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Everyone is talking about the digitalization of business travel – but many companies see obstacles rather than the benefits. A cloud-based digitally connected platform provides CIOs and travel managers with the right arguments to make travelers and CFOs happy.
The way to digitalization can be hard for companies, as corroborated by two polls conducted this autumn. When database producer Couchbase surveyed 450 companies across several countries, as much as 68 percent questioned the availability of the right techniques for digital transformation and how that could present an almost insurmountable obstacle. 80 percent had to lower the ambitions for new digital applications because of the complexity of the use of data.
The Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) presented similar figures: the great majority of companies (72 percent) considered their travel processes as only minimally integrated. Lack of resources (25 percent), a perceived lack of support, internally and externally (30 percent) – as well as the missing acceptance of the travelers and the unwillingness for changes (37 percent) came up as obstacles in the path to digitalization.
Digitalization as a cross-sectional task
Digitalization is a cross-sectional task, especially when it comes to the digitalization of travel processes. It touches many departments from travel management to human resources and IT specialists to the works council, to name a few. Vested rights thinking, fixed procedures and different objectives make the digitalization difficult – although it undoubtedly provides great advantages: accelerated processes, less mistakes, better service, more accurate reporting, more profound decisions and better results at the end.
Digitalization does not only touch many departments, but also the overall performance of a company. That is why the mandate for its implementation should come from the executive level – with the necessary support from the respective operational managers.
Most important argument: the technology
The most important argument here is undoubtedly technology. It must convince by its advantages and avoid causing any big issues in the company. That is why I see high potential in outsourcing department-wide process chains to a cloud solution.
The positive characteristic of a business travel platform in the cloud which appeals immediately to the users is that it works via the internet. No installations or updates on single computers are necessary, and the control logic follows the familiar principles of modern user interfaces. This keeps changes within limits and increases acceptance.
But the real advantages evolve in the background. That is to say, a sort of virtual platform can be extended almost at will in all directions. The basic set is the combination of travel booking with travel expense reporting (Travel & Expense): the once recorded and checked booking data forms the basis for all accounting processes. Names, departments, project numbers, travel data, destinations and itineraries are passed on within the process intuitively. If the system knows how many days and nights a traveler has spent in which countries, it can for example calculate the catering allowances automatically and add the sum to the settlement. The advantages are obvious.
At Amadeus, we have extended our cytric Travel & Expensesystem amongst others, which has been proven for many years, into a cloud platform. We are working with a number of different customers and partners on this platform. As an example, we recently announced a collaboration with KPMG which allows companies and employees to book their business travel and automatically receive immigration, tax and regulatory assessments and assistance throughout the journey. It’s thanks to open platform and digital-first companies that partnerships like this are possible.
Individualized processes for every company
Many other services can be connected to this central process of Travel & Expense. Providers of corporate credit cards, for instance, take care not only of the booking data, but they deliver their settlements directly to the expense process. Service providers that handle visa and other processing formalities for personnel also dock seamlessly. It also includes start-ups working on a platform format, e.g. providers for the optimization of the hotel stays settlement. The list of examples is endless.
New digitalization offers can be integrated quickly into the platform. An open digital platform responds flexibly and promptly to the volatility of needs and requirements of the market. For instance, it must be possible to adapt the offered product selection flexibly to a changed user behavior as a result of the CO2/climate discussion without destroying necessary travel policies and decision-making structures.
Such digitally connected platforms bring digitalization for companies forward in three ways:
Good arguments for networking in the company
With these arguments – quick implementation, individual processes, less costs and complexity –travel managers cannot only score points with the management, but also with all departments. This is how a cloud-based technology platform creates the necessary cross-networking.
Digitalization is an extensive process and not trivial, without a doubt. The beauty: it is digital ideas such as digitally connected platforms that convince the stakeholders to support the change process. This is how the future of travel emerges.
As a business, Amadeus is committed to leading the industry forward to shape a better future of travel. That means working with partners to innovate, using our expertise to connect the entire travel ecosystem, creating better journeys for our customers. Ultimately, we are powering smarter business travel to remove the complexity behind the scenes and ensure a smoother experience for travelers worldwide.