Steve Greenwood, VP/Facilities Manager – EMEA at Alliance Bernstein and Audrey Muir, Corporate Travel Manager at Baillie Gifford and Board Director for ITM, reveal how R&M/Insights is helping to make their travel programs to new heights.
One of the biggest topics at the ITM conference was the need for enhanced business intelligence – what do you think is driving that conversation?
Audrey Muir: Data has always been a hot topic, but the skills and tools haven’t necessarily always been there. What I would refer to as traditional static data reports, aren’t enough anymore. It’s incredibly time-consuming to analyse data received in that way, especially by the time you have
broken it down and turned it into something meaningful to share with internal stakeholders.
Timely and accurate data matters, because, when you look at a successful program, it’s not just about writing the policy, you have to be able to dynamically manage it, particularly as the industry and your internal business change.
As a business intelligence tool, how has R&M/Insights helped to take your program forwards and address some of the industry’s historic data challenges that you have mentioned?
Audrey Muir: With R&M/Insights I can analyse high volumes of data very quickly. This not only saves me time; it means that I can see trends as they are emerging. By removing the time-lapse between spotting a trend and investigating the behaviour, you have a much better chance of getting to the truth of the matter. If too much time passes, this can get lost in translation.
Has R&M/Insights changed the way in which you work?
Steve Greenwood: I exclusively use R&M/Insights on my iPad which gives me great flexibility. It means that I can dive into the data right there in the meeting, manipulate it and extract what I need very quickly. R&M/Insights has also made me much more likely to share data internally. It’s very easy to pull relevant reports into a dashboard and share them at a departmental level.
How has R&M/Insights supported your ability to negotiate with suppliers?
Audrey Muir: The accuracy and timeliness of the information in R&M/Insights gives me more negotiating power, and has transformed the way in which we manage our hotel program. With more or less real-time data, I no longer have to spend hours on pivot tables. Quite literally at the touch of a button I can compare time periods and assess average booking rates. For instance, if I can see that we have exceeded a room night target for a specific hotel, I can go to the negotiating table with the percentage uplift and challenge any rate increases. I always say, it’s not just about having data, it’s about what you do with it.
Steve Greenwood: For me, the negotiation value lies in the immediate access to current data; it’s that day-to-day access. If I’m on the phone with an airline, it takes me two seconds to pull up the report I need.
Would you say that R&M/Insights has saved you time?
Audrey Muir: Personally it has saved me a huge amount of time. Historically it could take me 2 to 3 days a quarter to create the dashboards that support my KPIs. Now, we can quickly access any required data in the meeting with R&M/Insights.
Steve Greenwood: Perhaps not, as now that people know I have the data to hand I get more questions. It does however allow me to answer questions more intelligently, without having to go away and dig out reports or pass the question on to our Account Manager.
Does anyone else within your business use R&M/Insights?
Audrey Muir: Our finance team also now has access to R&M/Insights so they can sense check forecasts in real-time. The fact that they no longer need to go through me has definitely brought further efficiency to how we work.
What is your take on big data?
Audrey Muir: Big data became a real buzz word and you see it everywhere in the business travel sector, but ultimately the data set got too big. At a practical level, if you are managing a travel program you need to be able to analyse the data quickly so that you can make live and informed decisions. Now, with R&M/Insights, if I’m seeing a sudden rush of hotel nights in Boston for instance, I can do something with that information.
Steve Greenwood: Data is all-powerful if you know how to use it, but unless you know how to interpret the data it can be quite dangerous. This is why sometimes, less is more.
Where do you see the developing needs of the travel sector taking the future of business intelligence?
Audrey Muir: I think the next generation of business intelligence will be expected to integrate data in real-time, from multiple sources outside of the TMC.
And your next steps?
Audrey Muir: We also work with Reed & Mackay in the US and in Hong Kong through Reed & Mackay’s International Partnership, so we are now working on getting a complete global view through R&M/Insights.
Steve Greenwood: I’m still exploring the product and its capabilities at present. By spending time interrogating the data, I am already seeing an opportunity to address traveller and booker behaviour that could further support the program.