Travel 4th August 2020 - 4 min read

Creating a covid-proof data strategy

By Joni Lindes

Covid-19 has caused disruptions to almost every way we manage travel. As companies plan to both return to work and return to travel, the c-suite are in need of proper guidance on travel management policies and strategies now more than ever before.

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How do travel managers prepare?

In the wake of this crisis, one of the most prominent thoughts we have heard from buyers is their need for quality data. In a volatile market with many upcoming changes, travel buyers who are flexible, adapt to change, and look at the data for guidance will become invaluable to their organisations.

Simultaneously, a disaster that unleashes new needs is always the primary instigator for innovation. There promises to be an abundance of technology on the market, like TMC risk management offerings and contact tracing solution integrations. These will offer different data services and increasingly more data sources – leaving buyers to sort fact from fiction and decide what best would suit their programme needs. Hence, the need for a data strategy.

Why do we need a data strategy?

Developing a data strategy involves a closer look at programme goals and developing data and reporting capabilities to achieve them.

Right now, what has happened in the past has no precedent on the present and the future. We cannot even use 9/11 as a reference point because Covid-19 is an ongoing event and will continue to be for maybe the next 12 months. That does not mean that data is not important. Rather, it is even more crucial that travel buyers know what their markets are doing now, what their travellers are doing now and what the business is asking for now and react to that appropriately.

How to create a covid-proof data strategy?

If you want to read more on the basics of building a data strategy, read our guide: The Data Recipe.

During Covid-19 especially, data strategies need to go a step further and account for the following:

1. Data timeliness

In order to negotiate supplier contracts and develop policies for a new normal, your company will need data and, more importantly, they will need data now. Getting monthly reports will no longer be enough. Make sure your data strategy allows for frequent reports that are as close to real-time as possible.

2. Pre-trip data

As policy rules and checklists before trip get even more complicated with multiple stakeholders involved in the approval process, capturing all data ahead of a trip will become crucial. Companies need to either work with their TMC or data management providers to make sure there is a pre-trip feed that is easily accessible and with the appropriate workflow and approval process set up.

3. Ticket cancellation and asset recovery

When the pandemic first took hold, agencies and companies struggled to deal with the volume of cancelled tickets. As different suppliers have different policies and responses to the pandemic, these need to be taken into account per each booking made. Some hotels or airlines were issuing full refunds, others were providing fee waivers for booking changes and cancellations while others were providing credit. Some credit was given to the company, regardless of traveller details, and some was not. Keeping track of this can get complicated very quickly.

Companies need to know how much credit they have with each supplier, when it expires, and how these vouchers can be claimed. The vouchers could be valid for the next few years.

This calls for a brand-new analysis so only introduce a data management system that can provide this information or has adhoc and custom reporting features to accommodate this.

4. Data quality

When managing travel in the wake of a pandemic, having data an organisation can trust is even more crucial. One of the most fundamental aspects of a good data management system is its ability to cleanse and validate data and catch supplier data quality issues earlier on.

Only solutions that have data verification processes at every stage of the process will be able to produce data that can be trusted.

Make sure your data strategy approach examines how the data is verified and, if using a supplier, check references to make sure they are able to validate and catch data accuracy problems.

5. Measuring the Return or ROI of a trip

When it comes to travel policy, company stakeholders will be asking a question they have not always asked before: is this trip necessary?

Given the health risk (and inherent discomfort) involved with travelling and the logistics involved with continuously changing government regulations, companies will start to look at the value travel brings to their organisation. They will be looking at the value of travel as a whole as they plot their company strategy going forward and may also be setting up additional approval processes per trip. When drawing up your data strategy, examine how your data solution can integrate with other systems in the company that can measure productivity and revenue. CRM systems and project management systems are some examples.

By making smart decisions in your data management approach and choosing solutions which allow third-party integration with minimal effort, you can ensure your data strategy is fit for a post-covid future.

Joni Lindes
By Joni Lindes
4 min read

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