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Now in the thick of phase two of its travel program revamp, Oracle Corp. last month revealed details on its success thus far and expectations going forward--the latter including multinational consolidation on a scale that few, if any, have accomplished. Oracle is targeting a 40 percent reduction in overall travel operating expenses by year-end 2008.
"I'm seeing the development of what I would term the most comprehensive travel management program in existence today, and, I think, a model that we'll be able to replicate and push forward to other like-minded companies," said Charles Petesch, North America director of global accounts for Carlson Wagonlit Travel, which by year-end expects to service Oracle in 92 countries. "One-hundred percent of Oracle's people at the end of this program will be using CWT, will be using GetThere [for self-booking], will be on either Sabre or Abacus [global distribution systems]--and all that information will be available. Companies just have to want to do this."
Not all of them do. Operating in 140 countries, Oracle is at the vanguard of one approach to transnational travel management.
"There are those two big mentalities: Get it all under one brand in terms of travel management company, online booking tool, etc., or get the best for that country no matter the brand, and make sure they can scale," said Corporate Solutions Group partner Bob Lichtman. "I'm seeing more and more companies looking to provide services that best meet the needs of those various countries, versus seeking one brand. It's easier to implement and easier to automate--assuming they can provide data that is credible."
But Oracle senior director of global travel, meetings, sourcing, data and card solutions Ralph Colunga doesn't look for the easy way and doesn't take no for an answer--particularly from vendors. He also strongly believes in improving global data reporting by using the fewest possible number of systems and suppliers. Colunga was not available to comment by press time on a presentation he made last month, details of which were obtained by The Transnational.
By late last year, Oracle had entered the first phase of Colunga's visionafter he structurally reorganized his team, established standard processes and selected key suppliers. Among those vendors was GetThere, which launched with Oracle in the United States in September. Eighteen countries later, according to the presentation, May 2007 online booking adoption stood at 94 percent in North America; 92 percent in a dozen Europe, Middle East and Africa markets; and 84 percent in four Asia-Pacific countries.
CWT fulfillment and servicing for 12 European countries was consolidated into a Warsaw call center; 11 of 17 non-CWT agencies in Europe were converted (with Africa due to switch this month); and consolidations are also underway in Asia-Pacific and North America.
So far in North America, Oracle has chopped 33 percent off per-transaction costs, eliminated 19 positions and halved the number of after-hours calls. A seven-day advance purchase policy introduced in January helped cut average ticket price by 15 percent. Just under three-quarters of tickets in North America are now booked more than seven days in advance.
Five months after implementing the program in seven European countries, cost per transaction there fell 34 percent, the presentation indicated.
Along the way, Oracle and its partners addressed such global challenges as integrating rail content, lack of GDS services in certain locales and differing national ticketing and pricing procedures. Oracle's clearly defined goals and coordinated planning--emphasizing standardization, communication and training--helped these vendors cooperate on developing services in places they had not before, officials said.
But more than anything, said CWT's Petesch, senior-level support was the enabler. "The number one way they are overcoming these roadblocks was the support from senior management--buying into this vision--and their mandate to get this to happen," he said.
Oracle urged its vendors to "standardize our processes and plan and execute very aggressively," said GetThere general manager and Sabre Travel Network senior vice president Bev Heinritz, while crediting such other GetThere clients as General Electricand Cisco Sysetms(Colunga's former company) for helping GetThere build the scale it needs to meet Oracle's demands. "Ralph challenges us all, and I think it's a showcase and model on how to work quickly and deliver extensive results [by] communicating appropriately so everyone knows what they're supposed to do, how to do it, etc. The program management aspect of this has been expertly handled by Oracle."
One area in which Petesch suggested Oracle positively pushed CWT is data consolidation. "It is a struggle to provide global data," he said. "CWT has multiple back offices from acquisitions over time, etc. Ralph likes to use a global consolidator of data and Oracle is using TRX's Hi-Mark. We provide daily feeds to them and as GetThere moves in, we certainly have to keep an eye on the data. Have there been challenges? Absolutely. Have we gotten further with Oracle than we have with anyone else? Yeah, and a lot of it is the drive of Oracle. Ralph wants to deliver accurate, timely data and he's very forceful about that--and he's not shy to go to senior management about it. It's not perfect yet. Will it ever be perfect? I like to think it will come pretty close."
By the end of this year, Oracle plans to consolidate nine Latin American countries into one regional center and add another seven EMEA countries to the dozen that are centrally serviced there. It plans to launch another 26 countries on GetThere by the end of next year, meaning that within two years it would have launched the booking tool in at least 44 countries.
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