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The value of end-to-end travel management solutionsremains largely unproven, but the buzz over the potential (ostensibly most relevant for multinational companies) prompted Gelco Expense Management to today announce plans to integrate its online expense solution with the online booking tools from TRX Resx and other travel management vendors.
Gelco and TRX are interfacing their respective tools to ensure that the expense data is updated whenever travel reservations change. "More clients are interested in a holistic view of their T&E spend, both planned and actual," according to a prepared statement attributed to TRX Resx Technologies president Shane Hammond. Beyond the integration, the companies plan to cross-market their joint capabilities in the fourth quarter of 2007.
Gelco's relationship with TRX is part of a broader alliance strategy aimed "at providing touchless worldwide T&E solutions," Gelco said. By mid-year, Gelco plans to integrate not only with online booking tools, but also travel management companies, value-added tax recovery providers and others that could extend value to clients. For several years, Gelco has integrated to various corporate card providers to provide pre-populated expense reports to clients and plans to continue to do so.
"In a world where enhanced data is rapidly becoming the rule, rather than the exception, higher card use and richer data is opening up a more comprehensive view of total expense spend, creating new opportunities to manage spend, negotiate better rates and improve how employees choose to spend the organization's expense dollar," said Gelco chief operating officer Brian Provost in a press statement.
"Right now we're working through design and development" of the integration. In the "second half of this year, we will be able to demonstrate it," Gelco vice president of marketing Troy Thibodeau told Management.travel. He said many clients "want to see what kind of information is there, they want the flexibility of integrating, but really question whether they'll get much value out of it.
"We've talked to our clients many times and they don't perceive value in end-to-end. But because others ... are creating fear, uncertainty and doubt, we can't just ignore it," Thibodeau added. In recent months, Gelco has been enhancing its tools to more easily pull in booking data, "so information can be integrated to show leakage," he added. In addition to integrating technology, Gelco plans to deliver reports that compare and contrast data of various travel management solutions, Thibodeau said.
Among those creating the "FUD," Thibodeau said, is Concur Technologies. Last fall, Concur released an integrated version of its expense system and newly acquired booking tool Cliqbook. By mid-year, Concur said it would release the first version of its end-to-end platformwith a new expense interface, e-receipts and data analytics. While Concur has said its integration is proprietary, Gelco said it would consider also integrating to Cliqbook to solve a client need. Concur officials were not available for comment at press time.
HRG, KDSand nuTravel (with DataBasics) also are marketing solutions in various stages of development and deployment.
HRG is just releasing its integrated end-to-end solution that it demonstrated last summer as a proof of concept, said David Smith, sales director of the expense management division. The integrated solution will first be deployed in Australia, but can be made available worldwide. The integrated booking through expense tool is garnering "a lot of interest, especially with a number of" small and midmarket enterprises, he added. It will take much longer for a huge multinational to decide, contract and implement end-to-end, he said.
Unlike some of its competitors, HRG is willing to integrate or interface with outside booking or expense tools, "but our tool is always going to be better, as we control it all," Smith noted.
While its new v6 booking engine integrates to its own expense tool, KDS could integrate booking to other expense tools, provided they are not direct competitors, said KDS marketing director Stanislas Berteloot. "Out of five requests for proposals, at least one is for an end-to-end solution," he added. Like HRG, KDS noted increased interest in end-to-end solutions from the SME market.
Gelco's alliance roster thus far includes VAT reclaim service providers Meridian International, Euro VAT Refund and Quipsound; global payment firm Ruesch International; card data integration with ABN-Amro, American Express, BMO Financial Group, Diners Club International, GE Money Corporate Payment, HSBC, JPMorganChase, MasterCard and US Bank; travel service vendors SatoTravel (now part of Carlson Wagonlit Travel), Rearden Commerce and TRX; and SoftBrands, a software provider to hotels and manufacturing firms.
"We haven't set a number and have been in conversations or some stage of relationship forming with many of the top [providers] in North America and Europe," Thibodeau said. Over the next 12 to 18 months, Gelco also plans to broaden its strategic alliance partners in Asia.
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