Ideas of corporate travel and the role of corporate travel managers are changing and evolving. This doesn’t mean that corporate travel or the people who manage it are obsolete. What it does mean is that there is the unique opportunity, primarily through the use of technology, for corporate travel to be a key part of business strategy. Corporate travel should drive revenue, and there should be measurable objectives linked to it.

The following are some specific things to consider to create or maintain a strategic corporate travel program.

Expense Management

The cornerstone of a strong, modern travel program should be streamlined expense reporting. In the past, the idea of expense management and expense reporting was all about having travelers keep up with receipts and fill out long, tedious expense reports. Those expense reports frustrated employees and took their time away from other things. The risks of fraud and error were also problematic.

With expense reporting software and mobile tools, there are many opportunities to improve strategy. First, there is the ability to see where spending is happening and where it could be lowered without diminishing the employee experience. There are opportunities to determine a finite ROI that aren’t possible otherwise.

There is also improved compliance, and with expense reporting tools there is likely to be inherently lower costs associated with travel because of the elimination of fraud, waste, and error.

Use Data to Negotiate with Vendors

Some businesses mistakenly believe travel managers don’t have a pivotal role like they once did. This isn’t true. It’s just vital to shift that role. One of the most important roles a travel manager can play is to look at the data, see patterns and trends and then use that data to drive strategic decision-making.

One example of where this works is by negotiating with travel suppliers. The data can be used as leverage during negotiations.

Travel managers also play a role in compliance and enforcement, but more importantly than that, they can make sure their actual travel policies are strategic and keep up with modern traveler needs and preferences.

Identify Key Performance Indicators

KPIs are such a pivotal part of most other business decisions, but somehow they’re not integrated into corporate travel planning. It’s important to know what matters most within the travel program. What do you want employees to be working toward when their traveling?

How is the success of your strategy measured?

Choosing the Right Technology

Finally, technology isn’t something travel managers should shy away from. It is, however, something travel managers should be careful when selecting and implementing. Technology is one of the best ways to create a more strategic corporate travel program when applied correctly.

Assess what the current limitations are within your program, and look at technology solutions that could reduce those inefficiencies or issues. One example of technology that can completely shift a travel program is automated expense manage, but there are others as well.

Identify pain points, and then select the solutions that will alleviate those pain points while providing a demonstrable ROI.