Backdrop: The Travel Sourcing Opportunity — Skills, Technology and Clout (Part 1)

Let me preface this post by noting that I have absolutely zero experience in travel procurement as a sourcing professional, but fifteen years as an active consumer of it, learning the consultant-tricks-of-the-trade by doing everything from flying preferred carriers (even when they're not authorized) to maximizing the chance of upgrades through sometimes backchannel means to, of course, circumventing corporate travel systems when there's a better deal on Hotwire, Priceline, etc. Besides this inexperience, you should take all of my advice with a grain of salt because in my last company, FreeMarkets, I also managed to earn a dressing down from the CFO by "damaging our relationship with United" and jeopardizing a big kickback (ahem, rebate check) after an incident when I was left stranded at midnight at Dulles with no recompense and decided to escalate matters myself (tried and true sourcing geeks often take matters into their own hands when a supplier mishaps impacts them personally, even when they're not the category owner).

Still, I have spent the better part of my career digging into procurement tools and sourcing strategies, including, to a somewhat limited extent, booking and T&E toolsets. I've also been a somewhat sideline observer inside many companies I've advised and interviewed about the role of travel procurement since starting Spend Matters. Under most circumstances, this would probably make me more dangerous than helpful in tackling travel procurement. But after reading quite a bit on the subject of late and talking to those in the market, I think most corporate procurement executives would agree that travel is a category which they also don't know enough about -- and one in which they're not necessarily getting the advice, support and savings they could be getting from their internal and third-party resources going after travel spend.

In a series of multi-part posts looking at the travel sourcing opportunity starting in January, I'm going to tackle the subject of travel procurement hands-on, beginning with what's working and what's not inside many companies. I'll provide some initial backdrop and context based on the findings of a recent quantitative survey in Travel Procurement, and then I'll investigate more anecdotally the good and the bad from a skills, technology and clout perspective inside companies -- including why better sourcing and negotiation is but one of only many components that should factor into the travel cost savings equation. So fasten your seatbelt before taxiing, make sure you adhere to the no smoking signs and don't even think about doing anything your mother would not approve of in the restroom with the stewardesses ala Ralph Fiennes. Hang on for the ride as we look at a category opportunity from multiple vantage points where many companies could be saving far more on while even improving the employee experience.

Jason Busch

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