American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) has access to tons of data, each year processing billions of dollars in travel spend from millions of business trips. We have breakdowns on our customers’ air and hotel costs and how much they’re spending on rental cars. We know who’s sitting in first class and who has basic economy seats. We have information about which travelers deserve gold stars for booking in policy and which non-compliers should be on the naughty list. Couple all that with our global breadth of data and consulting expertise and it’s a tsunami of information.

So what can you do with all this information? Loads. Things like identify travel patterns and cost-savings opportunities, boost compliance, renegotiate rates with preferred suppliers and enhance your duty of care obligations.

And how can you avoid drowning in all that information? First, it’s important to use the right business intelligence (BI) tools.

With PREMIER INSIGHTS from American Express GBT, that step is easy. This simple-to-use data visualization tool consolidates travel and card spend data in one place and gives you full visibility into your travelers’ actions and transactions.

This best-in-class, single-source analytics tool can crunch data based on nearly 170 key performance indicators (KPI) across more than 70 dashboards. And its user-friendly interface makes it easy to use and interpret.

“You can look at your information graphically or convert the visuals to a tabular view. All dashboards within the tool are also interactive, allowing you to drill down and go deeper instantly. It’s all pretty simple,” explains Jeff Lawlor, vice president of data analytics at American Express GBT.

Second, it’s critical to know which strategic key performance indicators to evaluate.

This requires a bit of reflection about your travel program’s unique issues.

“A lot of information is available, you can use the summary dashboards to find your pain points or you can jump to a specific problem to help you better understand the drivers,” says Lawlor.

Here are a few ideas to get you started down the right path.

Taking your first dip

If this is your first time in the big data pool, begin by getting a handle on the scale of your overall spend in regards to air, hotel, ground and other travel-related expenses to find out where your dollars really are going.

Then, once you’ve gained a holistic view of your spend, take a look at what your travelers are up to — specifically if they are booking in policy and using the right online virtual payment methods. It may stun you to see just what kind of leakage is happening — and some of the consequences.

“If there’s a large gap, it could mean you’re missing out on savings opportunities if you’re not hitting your volume targets to get your preferred rates” according to the contractual agreements you’ve set up with your vendors, says Michelle Murray, director of product development and management at American Express GBT.

She notes that PREMIER INSIGHTS is an especially useful tool to measure this KPI since it captures both travel and card spend in just one place — what she says is “a real differentiator” in the industry.

With the tool, you easily can see if a high percentage of your travelers are, say, booking their air but not their hotel through the approved channel (i.e., the TMC) and if they are doing it all using the corporate card.

Murray notes you also can see the reverse: if travelers are booking through the TMC but not using the corporate card (which is problematic for expense reporting).

In the swim of things

At this point, you’re probably wondering “now what?” But the question really should be “what if?”

As in: “What if my business travelers booked three weeks in advance instead of three days?”

Or: “What if 85, not 75, percent of my travelers booked their travel online (as opposed to booking with a live representative)? How much can be saved?

Or: “What if my travelers only booked lowest logical airfare? How much can that save the company?”

With a tool like PREMIER INSIGHTS, you can ask all these what-if questions and instantaneously see how it impacts the company’s bottom line. (And it can be as easy as dragging the lever of a slider bar on your screen and seeing different results instantly pop up.)

Diving in the deep end

Already boosted your compliance rate, cut costs from the obvious places and now really want to rock and roll? You might look into other KPIs like which travelers are your top spenders vs. top savers (and then somehow reward the savers), examine which routes/destinations are costing the firm the most (and then reevaluate if such travel is necessary or how you can make those trips more cost-efficient) and even look at nonfinancial KPIs, such as those associated with duty of care and travel satisfaction, to unearth fresh ideas on enhancing the program.

You also might use benchmarking tools to improve your travel program’s performance by identifying best practices across your industry and by evaluating how your spend compares to others companies.

Or, take it a step further and look at how seasonality can impact airfare and scour for additional efficiencies by studying spend at the regional vs. business unit vs. individual traveler levels. The options are endless.

Want to find out more about how PREMIER INSIGHTS and other BI tools can help you uncover additional cost-savings opportunities? Learn more here and here.