Microsoft Creates Travel Data Hub: New Reporting Powered By Excel, Other Common Tools - Business Travel News

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Microsoft Creates Travel Data Hub: New Reporting Powered By Excel, Other Common Tools

November 16, 2012 - 02:35 PM ET

By Mary Ann McNulty

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.

Eric Bailey"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 trended upward.

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.

Everyone 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. 

ERIC BAILEY, Microsoft senior travel manager for strategy and technology

"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 Procurement. 

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