Companies have three options when it comes to organizing, analyzing, and extracting value from the massive amount of data their travel programs generate. They can:

1.         Build their own platform in-house using a self-service business intelligence (BI) tool.

2.         Commission a third party to develop a custom solution.

3.         Buy an out-of-the-box business travel reporting tool designed for corporate travel, such as Premier Insights™  from American Express Global Business Travel (GBT).

Some clients, seeking guidance on their options, have come to us seeking our expertise on the matter, so here are our thoughts on what to consider when selecting which path to take.

MONEY AND TIME

Tool built in-house: In terms of upfront costs, this is the cheapest option. A monthly subscription might set you back a few hundred dollars. But when building your own BI solution, the software is the least expensive part. The costlier aspects have to do with the tech resources and talent required to build, test, implement, and maintain the platform as well as the brain power that will create the KPIs and dashboards most meaningful to your program.

Because of how long this project can take, you should also weigh the cost of (wasted) time. For some on the “build your own” road, they will never make it to the finish line. That happened to a client of ours. After over a year of trying to create its own platform, funding for the project got pulled.

Custom solution from third party: Each client engagement is different and costs will vary, but from what we have heard from our clients, the drawn-out timeline described above applies here too: Having a third-party build a custom program can take months, close to a year, or perhaps even longer. There may be a slew of unanticipated costs, from change and maintenance fees to implementation and data quality charges.

Out-of-the-box tool: You may pay more annually for the program, but because Premier Insights is a turn-key solution that you can have up and running within 12 weeks after the contract has been finalized, you won’t have to wait long to begin following the tool’s cost-saving recommendations.

PLATFORM DESIGN

Tool built in-house: You may be impressed with the sleek visuals that a BI provider presents during its demo, but that does not mean your own platform will look the same in the end. You will need someone on staff with the skill and will to model and create all of those visuals as well as someone who will work closely with the travel department to determine which dashboards should be included in the tool.

Custom tool by third party: You’ll be able to have the customization you’re after, but the challenging task will be establishing the exact dashboards and metrics to create. Because a third-party provider may have little experience in corporate travel management, you likely will need to rely on your own team to drive the ideas and conversation.

Out-of-the-box tool: When Premier Insights was built, it was specially designed to support our clients’ precise travel management needs. We had representatives from every corner of the company lending their talent and insights, from our travel management gurus on the Global Business Consulting team, who played an integral role in defining the metrics, to our clients who piloted the program and offered feedback.

Every detail was considered. The final result was a robust, user-friendly data visualization tool with more than 70 distinct dashboards and 180+ KPIs, all meticulously assembled by a travel management company (TMC) with a unique understanding of how to produce valuable travel-specific metrics.

And did you know that Premier Insights also offers custom solutions? For clients with special requests, we provide a cost-effective package in which we can craft bespoke KPIs, dashboards, and calculations based on a company’s unique data requirements. We also can ingest and aggregate data sources, consolidate multiple TMCs feeds, and integrate budget files as well as card, expense, and hierarchy data.

SUPPORT AND MAINTENANCE AFTER GO-LIVE DATE

Tool built in-house: After the data analytics tool has been implemented, it’s not “job done.” Testing will need to be conducted and kinks will need to be ironed out. There also may be new requests from users after they begin testing and other updates to make down the road. This can be an issue in organizations where data reporting maintenance falls on a small group of people. When these employees leave the organization, you’re not only losing talent but possibly entire knowledge of the system.

Custom tool from third party: Often in this scenario, the third party will offer various packages so you can purchase a bundle of account support hours at the onset of the project. For updates and additional changes outside the scope of the contract, you likely will need to reengage the third-party provider and draft a new agreement.

Out-of-the-box tool: You will never need to worry about updates or lack of support with us. Included in our annual fee are automatic releases and product enhancements. New KPIs and dashboards, in the works as you’re reading this, and other improvements will be pushed out automatically — with no additional cost or development time.

And even though Premier Insights was designed to be user intuitive and requires little to no training, we have specialists who educate clients on how to use the tool. If someone has questions or issues later on, the telephone lines to our Program Care support team are always open.

DATA NORMALIZATION

Tool built in-house: When building a travel-specific BI platform, many run into issues with data integration, quality, and normalization (especially with hotel data since properties often show up under different names). Some companies also may have limitations on the quantity/volume of historical data that the platform can ingest and compute. 

Custom solution from third party: Similar challenges as those listed above are likely to arise. In seeking to understand whether a third party is equipped to build your platform, you should ask: Does the company possess/have access to a unified environment for data storage, processing, analytics, security, and support? Will the third-party provider be able to integrate with all the clients’ disparate data sources? Will the platform produce meaningful metrics and dashboards (as opposed to just presenting raw data)? How will the third-party provider ensure that the data gets normalized?

Because data normalization/quality is an ongoing, long-term process due to constantly changing travel content without a one-time fix, you may need to reengage the third party later on.

Out-of-the-box tool:

All the information being fed into the tool exists in GBT’s data lake environment, which has no data limitations. As the sole owner of this holistic data platform, we have established feeds to quickly and efficiently ingest and process client data.

Because our data undergoes a special normalization process, all card, travel, and expense information is properly categorized and synced. In addition, we have a full-time team dedicated to data quality and normalization to avoid the challenges that third-party and in-house solutions run into.

Our platform also offers multisource data integration with feeds from virtually any type of travel data and now ingests credit card transactions from Visa and Mastercard (not just those associated with our partner company, American Express) for a fuller picture of program spend. 

You also can rest assured that your data will be secure. American Express GBT meets data protection and information security criteria that are unmatched among TMCs today, and those same high standards are applied to Premier Insights as well.

What’s more, when you use Premier Insights, you know you have the full backing of a longtime TMC that may help you navigate the complexities of travel data. Can that be said of building your own in-house BI tool or commissioning a third party to develop a custom solution for you? To learn more about PI or to schedule a demo contact Premierinsightssupport@amexgbt.com.