A new report produced by the GBTA in association with Carlson is a salient reminder of how easy it is to employ a few mobile tactics and confuse that with having a strategy.
As the report says, "Many [travel managers] have started by incorporating some key travel apps into their programme like TMC or expense apps, while others have gone further into communication platforms or custom built apps. These are some of the necessary steps, and yet a clear and precise strategy is mostly missing from travel programmes opening the door to challenges as more and more apps and technology come into the market."
Using a mobile app may be an ingredient of a mobile programme but it is NOT a strategy. As the GBTA report says, "A strategy means thinking bigger than just apps, and looking broader into how to take the pieces of your travel programme and bring them into the mobile environment to drive engagement, compliance and savings. It means strategising on how to leverage supplier apps to drive supplier compliance, ensuring communication is clear and easy, and collaborating with internal stakeholders on guidelines of mobile phone usage. The focus of a mobile travel programme strategy should be centered on how to make a traveller's experience so simple within the managed programme, that there is more value there than outside the programme."
Travel managers have aimed to increase corporate self-booking tool adoption for years. Mobile supports this self-service travel, ie travellers having more involvement in their own journey decision-making and management. Travellers like to use mobile and apps on the move and will use them even more in the future.
Some travel managers worry that if travellers have more involvement in the business travel decision-making and booking process, they will have less control over travel programme outcomes. Devolved travel decision-making does not necessarily preclude control but the trend for more traveller involvement in the process necessitates a mobile strategy which will encourage compliance.
The challenge is not just to acknowledge increasing use of mobile devices and apps in the journey process but to convert this into an integrated strategy to achieve travel programme objectives. Most of the growth in the use of mobile in travel programmes has been haphazard rather than part of a cohesive plan which is attractive to travellers and has traveller communication at its heart.
Mobile strategy is often cross-departmental with travel being only one of its stakeholders, alongside other departments such as IT and HR.
As corporate travel becomes less transactional and more strategic, a mobile strategy will only emphasise travel management's intrinsic role in corporate strategy.
Microsoft's Julia Fidler used to be group manager, strategic sourcing, travel but she is now responsible for global employee engagement and user experience. Employee engagement means communication to inform travellers' choices. That choice can take account of supplier agreements and a communications plan can enable a strategy to support an entire travel programme from cost controls to duty of care. Mobile is integral to communication, choice and control.
- Mobile is an element of Jean-Michel Kadaner's presentation on "Travel centric travel programmes" at the Business Travel Summit Amsterdam on 5 and 6 October
- Julia Fidler's case study on "Open booking" at the Business Travel Summit in London on 18 October will address employee engagement and traveller communication