Dashboards and other methods of visualizing data have gained popularity in travel management. With the reams of data that a travel program generates, any way to better sort through and make sense of it is welcome. PredictX North America EVP and managing director Tom Tulloch thinks data visualization has a place in corporate travel, but it’s not the end-all. In today’s guidepost, he argues that more proactive, timely data communication is necessary for creating actionable intel.
Artificial intelligence is reinventing the way travel managers use their data, creating abilities not previously thought possible. For example, we can now train a model to examine vast data sets. The next step is communicating the insight to promote growth and improvement opportunities across a travel program. Data socialization, or the communication of data, is becoming almost as important as the data itself.
Most professionals want fast and easy access to relevant information that will help them do their jobs by making better and more informed “actionable” decisions. They don’t want to get lost in a sea of data. That’s where data visualization comes in.
New data visualization tools are innovative. They use dashboards, interactive reports and dynamic scenario modeling to make data consumption a better end-user experience. Many companies now use well-known data visualization software for static or direct spend categories, including Tableau, Domo, Business Objects, Cognos and others. These software visualization tools give access to important metrics and operational KPIs.
But what practical applications does data visualization have for today’s procurement and travel management professionals? As one of the most complicated procurement categories in light of the fluid nature of the data relationships, travel needs more intelligent methods of dealing with the vast amounts of data accumulated through day-to-day traveler activity.
It’s no longer enough just to connect to disparate data sources and deliver pretty charts and graphs. It’s a classic garbage in, garbage out conundrum. Data management in our business is equally if not more important than data visualization, and that’s the complicated part.
Do the key issues on which travel managers take action only happen when they are examining a dashboard? Obviously not. Travel happens at every hour. Emergencies and other issues often arise when the travel team is not looking.
While I agree that data visualization tools provide depth and are still valuable to business analysts conditioned to digging for data, not all of us have the skills or the luxury of time to go digging. Having the relevant information come find you is far more valuable. As easy and beautiful as they are to consume, data visualizations are perhaps no longer enough for the modern travel manager.
Proactive Notifications Are The New Way To Consume Data
People often don’t have the luxury of time to audit reports and use dashboards to identify trends or trouble spots. Important actionable information should find the right cohort with timely, relevant details so people can focus on more strategic initiatives. The key to good information is data velocity and the value of getting the right information to the right people at the right time.
This is currently achievable by deploying software applications that run in the background and look for certain events. The software should identify out-of-policy bookings and push those to an agent to action them, thereby turning a lost savings scenario into a cost avoidance opportunity. With real-time access to this type of information, there is no need to run reports and go digging for data.
How can we use this new method of consuming data? Imagine a traveler books a premium class when the flight duration is under six hours. An action like this is against air policy. Instead of addressing employees after the number of these incidents start clocking up massive amounts of spend, an assistant can send the travel team a notification as and when it happens. The assistant can then notify the traveler and his or her department head at the travel manager’s request. This is just one of many use cases of an assistant in action.
Consider how this could work for duty of care. Recently, about 100 passengers reported feeling ill on an Emirates flight from Dubai to New York. Someone in your human resources or risk department should be alerted when one of your travelers is impacting by this or any other similar situation. This information can enable you to proactively connect with those travelers. Imagine how impressed a business traveler would be when someone from headquarters texts them as the flight lands, inquiring about their welfare, rather than them learning about this unfortunate influenza-like outbreak from a Vanilla Ice tweet?
The software tools that help you operate and support your business in the background 24/7 should proactively deliver relevant insights to you as soon as those insights are uncovered or identified. The same benefits can be achieved for travel buyers adopting a similar approach, in turn improving the travel experience.
Technology is here to help. Continuous advancements in natural language processing and AI point to a future that should excite travel managers. Furthermore, the future is closer than you realize.
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