Newest Cloud Technology

Look to the cloud for technology focused on improving corporate travel efficiencies

By Michele Sponagle

Older off-the-shelf cloud products were limiting. But the newest cloud technology puts a wealth of data and efficiency in corporate travel managers’ hands.

Think of it as a way to have someone do all the heavy lifting for your technology needs, whether it’s data storage or report generation. Large companies, like Google and Amazon, have a wealth of resources, not to mention huge software development budgets that few other small- and medium-sized businesses can match. It’s a way of piggybacking on and taking advantage of expertise that might not be accessible otherwise.

Take American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), for example. In early May, it made the decision to invest in infrastructure using a cloud-based approach. It upgraded its legacy business solutions with flexible, nimble, cloud-based solutions across key business divisions, such as IT, procurement and finance, even human resources and administration.

According to Pat Bourke, chief administrative officer, GBT, the decision was not simply an IT one. “It was fundamental to our business strategy to improve availability and service outcomes. The move enables us to immediately implement the most effective, specialized tools designed for the travel industry as well as enhancing our ability to innovate and change the way GBT, its customers and business partners operate.”

The company partnered with a cloud-based company called Coupa, whose mobile-enabled management platforms gave GBT advanced procurement, sourcing, invoicing and expensing applications to optimize the business’ expense management process.

With those kinds of partners, companies can focus on technology that makes the most sense for them, rather than having to focus on budget-gobbling hardware and large IT departments.

Cloud procurement means those things can be left to someone else while companies can focus on reaping the benefits, from training staff remotely to streamlining financial reporting. With better data mining and reporting, compliance to corporate travel policies improves.

GBT sees cloud infrastructure as enabling a higher quality of service for its customers. “We recognize that technology is at the heart of differentiation in the business travel industry,” says Bourke. “Technology will continue to be the gateway to great customer service, which is why we are investing heavily in new capabilities that allow us to be an innovator and provide unrivalled services.” GBT sees cloud infrastructure as enabling a higher quality of service for its customers. “With the recent $900 million capital infusion from our investors, American Express Global Business Travel has the resources available to change the way our organization, customers and business partners can operate,” says Bourke. “We are investing heavily in technology, recognizing it is at the heart of differentiating ourselves in the business travel industry. Our investment in a comprehensive cloud strategy represents the great strides we’re making towards a more customer centric vision.”

Other companies are offering cloud technology around specific tasks. Lanyon, a Dallas, Texasbased company with offices worldwide, helps clients source and manage requests for proposals for hotels—more than 100,000 worldwide. It loads the rates and makes them attainable through global distribution systems.

The Bottom Line
The costs for cloud procurement services vary widely. They can be calculated based on the number of users or a flat rate by the hour or sometimes by the amount of data being stored. The good news is that, if you want to take the technology for a test drive, some companies are willing to give you a free trial run.

Technology Trends and Managed Travel
The latest research from CWT Travel Management says mobile technology, customization and the sharing economy are three of the main tech tools that are changing the way business is done. Key developments include seamless multichannel access across all devices, wearable technologies and online interaction between meeting attendees. The barriers for the adoption of Uber and Airbnb are crumbling as these brands adapt their product for the managed travel market. Big Data, social media and IATA's new distribution capability for airline inventory help to customize traveller experience while supporting program objectives.

Wi-Fi Worldwide
A recent rankings report from Hotel Wi-Fi Test says European hotels have consistently better Wi-Fi quality than their US counterparts, and even better, it's usually free. The top brands for connectivity worldwide were Nordic Choice, Radisson Blu, Renaissance, Mercure, Ibis, Scandia Hotels and InterContinental. In the US, Wi-Fi quality is poorer, and only two of the top five chains offered free Wi-Fi to guests. The top chains were Marriott Hotels and Resorts, Westin, Hyatt, Sheraton Hotels and Best Western. For the purposes of the report, adequate Wi-Fi must provide an expected download speed of at least 3 Mbps and an upload speed of 500 kbps. The free Wi-Fi percentage was calculated as a ratio of hotels that offer free in-room Wi-Fi, not hotels that offer free Wi-Fi only in public areas.

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