At this week's annual GBTA Convention in San Diego Egencia launched Egencia Analytics Studio, a data visualisation tool.
A TMC launching a data tool is not unusual. TMCs have been competing to launch bigger and better data tools for decades but this one could be nudging travel buyers into senior corporate positions.
Anyone who has watched the meteoric rise of politicians such as President Trump and UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will be aware of the power of social media to sway opinion. The importance of social media in forming our views is a symptom — or perhaps a cause — of our unwillingness to wade through long, comprehensive analysis but positively relish every 'fact' and thought presented in 140 characters or less.
Why should the workplace be any different?
Travel management data has evolved through a life cycle of simple management information with company-specific measures of standard business travel benchmarks to big data and a flood of numbers to sophisticated tools that pull in data from different channels and sources — past, real-time and predictive.
Then data analytics can kick in. But what's actually more important — the analysis or the applications of the analysis? And applying those applications to strategy requires effective communication.
Travel managers used to be autonomous and isolated within their companies and so long as numbers forecast were met, and service complaints few, left pretty much alone. But those were the days when companies operated in silos. Improvements in data retrieval have meant the advance of data-driven enterprises so that the same data can be used company-wide.
Senior management and internal stakeholders from other departments all need to be involved in determining travel policy and to be supportive to ensure that the travel strategy is successful.
But HR and Finance people, to name a few, are not travel specialists and can be dazzled and bored by columns and rows of numbers. One chart that demonstrates "before and after" or "what if" can communicate the likely outcome from a change in policy much more speedily and effectively to non-specialists than any numbers buried within an email ever can.
Just because a travel manager has spent days on analysing the different financial implications of company policy being to book 30 days rather than 7 days in advance doesn't mean that the email recipient or presentation attendee is interested in the individual numbers supporting the conclusion.
A single graph could communicate the What If scenario much more effectively and probably ensure not only the change in travel policy but a new understanding of the value of the travel manager.
Effective communication means not only wider corporate understanding of travel management but more career opportunities for travel managers. Becoming integrated into more cross-departmental strategy decision-making means recognition as a thinker and possible future senior manager.
A picture is indeed worth a thousand words.