“Today’s illiterate are not those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” This anonymous quote holds true to the shifting sands we see in almost any professional industry. The world is changing quickly. One of the most prominent changes is new technology that is being introduced. Whether it is a new tool on the market or upgrades to an existing one, every profession needs to constantly re-sharpen their technology skills and look to the increasingly saturated tech market for an easier way of doing things.
As more startups launch new products and well-established companies upgrade their existing technological offerings, it is now becoming difficult to differentiate between them. Buying into the “hype” over one new tool may be ill-advised when an improved version comes to market soon afterwards.
Have you ever heard of “minidisks?” These were smaller-than-average CDs that came with their own player just before the MP3 player became popular. You could transfer and erase files from them – just as you would an MP3. These minidisks were snapped up by some early adopters but, for the most part, are completely eclipsed by the much more widely adopted MP3.
Given the time it takes to contract, implement and launch a new technology supplier, we do not want to waste valuable time and money on solutions that will soon soon become outdated and irrelevant.
Buying technology in corporate travel
The business travel industry today is seeing a lot of disruption. While one can argue there is always change happening, right now, the changes are causing a widespread repositioning of the status quo.
NDC is changing the way the airlines, the GDS, TMCs and OBTs market their content. Airlines and hotels are applying revenue management technology to get the most money out of their customers while buyers use rate re-shopping technology to spend the least. TMCs are negotiating hotel and airline contracts on buyers’ behalf. There is also more choice in technology than ever before. Anything can be done by a tool or app, whether it is mitigating risk or making the travel experience easier.
In the background, new technological developments are being made in artificial intelligence and machine learning – allowing machines to tick off our daily work to-do lists for us.
These days programme spend and quality is increasingly determined by the technology supporting the programme. Not to mention, the data measuring the success of the programme is determined by the technology used to capture and analyse it.
From data entry (digital expense reporting, TMCs and online booking tools) all the way to the data aggregation and analysis (TMCs and third party analytics software), this technology shapes your data and your data shapes what actions you take as a result of that.
In summary, the technology you buy today will be what pulls the strings of your programme tomorrow.
How do I choose the right technology?
There are five easy steps:
1. Know the reason why the technology is there in the first place.
It is easy to get sidetracked by shiny new tech but we must not forget the chief purpose of why it is there – to help you manage your programme. Any new technology purchase should, in essence, help you accomplish three main programme objectives:
- Book the travel itself. This includes OBTs, TMCs and end-to-end trip management software.
- Measure, analyse and minimise the cost. This includes all kinds of reporting, sourcing, policy and rate management tools including expense reporting tools, rate reshopping technology and analytics software.
- Improve the traveller experience. This includes mitigating risk, duty of care functions as well as assisting the traveller with technology like virtual payments, flight rebooking tools and hotel concierge apps etc.
If the new tool does not achieve any of these objectives, is it even necessary implementing it?
2. Examine the references
Most buyers buyers fall prey to seeing an amazing demonstration of new technology capabilities yet, upon purchase, they struggle to implement it. Good Help desk supplier support is everything when it comes to introducing any new type of software package. A swift implementation is also crucial. When evaluating a new technology supplier, ask for references and speak to those they have worked with before for an accurate picture of how the software, platform, tool or service ends up being in reality as opposed to how it is on the demo site.
3. Consider a wide range of options
Don’t always go for the well-established brand names. The travel management industry has been built by legacy suppliers and often, these do not have much business incentive to change or upgrade their services.
Investing in startups can prove very beneficial as they have no big brand and history to ride on – it’s just the quality of their technology that goes under the microscope.
Examine multiple suppliers and attend a few demonstrations before making your choice.
4. Don’t forget about integration
Choosing technology is not a once off occasion like purchasing a new pair of shoes. As most buyers know, it is not just your programme’s air, ground, hotel and rail suppliers that need a sourcing strategy. When we choose tech we are building a puzzle and we need to see how the new technology will fit in that puzzle.
When picking out an OBT, for example, choosing your TMC-supplied version will make implementation easier. Basing most components on TMC services, however, mean that, if you ever want to switch TMCs, it may involve switching a lot of other programme technology components.
For example, most TMCs offer data and reporting services. If we want to switch the TMC, this can have a significant impact on reporting during the switch. Implementing a third party data supplier not only ensures you receive reporting on travel and expense from more than just one channel, it also allows for TMCs to be switched out at will.
In contracts, ensure there are ways to switch the tech supplier without damaging other processes.
5. Ask your travellers what they would prefer
Finally, when choosing technology for the traveller experience, we should be getting travellers involved. Send survey questionnaires asking what they would be looking for in a tool. Promoting adoption of a tool becomes a lot easier if travellers feel that they are actively listened to before the tool is chosen.