ProcureCon Indirect Europe 2020

02 - 04 September, 2020

10am - 4pm (London) / 11am - 5pm (Berlin)

For Travel Managers: Innovation in the Age of Outsourcing

How engaging your stakeholders is key to driving a strategic approach to travel buying

A survey of 400 senior travel managers by HRS

Executive Summary

Corporate travel is becoming more complex every year as new technology, processes, policies and solutions are introduced. At the same time there is ever-greater pressure to reduce costs while balancing duty-of-care.

Developing a better understanding of the needs and the goals of your internal stakeholders is key to getting them on board with your programme for change. What’s more, it’s essential to be effective: 70% of senior travel managers have seen a travel-related initiative discontinued before implementation due to an intervention from another company stakeholder. However, our research shows that travel managers with a very good understanding of the KPIs of their colleagues are 27% less likely to see an initiative fail in this way.

Our survey results demonstrate that travel managers who have a good understanding of the KPIs of their key internal stakeholders and it easier to drive strategic engagement in a number of ways:

  • More likely to and it ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’ to talk to their colleagues about travel topics
  • Less likely to experience major barriers in their efforts to drive engagement
  • More likely to see travel initiatives successfully implemented

In order to develop the necessary strategic overview of the company’s travel programme, travel managers need to align closely with other departments and make the most of their relationships with outsourcing partners. This will help to relieve the operational burden, freeing up time and resources with which to drive new initiatives and spur innovation – and adding value which cannot easily be found elsewhere.


Ready to become a strategic leader?


In recent years, the role of the travel buyer shifted significantly. In the past, direct savings and effective negotiations largely determined his performance. Today, the definition of

success is broad, with travel management’s value increasingly measured by improved processes and cross- department optimisation.

This requires a new approach to travel management – one that looks beyond the mere commodity of supplier content. The key is an end-to-end approach which puts the traveller at the heart through technological solutions - to support him during as well as before and after the trip. This is the decisive element to drive adoption, improve duty of care, increase transparency, and reduce indirect cost by eliminating manual steps and

simplifying processes.

This new approach necessitates a different mind-set for the modern travel buyer; they need to interpret the role more strategically and go beyond the “traditional” borders of corporate travel.

Given the complexity of the task, with cross-department alignment and collaboration rising on the agenda – travel buyers need help to make it happen. For example, changes in the travel policy require support by HR and Communications. New payment or expense solutions will never make it to implementation if IT and Finance are not involved early on.

Through superior internal relationships, savvy travel buyers who manage their company’s stakeholder network effectively face less barriers, support their workforce better, and position themselves as drivers of digitisation in their organisation.

Innovation in the Age of Outsourcing looks at how travel buyers today respond to this need of a more strategic role, the level of alignment with various internal stakeholders,

and the ways in which travel buyers can improve and simplify their travel programme for all parties involved.

The research shows that a lack of understanding of goals and KPIs among key internal colleagues can significantly slow down initiatives in corporate travel. On the other hand, buyers skilled in these interactions are better in defining mutual goals, driving engagement and support for their projects.

In many areas, suppliers have more data, dedicated technology, and benchmarking information available to support your cause. Corporate travel is changing – and with it the role of the travel buyer. Let’s shape this change actively. Together.

We hope you nd this report valuable, and we’d be interested to hear your comments. Email us:

Best regards,

Tobias Ragge

About the survey


Six Key Findings In-Depth

1. Travel-related initiatives regularly fail due to intervention from other departments


Travel managers have a unique opportunity to implement strategic reform into the travel buying process, and both create bottom-line savings and boost productivity at the same time. But if you don’t drive engagement with your internal stakeholders, new initiatives can come to a crashing halt.

Our research discovered that 70% of senior travel managers have seen a travel-related initiative discontinued before implementation due to intervention from another company stakeholder.

In order to stand the best chance of successfully driving a new travel initiative to completion, whether that is a change to travel policy or the implementation of a new central payment tool, it is absolutely essential that the travel manager engages their key stakeholders as early in the process as possible.

Doing so will help travel managers to navigate the various complications which can arise from any new initiative. If you are planning to make a change to travel policy, for example, the entire project could fall down if you don’t have HR on board to sign off with your unionised workers. Or if you’re implementing a new payment tool, you’ll nd yourself at the back of the line if you don’t engage IT from the beginning.

Exactly who will need to be engaged and when will depend fundamentally on the project itself, but what is absolutely crucial is that the travel manager is able to align closely with all of the relevant internal parties. The manner of this alignment is also very important to take into consideration – practically all of our respondents indicated that they at some point communicate with their stakeholder by email.

But is copying in a colleague to an email chain really enough? A far greater quality of communication can be achieved face-to-face, leading to greater levels of trust, and an enhanced understanding of shared goals.

If these shared goals are not established, then there is a greater risk of a project-ending intervention from someone inside your own organisation, wasting valuable time, effort and resources in the process.


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2. Identifying the right stakeholders at the project definition stage is a major challenge


Driving engagement with key internal stakeholders is an integral part of successfully implementing your program for change. In order to do that you need to take the crucial first step. Find out who those stakeholders are.

Sounds simple, but our research indicates that more than 70% of travel managers to identify the right stakeholders at the project definition stage. There are a range of complicating factors, and in fact our research indicates that travel managers face a broad range of barriers that inhibit their ability to effectively drive engagement with other parts of the business.

Making stakeholder engagement a priority in an already busy schedule is always a potential issue. Perhaps more significantly though, travel managers feel that a lack of personal skills is a significant barrier to engagement. The soft skills necessary to engage, inspire and educate your colleagues may be more challenging to develop than simply changing your priorities – but they are invaluable.

Still, the first step in the process is to identify who you need to get on board. Once this is done travel managers will need the assistance of their C-Suite to make contact, and then manage the relationship from there as dictated by the specific requirements of the project.

Failing to do this from the beginning has worrying potential consequences – in particular, the kind of project-ending interventions from other departments that we discussed earlier.



3. Travel managers struggle to understand the needs of their most important internal stakeholders


The best travel managers are not only strategists and negotiators – they are also salespeople.

Winning the trust and support of your key internal stakeholders is a process that begins with understanding how they de ne their success, and ends with showing them how your project helps them to achieve those goals.

Of course, where the travel manager sits inside their organisation will have an infiuence over how much of a base of understanding they have. More than half of our respondents sit in Procurement – so it may not be a surprise that the KPIs of Procurement were the best understood.

However, the relatively poor understanding of the needs and the KPIs of other departments, departments which can be instrumental in the success or failure of travel initiatives, really highlights the need for travel managers to break out of their departmental comfort zones and learn about what makes the clock tick in other parts of the business.

A significant finding from this area of the research is the lack of understanding of the requirements and the KPIs of the individual traveller.

While the practical difficulty of aligning with the individual traveller is one complicating factor, another may be an attitude which draws a direct comparison between the savings you are able to make, and the traveller’s satisfaction. However, this approach rather misses the point that you absolutely must satisfy the traveller if you want them to adopt your programme.

Ultimately, being a successful procurement expert means being an expert consultant for your business – and without having a full appreciation of the needs and requirements of the traveller, you can’t hope to satisfy them.


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4. Travel managers rarely engage meaningfully with the individual traveller


In large, multinational organisations the individual traveller is dif cult to pin down – indeed, they could be anyone.

Our research demonstrates a significant gulf between the travel buyer and the traveller. The disconnect begins with a lack of alignment, more than one in ten respondents had no process for aligning with the individual traveller at all, and when you add those who only align with the traveller annually, that number rises to more than half.

This is one area in which travel buyers may well be better off relying on their suppliers to support them. Travellers come in all shapes and sizes, young, old, technically minded, business people – it is very challenging, not to mention expensive, to develop systems to help you to understand the preferences of them all.

Suppliers have the technology required to provide this information, and in many cases can do it far more effectively than their clients, using artificial intelligence, the wealth of data that they have at their fingertips, as well as a range of other tools.

Our research also highlighted some other significant areas in which suppliers could help to support travel managers as they pitch to and negotiate with their internal stakeholders face-to-face.

In this way, travel managers can build a robust network of external suppliers, helping them to better serve their internal network. When travel managers work in this way they act as conductors, leading the orchestra in a symphony of change, rather than trying to play all of the instruments themselves.

In the future the travel managers will take a far more strategic role: defining KPIs, building the business case, and selling the strategy internally to the stakeholders who will help to bring projects to completion.



5. Understanding the drivers of your internal stakeholders means better performance and fewer barriers


As part of our analysis we focussed on a portion of our respondents who had told us that they have a good or very good understanding of their stakeholder KPIs – the trend that we discovered was striking.

These highly engaged travel managers showed greater levels of performance and confidence in a number of important areas.

In terms of implementation, our research revealed that those travel managers who had a very good understanding of their colleagues’ KPIs were 27% less likely to have seen a travel-related initiative cancelled after an intervention from another stakeholder than those who had a very limited understanding.

This draws a direct line between the extent to which you understand the driving forces of the people you need on board with your programme, and its successful implementation.

We also found advantages throughout the process of engagement. Our highly engaged travel managers were nearly 20% less likely to report any major barriers to stakeholder engagement. This again underlines the importance of understanding what drives your colleagues and how they measure their success, and aligning their goals with yours.

Similarly, the highly engaged travel managers were more likely to find it easy to raise the subject of travel topics with their stakeholders in the first place.

Clearly, from end-to-end of a project, knowing your internal customer better informs and improves the ability of the travel manager to implement their programme for change.



6. Having an innovative mind-set is critical if you want to drive stakeholder engagement


Companies are increasingly looking for innovative ways to save money and boost productivity at the same time. For travel managers that means leading on strategy and innovation, and proving that they represent value which could not be easily replicated by an outsourced third-party.

As a result, an innovative mind-set is absolutely critical for travel managers looking for new ways to improve the experience for your internal customers, creating real value for their organisation along the way.

To be as effective as possible, travel managers also need to develop powerful soft skills. The art of communication can bring your stakeholders to the table, galvanise them into action, and prove to them that their performance will directly improve as a result.

As highlighted earlier in the report, the ability to sell ideas internally is a key element, the lack of which all too often is an inhibitor when it comes to engaging key players inside the business.

Amongst these crucial skills, our survey respondents highlighted negotiation, and coordination skills as some of the most important. These all play into the need of the travel manager to have strong interpersonal skills with which to drive their agenda.




As a successful travel manager, you must be a bridge between many different departments if you are to drive their programme for change. Understanding goals, engaging effectively, using persuasion, and winning trust will all be crucial components as you do this.

Getting your key stakeholders on board at the outset of a project means that it is more likely to have the support and the resources it needs to succeed, and it is far less likely to be shut down by another department.

However, this effective engagement is only a vehicle for change. To truly add value to your organisation you need to take a strategic lead, and innovate in your travel programme.

Companies with an effective procurement function have spent the last twenty years or longer consolidating suppliers, squeezing out expenses and minimising risk. These days there are not huge savings to be made by applying yet more pressure to individual suppliers, so travel managers instead seek to make tangible savings by increasing productivity. As such, an innovative mind-set is one of the most highly prised skills for the successful travel manager.

If you are looking to simplify your travel buying process and make your travellers both more productive and more comfortable at the same time, then talk to HRS about how we can help

What next for travel buyers?

  • Innovate - become a strategic lead who adds true value to the business
  • Get faster – use innovative tools to make travelling seamless
  • Work smarter – focus on creating new opportunities to boost productivity
  • KYC – build strong communication networks with your internal customers

About the survey and respondents

In Q3 of 2017 WBR Insights, in partnership with HRS, surveyed 400 senior executives around the globe who are responsible for travel purchasing worldwide. The research prioritised large multi-national companies who operate in across a number of industry verticals, including but not limited to: manufacturing, energy and utilities, retail, information and communication, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, FMCG, and financial services. Survey respondents were Heads or Directors of Procurement, Finance, Human Resources, Shared Services, or others of equal standing. The survey was conducted by appointment over the telephone. The results were compiled and anonymised by WBR Digital and are presented here with analysis and commentary by WBR Digital and HRS.

About HRS

HRS makes business travel easy. Companies and corporate travellers around the world look to HRS to find optimal hotel accommodation and to simplify the travel process. From booking the best rates to payment and annual sourcing activities, HRS provides end-to-end automation and consultative services to more than 40,000 companies. HRS is also the world’s largest hotel content provider, offering five million rooms in 350,000+ hotels in 190 countries, all seamlessly available to business travellers and travel agents through all global distribution systems and online booking tools. HRS helps balance corporate hotel programmes with unmatched access to independent hotels – which make up more than 70 per cent of the world’s hotel supply. Our aim - realise savings for the corporations and increase traveller satisfaction.

Launched at its headquarters in Cologne, Germany in 1972, HRS today has 1,500 employees in 27 offices worldwide, with regional locations in London, New York, São Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo.

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