Tuesday 20 November 2012

GUEST BLOG: Who are your business travel villains?

Without a doubt our award for Business Travel Villain goes to roaming charges! No one likes them and yet we all get them when travelling abroad and there is very little we can do about it – or is there? Here at RoamingExpert.com we have put together a guide with some handy hints and tips on how to banish that villain or at least reduce its impact on your budget.

Look at where you roam to
Where is it that you travel to mainly? Is it outside of Europe, within Europe or all a combination of both? Each network has slightly different rates depending on where you go.

Do you use voice, data or both?
What is your main concern when roaming? is it your voice calls, data usage or both? Again, different networks have different charges for voice and data and some are more competitive than others so it is important to know how you need to use your mobile when you are roaming.

What handset do you use?
We would always recommend using a Blackberry as they compress data more efficiently than other handsets and so data charges will always be less.

What are your roaming rates like?
Are your current roaming rates competitive? Or are they actually over inflated? What are you being charged to visit the countries you do? Roaming rates from provider to provider vary greatly some are vastly overinflated.

Do you know how your network bills?
The networks bill completely differently, some calls may be included in inclusive minutes and some may not.  Also some networks charge per minute and some per second, this can make a big difference to your final bill.

Renewing your mobile contract may not be the top of your list of priorities but if you want to avoid a major travel villain in today’s new, global and technologically focused world it could well pay to re assess your contract. Finding out a little more about it and taking some top tips on how to best deal with the situation could well pay off and we are here to help too of course!  

This blog was written by Kate Staley, marketing manager with  Roaming Expert. You can contact her at kate.staley@roamingexpert.com and find out more about the company at www.roamingexpert.com 

Friday 16 November 2012

GUEST BLOG: SMM: So much talk, so little action

Everywhere we look someone is discussing meetings: meetings management, strategic meetings management, small meetings management – but this is not a new subject.  ‘SMM’ has been the ‘next big thing’ for years.  So why, after all this time, is there still so much talk and so little action?

Admittedly there are plenty of reasons offered up:

No clear internal owner to champion the initiative and drive success.  The absence of a solution that is easy to deploy, supports broad based adoption AND integrates with the rest of your hotel management strategy.  The other perennial favorite, “we don’t really have that many meetings”, is also all too often cited.

These and many other factors contribute to an ‘Ostrich Mentality’: I can’t see it, therefore it isn’t there.

But it IS there and the cost implications of ignoring this category can be huge.  Admittedly, you don’t know what you don’t know, but from our own experience the total ‘hospitality’ spend for the majority of organisations is split across 3 areas – 40% on Transient Accommodation, 40% on Meetings and 20% on ad hoc Projects.  If your focus is purely on your Transient Accommodation, you are managing less than 50% of your total hotel spend.

So – how difficult can this really be?

You need to understand what your requirement is, so start small.  Begin by identifying your target audience.  Head for the departments most likely to generate meetings bookings – sales/marketing, training, the executive floor – and ask for volunteers for a ‘super-user’ test team.

At this stage, you want to garner support and not give the impression that you are trying to take away the responsibility for these meetings.  All you want is to build the environment where everyone creates their meetings requests (RFPs) in one place.   From there you will quickly gather the data you need to put the ‘strategic’ into strategic meetings management.

Aim to start with the small frequently booked meetings. The large conferences and major company events may be the more visible piece but (a) it’s always much tougher to persuade these bookers to give up any aspect of control or management of these bookings and (b) the chances are that you spend much more on smaller meetings.  You are offering meeting planners a solution that will take the ‘grunt work’ out of the process without stripping them of ultimate control and the easiest meetings to target for this are the smaller ones – which are usually just a time consuming chore for those that have to book them.

Ask a few basic questions:
Approximately how often do you book?  What’s the average size of the group and the length of the meeting?  What are the most common features they always need (refreshments, break out rooms, AV equipment etc)?  What type of venue do they typically look for (hotels, internal meeting space, other venues)?  Where do they go to find these venues and what influences their choice?

The answers will help you build the most useful information and features into your RFP tool so that the first time a meeting planner looks for a venue for a meeting, they find what they expect to see and the basic information is pre-loaded to make it the simpler process that you promised!

So all you now need is a system that all your meeting planners can access with nothing more than a User ID and Password, without any additional implementation, and with just an hour or so training.
And if they like it, if the system gives them access to the properties they need, helps them create an RFP with all their requirements in 4 easy to follow steps, presents the responses in a format they can share with their colleagues, gives them full budgeting and reporting capabilities and allows them to complete the process in a fraction of the time, then you’ve got your ‘champions’ within the organisation and selling the benefits to others will be so much easier.

And finally, the single most important element to consider.  The first step on the road to success is always the hardest. As you ponder this article, think about this.  What stops you from being the internal champion that gets the ball rolling at your company?  Just because you don’t have it in your job description, does that mean you can’t own it?  At a time when companies are in a constant process of evaluating people, processes and performance, perhaps the greatest thing you can do for your company and yourself is to take that critical first step.

This blog has been written by Jean Squires, director of business development EMEA, Lanyon. To find out more about how the Lanyon Meetings RFP Tool can help please contact Jean at jean.squires@lanyon.com 

Monday 12 November 2012

GUEST BLOG: A Vision for the Future of Business Travel

Business travel is faster and less isolating than it used to be but, until recently, no-one has been looking out for the business traveller. Now, the landscape is changing and Concur is proud to be a leader in that evolution.

Travel used to be lonely. Gradually, over the past 10 years, and rapidly in the last two, the Internet and mobile devices have changed business travel for the better.  Our smartphones now fulfil a dual role of travel buddy and personal assistant. But we still have a steep hill to climb to improve business travel even more.

The current reality:

Self-serve online travel booking enables the business traveller to book travel at a click of a button – but, because no-one is looking at the experience through the eyes of the business traveller, the whole experience is very disjointed and often frustrating.  For those that travel across Europe, there’s the added complication of different languages, currencies, procedures and cultures to overcome.

A vision for the future of business travel:

Concur has spent considerable time thinking about what would make ‘The Perfect Trip’.  Imagine a journey with no paper or queues, a journey where your smartphone knows your preferences and has pre-booked every step of the journey to seamlessly blend into the next. We have this perfect trip firmly in mind, and we’re figuring out how to make it happen

How Concur is working to improve business travel:

Making the perfect trip a reality will mean partnership and collaboration between travel suppliers across the entire eco-system for the good of the business traveller. This a huge challenge, particularly in Europe, where suppliers’ regional coverage varies so dramatically. Fortunately, the landscape is already changing and Concur is proud to be a leader in that evolution.

What happens next?

By sharing ideas on how business travel can be improved due to technological integration and the fostering of closer networks we can help shape the future of business travel together. So, whether you are travel supplier, travel app developer, card provider, in the travel business or a business traveller, we’d love to hear your ideas and opinions.

How do you think business travel could be better?

What are your favourite travel apps? What innovations would make the most impact on travel in Europe?  These are the kind of questions that will influence the development of a bigger, better travel and expenses management network across Europe. We have made a start by setting up a Facebook community for those that want to contribute or stay in touch with developments.  Join us – like us or post your recommendation in the comments below.

Written by Lisa Hutt

Lisa heads marketing for Concur Technologies in EMEA and is responsible for growth in the region through brand awareness, pipeline generation and customer success programs. Lisa is an advocate of the latest marketing innovations, global collaboration, sales alignment, lead-to-revenue and influencer marketing. Lisa’s background in marketing communications was developed with IT and online organisations such as Salesforce.com, Dell, Intel, Epson, Sybase and Monster.

Monday 5 November 2012

GUEST BLOG: How are businesses cutting costs whilst improving productivity?

Thousands of organisations are focused on cutting costs, but how are they able to do so whilst maintaining, and even improving productivity?
Millions of us are afraid of change, which makes many of us averse to using new technology, especially in the workplace. But the proven fact is new technology in the workplace is the main contributor of cutting costs, improving productivity, and even speeding up the decision making process.

Business magnate, Richard Branson, recently quoted: “Anyone who thinks new technology isn’t going to keep changing the world has got their head in the sand.”  I know what many of you are thinking: Richard Branson is a multi-billionaire, and for him the initial cost of implementing new technology into the workplace is a mere drop in the ocean.

For business owners and budget handlers, yes new technology can be costly, and no it’s extremely unlikely you’ll generate an ROI within the first six to twelve months. But even in these tough economic times, is your business roadmap really only twelve months? If you are just ‘ticking along’ and your capital expenditure has halted, it is definitely time to get your head out of the sand. If you are not prepared to invest in new collaborative technology solutions, then you best stop aspiring to be successful. Sound harsh? It is, but it’s the truth!

So what technology are businesses using to cut costs?
One area businesses are focused on is travel expenditure. Fuel, accommodation, flights, etc. How do businesses reduce travel expenditure and remain productive? Now you’ll be forgiven for turning your head away when you read the words “Video conferencing”. Perhaps those words will remind you of a meeting many years ago when you participated in a video call which was visually and audibly poor. You left the room thinking “I hope I never have to take part in a video call ever again.” Well as some of you will have already experienced, video conferencing technology is now a must have business tool and has been deployed across thousands of organisations. Bandwidth restrictions are less challenging, and face-to-face video communication is now delivered in high definition.

Organisations are using the technology for internal and external communication. Rather than travelling five hundred miles for a meeting, of which 90% of the time spent traveling is non-productive and incurs fuel and accommodation costs, businesses are choosing to conduct meetings over video. Both time and money is saved, and it causes little disruption to an individual’s working day.

Businesses are communicating with clients, partners and suppliers over video. Many of the most successful organisations will refuse to develop partnerships unless each party has adopted the use of video collaboration technology. It’s more personal and up to 70% more productive than a telephone call, mainly a result of facial expressions and hand gestures.
Video communication is more affordable than ever with desktop and cloud based offerings, which cause little strain on IT departments as well as offer interoperability, which ensures face-to-face communication between two or more people irrespective of video device.
Cost-cutting for your business takes serious consideration, as does devising a business development plan. However failing to include collaborative technology in your development plan may as well be a plan to fail.

This guest blog has been written by Joel Noden who is marketing manager at Business Travel Show exhibitor Videonations Ltd.www.videonations.com