Coyle. “The booking stage, which must be relevant to the traveller. The buying stage – lots of data is currently being lost at this stage. Any company asking employees to use a personal card rather than a corporate card is losing visibility that would allow it to understand where money is going. The actual travel, then expense management stage. The fifth and final stage is data insights. The more you engage the traveller in a process, the better you’ll be able to manage duty of care and productivity, everything that affects the bottom line of a company.”
The new Amadeus platform enables people to manage all five steps of the process.
Coyle’s vision for corporate travel is innovative, tech-focused and essentially would enable travellers to complete the entire process via mobile phone. Picture a business travel policy facilitated by chat and AI, all to make life simple. Prompts will flag meetings in advance, ask if travel is required and give options a, b or c. Fully automated check-in, blockchain enabled, with cabs arriving via location services.
“We haven’t seen today what is possible. Technology is my best friend; it’s my help support, my check in, payment – everything I can do on my mobile. At Amadeus, we’re looking at putting travellers back into the driving seat. We can do that through connecting the eco-system. The opportunity to deliver innovation as a result of our research leaves me confident we’re able to enter a new phase of travel management in Australia. We can pull together all of the elements needed for a truly personalized travel experience.”
Coyle is of the firm belief that the more seamless corporate policy is, end to end; the higher the chances are of employees sticking to policy. “This isn’t a debate about UX experience, this is about creating a user friendly and relevant experience to maximise use of that policy,” she says.
Amadeus is a leading provider of advanced technology solutions for the global travel industry. Customer groups include travel providers (e.g. airlines, hotels, rail and ferry operators, etc.), travel sellers (travel agencies and websites), and travel buyers (corporations and travel management companies). To find out more about Amadeus please visit www.amadeus.com.