Innovative tech trends put procurement back in the driver seat

By Nicole Adonis

From virtual chatbots capable of answering online queries and technologies that can generate smart data to advancements in blockchain, technology is shaking up the process of buying travel.

Historically, the role of procurement managers and travel buyers has been to balance budgets and keep a company's expenses in check. However, thanks to new technologies, such as travel bots, travel buyers are increasingly able to assume a more strategic role in the company, focusing not only on spend but also on traveller satisfaction.

Bots, such as FCM Travel Solutions' 'Smart Travel Assistant for Mobile', Sam, have been developed to address the business traveller's need and desire to manage their trip on their own and to give them much-needed freedom within a framework.

Virtual assistants can be deployed to handle redundant tasks, such as policy questions, baggage fees and customer support, with limited booking capabilities. They can check flight information, make routine bookings, change traveller information and even check the weather.

As well as enhancing the traveller experience, travel bots also have the potential to improve travel and expense compliance. Research conducted in 2016 by US-based Oversight Systems estimated that compliance could be improved by as much as 70% - by leveraging advanced analytics, companies can focus on serial non-compliant travellers, cutting processing time and effort by half.

For example, Sam is configured according to a corporate's travel guidelines and will prompt the user to take actions that are within policy, thus improving compliance, controlling costs and supporting duty of care.

Not only does artificial intelligence (AI) streamline and personalise the travel experience, it also generates valuable data. As a result of the increased use of connected devices, it is estimated that, by 2020, about 1.7 megabytes per second of new information will be created for every human being on the planet.

The analytical power of new technologies can assist managers in transforming available big data into smart data. This will give buyers valuable insights into business travel frequency, mode of transport and length of trip that could lead to absenteeism and traveller friction.

The opportunity this creates is for corporate buyers to challenge the reasons for travel, to identify smarter ways in which to apply travel policy and, ultimately, to leverage further savings.

Travel managers can move towards driving greater compliance by giving travellers options to match their personal tastes and needs. Traditionally, travel management companies relied upon traveller profiles to segment their travellers and to capture personal preferences. Today, smart data takes that understanding to a new level by highlighting whether a traveller changes their seat on the plane or requests a room in a specific part of a hotel.

This knowledge means that choices match the traveller's tastes more closely and, when automated within an online booking process, involves no further human interaction. Meanwhile, the traveller feels respected and valued.

Big data provides an opportunity for buyers to bring procurement, travel managers, finance, security, information technology (IT) and human resources (HR) to the table, followed by travellers and meeting planners, by shining a light on how corporate travel and meetings activity really influence the financial performance of an organisation.

At the same time, the use of blockchain promises greater efficiency and reduced costs by simplifying today's over-complicated global commercial payments process.

There are several possible applications of blockchain to business travel. By reducing the number of stages and parties involved, it is widely accepted that blockchain could lead to cost reduction, cash-flow improvement and the elimination of fraud.

Blockchain technology could also, for example, allow hotel bills to be settled instantly because systems will know what amenities have been used. The need to pay for overseas purchases in local currencies - and at additional cost - would disappear and a cardholder's data would be stored in the most secure ways.

Another potential application of blockchain technology includes 'smart contracting'. This is a virtual agreement between two parties that automatically implements terms agreed upon between the parties, simplifying the payment and reconciliation process.

New technologies that could shake up the corporate travel sphere continue to emerge. Travel management companies must continually look at how these intelligent systems and innovations could empower procurement professionals and improve efficiencies.

SP REVIEW ENQUIRY
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
ENQUIRE NOW