Travel 23rd April 2020 - 5 min read

Covid-19: the cue to upgrade your technology strategy

By Joni Lindes

Today, almost every business function can benefit from technology and automation yet, according to a study from TomTom Telematics, around a third of UK businesses admit to being slow to adopt technological innovations. In fact, 32% of businesses are still using paper to store sensitive business information and 53% of businesses use spreadsheets even though there are better tools on the market.

Why are companies slow to adopt new technology?

The top reasons why businesses are slow to adopt technology are:

  • Cost. According to the TomTom Telematics study, 36% of businesses said cost was their biggest obstacle.
  • Difficulties involved in introducing new systems according to 16% of the survey respondents.
  • Lack of time to invest in research and implementation according to 15% of survey respondents.
  • Resistance from other employees cited by 11% of survey respondents.

While these elements can hinder technological transformation, they don’t necessarily need to stop it entirely. Although the time it takes to implement new software is daunting, using manual workflows and processes like spreadsheets on a consistent basis creates more work and puts the company behind competitors who are using more advanced technology. It also contains a security risk. Using software that adhere to security standards with verified authentication is often a much safer bet than passing information around via unlocked spreadsheets.

Technology suppliers not only have to develop tools that are valuable to business processes, they also need to make sure their technology stacks up to security and data protection protocols set by an external body and set of standards. For cybersecurity and information systems, companies that have the ISO/IEC 27001 and 27002 certification are regularly audited to ensure their systems and processes encourage information security.

Covid-19 calls for transformation

Covid-19 has evoked a dramatic change to our way of life and created new needs. If “necessity is the mother of invention,” a new need equals new technology or greater adoption of the technology we already have.

We have already seen massive adoption of cloud meeting and team collaboration technology, telehealth, virtual learning, and the transformation of the trillion dollar events industry to online-only spaces. Companies are also realising that remote working is feasible and, where it isn’t, measures and technology are being introduced to make it happen.

In travel, due to coronavirus, companies are identifying gaps in their pre-trip reporting, management and duty of care procedures.

All of this is being done rapidly in response to an urgent situation. But what if it didn’t take a global crisis to introduce change? Technology like video conferencing and telemedicine all were developed to solve a business challenge that already existed before Covid-19. Covid-19 just made the case for this technology more urgent.

It may not always be a healthcare crisis that pushes technological adoption, even something like business growth can lead to an increasing amount of software being adopted.

For example, an SME may not need much to manage their travel. Employees can book via a corporate card and/or ask their manages to get their expenses refunded. This is fine if the employee-base is small and their managers and Finance know where they are and what they are doing. Beyond a handful of employees, you are going to, at the very least, need an expense management system. You may also have a TMC, however, there is little or no team monitoring the TMC and if their rates live up to market standards.

As the company grows in revenue, employee numbers grow, teams get more complicated and number of trips grow from a handful to hundreds happening simultaneously; more formal procedures need to be put in place for risk and duty of care. Without this, it becomes impossible to properly check on so many travellers and trips.

It also becomes more difficult to control spend as Finance cannot keep track of every department and their travel. Travel becomes a procurement category with a team to manage it. If there is not already a TMC in place, it now becomes necessary so services like emergency support and 24/7 call centres can be provided to travellers.

As more systems get introduced to the equation, the reporting becomes more complicated. Instead of using just an Expense system linked to accounting software, TMCs, different corporate and purchasing card feeds plus any HR system respectively all have different data about the same trip. Online booking tools may be in use as well. We now need to link that all together if we are to have any control or workflow to manage what is happening. This needs to also link to accounting systems so Finance stays in the loop.

It is not enough to simply adopt new technology, we have to have a technology strategy to ensure the technology continues to work together to serve business needs. This is why we need a technology strategy.

What makes a good technology strategy?

A good technology strategy has the following components:

  • It is scalable. It can grow to accommodate more data and more users easily. Cloud-based technology is best at this.
  • It considers global standards in technology, IT and cybersecurity and has a checklist of relevant certifications needed for each new software.
  • It is integration-friendly. Each new piece of technology needs to link to other technology platforms so existing workflows can be supported and data fragmentation is avoided. Create a “technology checklist” so each new tool’s ability to integrate can be assessed efficiently.
  • The regular assessment of existing software. A company may have a large tech stack but some tools are not used as business needs change. Keep the tech stack relevant by setting up regular intervals to audit your department’s technology.

Many think it is safer not to introduce new technology yet, most of the time, the opposite is true. Delaying digital transformation becomes a problem as soon as things change, like a global pandemic occurs or a business begins to scale. Introducing new tools quickly in response to changes may mean that corners are cut. This can cost more money later on.

As Covid-19 brings global travel and many other business activities to a halt, use this time to think about what you can do to improve your operations, identify the technology that can make it happen and create a strategy built to deliver value.

Joni Lindes
By Joni Lindes
5 min read

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