If you’re like many travel managers in the midst of modifying your travel program to prepare for changes ahead (such as the impact of artificial intelligence), one area you should focus on is how to optimize the technology stack your program is powered by.
The first step to creating the ultimate toolset is to conduct an inventory of every single solution your company currently relies on to power its travel program. Since this may include mobile apps, products, and services used by other departments, you’ll want to get input from other stakeholders to help ensure nothing is missed. With each service, include the key functions, benefits, vendor relationship manager, and how it fits into your business travel experience.
Once you have a comprehensive list, use the questions below to assess if each one is still of value to your program given the current climate. You may find that tools that were important to your goals in the past are no longer providing value. You can also use these questions as a guide when vetting new technology.
Are there any redundancies?
In reviewing your tech stack, you may realize there is an overlap between technologies that are performing similar functions, especially if multiple business units are using different one-stop travel solutions to do the same thing. This often occurs with travel, meetings, and events activities. To prevent duplication and eliminate inefficiencies, work with other stakeholders to help ensure there’s no overlap between your existing tech. If there is, it may be smart to consolidate.
Does each tool provide consumer-grade user experience?
Now it’s time to look at the tech tools from the point of view of the people who are using them. Don’t just consider it from travelers and travel managers’ perspectives but all teams that touch travel, such as finance, IT, and security. For deeper insights, solicit feedback from these groups directly. You can ask about which tools they use the most and least, the challenges they may be facing, how easy the tech is to use and how it performs, and if they see room for improvement.
Are there any gaps in our tech stack?
To help figure out this answer, define your program goals and determine if your current stack is meeting them. For instance, do you have tools to adequately support all elements of your duty of care program or have you discovered weak spots? Do you have automated services and robust data analytics to drive savings on travel costs? Are you easily communicating, engaging, and educating travelers? Once you’ve identified the holes, you can begin searching for new solutions.
How would you rate the tech providers?
In addition to the tech itself, look at the actual service and customer experience the provider is giving. Does the vendor offer user training to drive adoption and quarterly product road maps? Is it able to customize its tech to fit your program’s needs? Does the provider have any travel expertise to understand the industry’s unique challenges? With what’s going on in the travel space right now, it’s also important to look at the stability of a company and if it can adapt to the times ahead.
What kind of data security protections does your tech stack have in place?
Data security and privacy have been increasingly top of mind for travel programs, which traditionally handle sensitive information like passport or credit card numbers. Going forward, it’s possible that your program will now need to store health information as well, such as immunization records for COVID-19 or temperature readings. Health data privacy is regulated differently from other personal information. For instance, in the United States health privacy is protected by HIPAA, which regulates how organizations store and transfer health data information.
When you evaluate new providers, consider how data security is built into the DNA of the company you’re considering. Ask how they adhere to data privacy law, like the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR), and how they maintain data privacy standards for new fields.
Do the tools in your stack work cohesively?
From this exercise, you may realize just how many different tools your program employs, which may be creating a disjointed user experience. A tech stack built with tools that are interconnected through integrations and APIs so they can “talk” to each other can help reduce this friction. If the user experience and program management are suffering from fragmentation, you may need a larger overhaul and may wish to speak to your travel management company about an integrated suite of tools.
As you further evaluate your stack, here are some travel tech essentials that will be beneficial in this current climate:
- Pre-trip approval: A tool that can monitor for and flag bookings that involve travel to high-risk destinations and require a designated approver to accept or reject a trip before it can be ticketed is now a must-have for travel programs. Find one that can be easily configured and managed since the list of countries you’re preventing travel to may change often to coincide with the latest travel restrictions and health guidelines.
- Traveler monitoring: Location technology can bring together booked trip data, credit card swipes, and risk intelligence to help security teams locate and contact travelers impacted by a disruption quickly. Look for a product that helps enable multiple communication channels so you have several ways of reaching travelers.
- Automated flight disruption support: With the surge of travel disruptions we’ve experienced in 2020, a tool that monitors flight information for cancellations, delays, and missed connections and automatically contacts impacted passengers for booking assistance makes total sense.
- Traveler well-being: Travelers may have heightened anxiety and stress as they start to travel again, so it’s important to take extra measures to support their well-being. Data analytics tools that measure KPIs related to traveler wellness can give you insights into what may be adding more strain to their experience.
- Communication channels: Especially now, travelers need to be armed with the latest travel updates and advisories. A mobile travel app that can send alerts with destination information, provide notifications on trip changes, and help enable them to quickly chat with a travel counselor will be critical in the months ahead. If the traveler isn’t using mobile, consider how you can communicate through email, travel portals, or SMS notifications to stay connected on the road.
To support you and your travelers, American Express Global Business Travel has introduced Travel Vitals™, a dynamic travel briefing platform that allows users to search across different components of a trip for information and advisories. Click here to give it a try.