Talking with Chris Baker from Concur
Talking with Chris Baker from Concur
Chris Baker is the Managing Director of EMEA North and South Africa at Concur Technologies, the global leader in cloud based travel and expense management software. Chris has an extensive background in the technology industry and is passionate about artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning.
We spoke to Chris about the travel industry and how technology is transforming duty of care…
How is technology improving the business travel experience?
Technology is, and will continue to, improve the business travel experience. The people who are benefiting most from advances in technology are the ‘road warriors’. These are individuals who are travelling frequently – visiting clients, suppliers and partners – who know how and when they like to travel. Reward schemes with their favourite airlines and hotels are an incentive for this group of people.
However, this presents a challenge for businesses. When employees book direct, data leakage is a real concern. We work to tackle this by integrating Concur with a range of partners that allows them to get their reward points without compromising on the business travel experience. The ability to incorporate suppliers that have revolutionised the business travel world – including Uber and Airbnb – is a great way to provide flexibility within a framework and accept the lines between business and leisure are blurring. Businesses need to embrace, not reject, this movement if they want employees to use the travel tools provided.
Visibility can be a real challenge when it comes to business travel – why do you think that is?
Business travel administrators need visibility of a single source of reliable data to make informed decisions. This can be complex for a number of reasons. The main issue is the variety of ways in which employees book travel. Online, offline, in policy, out of policy, through their TMC, not through their TMC. This isn’t a malicious act to give travel administrators a headache – these behaviours are usually driven by the employee booking travel in the way they find easiest, or because they are trying to save the company money by getting what they perceive to be a better deal elsewhere. Although this is done with the best intentions, the lack of data visibility makes it more challenging to manage budgets, harder to negotiate better rates with preferred suppliers, near impossible to build the correct policy for your travel programme, but most importantly compromises duty of care. If a business trip is booked outside of the approved channels, the first time a company may be aware of this spend is in an expense claim.
To tackle this issue, businesses need to embrace the range of travel technology available to them. Working closely with their TMC, and partners like Concur, they can develop a robust travel programme that gives employees the seamless experience they are looking for – and the option to book with their favourite brands – without compromising on the data they need for full visibility. Ultimately, you can’t control what you can’t see.
"Businesses need to embrace the range of travel technology available to them"
– Chris Baker, MD EMEA North and South Africa Concur Technology
You mention duty of care which is a high priority for many businesses. How can technology help with this?
In today’s unpredictable environment, managing duty of care can be a real challenge. Without visibility of where employees are and when, it is impossible to keep them safe. Mitigation of this risk begins with data capture. I mentioned earlier the importance of travel data, but expense data is another piece of the puzzle.
Beyond the itinerary, you can check real-time data from company credit cards to give you a much clearer picture of employee activities and their whereabouts. The next step is ensuring you have the right technology in place to communicate with employees. You need to keep them informed of any incidents and give them the opportunity to reach out to you if needed. Technology can help with every stage of the business trip – before, during and after – to make sure your employees are safe and fulfil your duty of care obligation.
What does the future of travel look like to you?
I see the future of travel as a seamless experience, a business trip managed without any human intervention – all you have to do is show up! A system that allows employee preferences to be automatically populated into the travel booking tool without a need for re-entry every time. When it comes to flights, their preferred seat is booked automatically as soon as online check-in opens. If a flight is cancelled, an appropriate alternative is immediately booked without the business traveller having to deal with hours on hold to the airline. Not only will the experience be better for employees, admin time will be cut for businesses too allowing them to focus on more strategic activities.