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Virtual Event - July 29, 2020
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Filter in or out as many as 200 cities, as well as hotel and car rental class and meals of the day and watch as the per-diem calculator automatically adjusts per diems to your program. Drill down into cost breakdowns and export the results.
BTN editorial director Jay Campbell this week
interviewed KDS CEO Dean Forbes, recently appointed to replace founder and
newly named executive chairman Yves Weisselberger. Forbes said the organization
is tweaking for "a bit of fresh energy, fresh thinking and fresh
ideas," and he referenced a "minor" planned reorganization. He
joined the company a year ago after leaving an executive sales job at Oracle
Corp. Excerpts of the discussion follow.
KDS offers booking and expense technology separately and
also together as an integrated product. What are clients using?
I have observed this debate out there as to the value that can be obtained from an integrated platform, so first things first: Upwards of
80 percent of our current pipe of opportunities are integrated travel and
expense. That's customers coming to us and asking for integrated travel and
expense, or us pitching and them appreciating the value. Regardless of what all
of our industry leaders believe to be the right answer, customers are speaking
and there's interest in that single platform. Where we think there's
opportunity to create some unique value is in the analytics and forecasting
that can be done when you have an integrated platform. Not the operational
reporting, not "What can we report on?" and "What do we now know
because we do have these things integrated?" We're trying to help
companies figure out what they should do based on their historic and
most-likely behavior, and I think that's more interesting and more valuable
than just understanding what happened because the two elements were integrated.
This is reminiscent of your comment on return on investment and where clients would pay based on savings generated. Is that what
you're getting at?
No, the ROI-based model that we had in mind at the time
never really came to full execution, for good reason. What we did pursue was
this modeling where we can take historic trends—some impact analysis and
what-if scenario planning—on the fly and help a corporation understand the
savings with different configurations of expense policy, travel policy and
different travel behaviors, [determining what] would those do to the bottom
line, and helping them model that in minutes. I struggle to see how someone
will argue away the value of being able to do that. The ROI model is nice, but
the challenge was getting both sides to agree on it. In travel, the potential
savings are huge, but here's what happens: We say, "We can save you $15
million and we want 10 percent of that." They say, "$15 million?
That's great. But if you save that, we have to pay you a lot of money and maybe
you can't save [as promised]," and the discussion becomes circular about how much we can potentially save
For multinational firms, some have debated the "best of market" approach for software versus seeking a single global solution.
What are you seeing among your clients?
What we would all like to say is that a single global tool
is best for the client, and there are economies of scale if that can be accomplished.
But I would encourage all customers looking at T&E solutions to buy locally
relevant solutions, and if those can be scaled, great, but the local
requirements are so important to get right. There's content, there's language,
there's contractual, then there are expense's local elements like per diems,
VAT and other taxation. T&E is an incredibly local business. It's not like
at Oracle, where an enterprise resource planning system better be used across
the 50 countries that the company has business in. So I would encourage local
relevance over global, marginal applicability. That will be in our favor
sometimes and not other times.
How are consumer technology changes impacting enterprise
This is probably the most important question for technology
companies to answer at the moment. In my opinion, our consumer behavior is
taking over our enterprise behavior. When I talk to my buddies at Oracle, who
are so focused on pleasing a CIO, those CIOs and even CFOs are seeing that
employees are turning up at work with applications they want to use to do their
corporate business. They are downloading them on tablets and other mobile
devices. They have websites they like to use. They are defining what corporate
and enterprise applications they use to do their business, and it puts the
enterprise in reactive mode. They're trying to react to what applications the
business needs, and our consumer behavior is driven pretty much on
modularization, what's fun and easy and what's cool. This is why I use the
collaboration tools I use, because they're cool and easy to use. I download it
and I show my colleagues at work, and it's super-easy and super-cool, and
before you know it 50 others in the company are using it.
I think the responsibility on companies like KDS, and me and
my team, is to create stuff that is easy, that takes the functionality that the
user needs and makes it front and center and gets rid of everything else.
That's what apps, for example, are all about. It's easy and modular because
it's specific, and it's fun and cool. Anything we develop on those parameters
will be used.
Are most of your corporate clients direct or through a
travel management company relationship?
Fifty-fifty. And TMC relationships are absolutely critical