How does Microsoft leverage its treasure trove of travel
data to deliver key elements, in the format desired, to all who need it?
By using common Microsoft tools Excel and SharePoint,
according to Eric Bailey, the software giant's senior travel manager for
strategy and technology. With one global travel agency and corporate card
provider, Microsoft's single data sources made it easy to aggregate in PowerPivot,
an Excel functionality capable of accepting information from more than 1
million trips. The travel team outsourced development of the reporting tool it
calls TripTracker2 to deliver dynamic travel dashboards to about 500 finance
managers across all global business units. The tool's database houses more than
three years worth of ticketed travel data, or about 1.5 million tickets.
On a typical day, about 5,000 of Microsoft's 60,000
travelers get on an airplane. Last year the company spent about $800 million on
travel and entertainment, with companywide air volume of $321 million.
"Everyone wants to see a different view. Some want to
see it by manager, business group or some breakdown I've never heard of,"
Bailey said. "Instead of trying to guess the preferred view for hundreds
of users and thousands of uses, we created dynamic dashboards."
The travel team provides standard monthly and quarterly
reports via its SharePoint reporting site. While some industry pundits call for
"real-time data," Bailey said, "I don't buy it. These trends don't
change minute-by-minute. The only time I saw it was in October 2008 when the
[economic] slowdown started. Barring complete economic meltdown, I've never
seen the trends change quickly."
Bailey said Microsoft's key drivers include the number of
trips and whether employees take trips. "There are a lot of things we can
do to reduce travel costs, but this [trip avoidance] is the biggest," he
added. The team also looks at business-class usage.
Bailey uses the data to illustrate the scope of Microsoft's
travel and highlight how managers can reduce costs. For example, "49 of
the 50 top city pairs are to or from Seattle," close to the company's
headquarters in Redmond, Wash., Bailey said. Eliminating some of those trips to
headquarters is one way to reduce travel costs. To do so, the company's
nine-person travel team encourages use of such alternatives as Microsoft's own
Lync messaging and conferencing technology, available to 90,000 employees, or
any of its 16 telepresence rooms located in various office locations. The
travel department also emphasizes advance bookings, which the data shows has
Approved users around the globe may access metrics and
trends on cost per mile over time, class of service, percentage of internal
trips and more. Managers can access multiple hierarchies and view a country and
geographic region's year-to-date ticket count and dollar amounts,
year-over-year changes in counts and costs, the percentage of business class
usage, last-minute bookings, internal trips and a program score.
wants a different view. Some want to see it by manager
or business group. Instead of trying to guess the preferred view for hundreds of users and thousands of
uses, we created dynamic dashboards.
"I'm sure many of you have gone into finance and you
give them one number," Bailey recently said during an Association of
Corporate Travel Executives webcast. "Then they ask, 'Well, what about
this number?' With this, we can show them what that next number is. It gives
you credibility immediately and you don't have all those follow-up items."
Microsoft this year developed scorecards to "create
competition through openness," Bailey said. The travel team devised a
means to create a program score—a single number that reflects a hierarchy's
travel transactions, ticket costs, year-over-year changes, last-minute bookings
and the percentage of internal trips.
As part of its reporting package, the team also relies on
another Microsoft product called PowerView to provide preset tables and charts
and a "comparative dashboard by country, vice president or business group."
With the release of PowerView, Bailey said managers in Excel can "change
the graphs with PowerPoint." For example, under a data table a bubble
chart can illustrate "cost per mile versus size" and other analogies.
He added that "we can actually break it down by country or business group
and dynamically while one is presenting."
This report originally
appeared in the November 2012 issue of Travel