Backdrop: The Travel Sourcing Opportunity — Skills, Technology and Clout (Part 2)

In the first post in this series, I set the stage for our 2011 coverage of the travel procurement market. And I also hopefully established myself as someone with a complete lack of travel specific procurement credentials (yet broader procurement knowledge). Ironically, this probably makes people like me more qualified than many so-called experts in the field to pick apart a category where opportunity knocks. But what doors are the best ones to bash in (or more quietly pick the lock) on first in the travel area? Reading between the lines of a recent Travel Procurement study can help us begin to get the lay of the land when it comes to dispensing with current program models and components that are cheating us of potential savings opportunities.

According to the study, which you can read in its entirety by clicking here, travel management only reports into procurement, purchasing or sourcing 31% of the time. The remainder it reports into finance, executive offices, HR, administration and "other" 26%, 20%, 7%, 6% and 11% respectively. Nearly 50% (49%, to be exact) appear to be near career travel-types, holding 10 years or more experience in the field. And almost as high a number (47%) had worked previously for travel suppliers. It looks like these professionals typically learned through the school of hard knocks, as less than 25% have any type of professional certifications despite the fact that 91% devote at least part of their agenda to sourcing travel (93% manage "manage" it, for what it's worth, according to the survey).

So what we have here, if I'm allowed to interject at least one outsider opinion, is, in most organizations, a team of folks managing a category without much -- if any --formal experience in any other aspect of sourcing or cost reduction. Moreover, a significant majority of respondents in the study have limited or no chance of general procurement/supply chain mentorships, as they don't even report into the procurement function. In addition, judging from the data, most travel professionals appear to know the industry they work in, but lack professional certifications and credentials within it, let alone the broader procurement function.

In short, your typical travel manager is probably someone who knows quite a bit about the ins and outs of the travel industry. But statistically, the numbers suggest that the majority don't know jack, relative to other category leads in your company, about general supplier management, strategic sourcing, demand management, procurement/T&E technology or other techniques to reduce costs and better manage an overall spend program in the area. Moreover, chances are they lack empathy for what it means to truly sit in shoes of stakeholders, since they don't come from other areas of procurement or the business itself.

Does this add up to a recipe for opportunity? You betcha. Stay tuned as we investigate how to get more from travel procurement, driving savings, compliance and happy employees at the same time.

- Jason Busch

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