5 Tips for Reporting on Corporate TravelBy Mike Baker
Travel is a huge expense for your company, but do you really know where your money is going?
The better the data you collect, the more valuable your corporate travel reporting will be. Aside from getting a clearer picture of how and where you’re spending money, well-designed reporting can reveal insights that lead to more effective travel program management and smarter overall business decisions.
These 5 tips will help you zero in on reporting that makes a difference:
1. Know what you need
The point of business travel is to build your business. That means travel planning and budgeting should support overall company goals and financial targets. So, where is your company headed? Reporting is only as good as the metrics you use, so first define what data you need to collect and analyze to reach your stated goals.
2. Get a report from your travel manager
Whether you use an outsourced corporate travel agency, a dedicated in-house travel manager, or an Executive Assistant or someone in HR for coordinating company travel, you need ongoing information. Someone must be able to routinely monitor and report on company-wide travel activity – who’s going where, how often, and why.
Ongoing “usage” reporting enables you to see the big picture but also delve into the details. You can use that to set or refine travel policies and processes, making them more relevant and efficient.
3. Get a report from your CFO
Your finance and accounting team depends on travel reporting to manage the budget and peer into their financial crystal ball to plan for the future. So it’s critical to know what data they require to do that. (The crystal ball is fun for office parties, but they need real numbers to make real predictions.)
What’s more, the folks in finance will tell you they need those numbers in real time – or as close to that as possible. Sketchy or outdated data is a deal-killer when it comes to managing corporate growth.
4. Ask your travelers to report in, too
Their perspective is different because they’re the ones on the road, generating the data that defines your corporate travel program. But reporting hits home with them, too, and in a big way. After all, travelers are responsible for submitting expense information from their trips. If it’s a time-consuming or otherwise painful process, they may put it off, lose receipts, or make mistakes. When they do, their lousy reporting makes it impossible for the finance team to report efficiently or accurately.
So ask your travelers what it would take to make expense reporting easier. Ask them about other aspects of their travel experience as well. Data is about more than numbers, and the more contextual data you get straight from the source, the more useful it will be. What travelers report can help you streamline booking, improve compliance with company travel guidelines, improve the policies themselves, and make business trips more comfortable and more productive. And, yes, more cost-efficient.
5. Harness technology that makes reporting accurate and easy
A comprehensive corporate travel management platform such as Lola.com automatically collects all the data you need and want, from itineraries and booking to expense capture and submission. It’s all there, all in one place, for everyone to see and use as they need to. Travel managers can oversee. Finance can do the math. Travelers can hit the road and report back in without hassle.
You can see where your corporate travel budget is really going. Not just in total, but sorted however you want to give you deeper visibility and insight. See what you’re spending with each supplier, or on trips to certain key destinations, or for specific purposes such as sales or conferences. Are you getting the ROI you expected? Are you spending so much with a given airline or hotel chain that you qualify for greater discounts or more traveler amenities? Could you save money by shifting supplier priorities, or modifying corporate travel guidelines?
The Bottom Line
What good is reporting if you can’t use the information to improve your business ops or profitability? With the right reporting systems and metrics in place, you’ll get the data you need to boost your bottom line, when you need it. You’ll be able to improve travel planning and execution so that you’re spending more effectively. You will know for sure where your money is going. You’ll get more from business trips, and you’ll improve the entire experience for your travel manager, CFO, and traveling employees. That’s a report everyone will want to read.