Never before has there been a strategy with business-wide impact like total collaboration management
Digital technology is transforming companies in powerful and profound ways. It disrupts how work is accomplished, how people communicate and how business gets done. It transforms where, when, how and with whom we work, and even the very structure of organisations. Everything is in flux and changing fast.
Taking advantage of this phenomenon requires thinking about your company and its operations in an interconnected way. Leaders that achieve the best outcomes activate a digital mindset across the entire organisation. It becomes the focal point of how each department thinks about change, delivers value to the organisation and engages workers. Departments can no longer be viewed or function as separate entities. The new world of work and warped speed of disruptive innovation requires future thinking and a collaborative approach.
Collaboration is the mainstay of any company with a diverse, dispersed and digital workforce – and virtual collaboration is nothing new. However, it is fast becoming a critical component to business strategy as we become more connected around the globe. But it should not just be viewed as a strategy to extend service since it is also a way to engage travellers, deliver duty of care and expedite decision-making. In fact, the Institute for the Future’s Future Skills 2020 study identified virtual collaboration as one of the 10 specific skills required for future thinking your company, and your travel programme.
As more employees are untethered from an office location, face-to-face time will become even more important and valuable.
Yet, a more global, digital and diverse workforce means not all face-to-face time is managed in the same way. Corporate travel managers must leverage advanced technology in their programmes to support the speed of business and modify spend behaviour. These tools are part of a larger collaboration strategy to present new and flexible ways of personalising interactions and data analytics to determine if the outcome is best achieved through in-person, video, phone or digital collaboration. This is total collaboration management (TCM).
TCM is the holistic and strategic approach to deciding which trips drive business value and which meetings are best handled by virtual collaboration. It offers the right mix of options to support business goals. It’s understood that there will always be a need for physical travel. But, in those instances when travel is not essential, budgets don’t allow, time is limited or the corporate culture favours it, virtual collaboration is an increasingly critical strategy to employ.
Employees need to have the confidence to know when a meeting should take place and when there are alternatives ©vm/iStock
This approach involves the integrated use of travel with telepresence, web and video conferencing capabilities to make remote collaboration routine when appropriate. It is optimal for companies with a geographically dispersed workforce, a young employee base, a high amount of internal travel or project work, and an inherent focus on environmental sustainability. It reduces costly and unnecessary international travel, produces happier and more productive employees and results in fewer carbon emissions.
The new generation of virtual collaboration technologies includes audio conferencing, immersive telepresence, video conferencing and unified communications. This translates to virtual meetings where attendees can see body language and facial expressions, share and jointly review documents, include participants from different locations or record/playback meetings. But when you view TCM not as a standalone travel initiative, but as an integrated effort across business functions, it ushers in fundamentally different ways of thinking, interacting and defining value for your travel programme and supporting other key stakeholders in your company.
Because TCM provides the opportunity to change an organisation’s collaboration and travel culture, it requires a broad spectrum of stakeholders to commit to the change. To do this, it is important to understand the pain points of key functional areas, the strategic value and opportunities to impact each department. In part one of this two-part series, we will examine travel and procurement stakeholders.
The speed of change and business disruption happening across industries requires travel managers to be more strategic, proactive and innovative. Programme metrics are expanding beyond cost savings, policy compliance and duty of care to encompass the engagement, health/well-being and productivity of travelers. This signals a shift to measuring traveller experiences and positions digital as a foundation to drive new and additional types of value into travel programmes. In fact, 51% of travel managers believe the ability to manage alternatives to business travel, such as video conferencing, will grow in importance as a job qualification. In addition, 37% identified managing alternatives to travel as one of the top areas in which they need to improve their skill set.
Strategic importance of TCM
TCM modernises corporate travel programmes to cater to a more diverse, dispersed and digital workforce. It offers a modular approach to collaboration by embedding virtual options into the travel planning and booking process. It empowers employees with the data, tools and support to choose the best form of collaboration for the business need - whether it is to stay using virtual collaboration tools, travel or a hybrid of the two options. It compels travellers to consider the purpose, worth and outcome of a trip and leads to more responsible spending, which directly impacts the bottom line. And, it supports the company’s contingency and disaster recovery planning when travel conditions are adversely impacted by geopolitical, weather and other unexpected incidents.
TCM optimises managed travel budgets and delivers hard-dollar savings to self-fund new projects. Effective use of collaboration alternatives shifts spend from non-revenue producing travel to high-value trips and improves the productivity and wellness of those staying off the road. If you factor in unexpected disruption events like missed connections, cancelled flights or lost luggage, business travel mishaps amount to $1,475 in out-of-pocket expenses plus an average of 2.3 workdays lost – per employee (according to a 2014 GBTA/Travel Guard study). TCM also positively impacts the traveller’s experience as measured by internal surveys, net promoter score (NPS), mobile travel apps and retention rates. And, it reduces the number of site visits for meeting planners.
Procurement’s role is changing from a transactional function to a digitally driven and strategically focused arm of the corporation. Next-generation procurement organisations are creating value not just through cost savings but contributions to other stakeholders within the company. Its role will expand to shape company strategy, enhance the company’s reputation and prioritise internal customers (and not just during recessionary or cost-cutting times). Performance will be linked to advanced metrics including budget management, risk mitigation, time to market, sustainability, diversity, continuous improvement and compliance. And, its top line success will be enhanced and advanced by cloud computing, digital technology and more effective use of innovation.
Strategic importance of TCM
TCM extends procurement’s value beyond savings and supply chain optimisation to workforce agility, collaboration and better utilisation of IT investments. It dynamically connects teams and information that previously were a flight away and required in-person communications. It expands the number of people who can work together and expediently solve problems. And, it offers global workers a hybrid of communications options based on differences in work style, culture and time zone.
TCM offers a new way to shift traveller behaviour, accelerate collaboration and innovate travel programmes. It offers a strategic alternative to certain types of travel and delivers cost savings to a managed travel program. When virtual collaboration is employed, it improves communication, team effectiveness and cultivates relationships between remote workers. And it evolves a managed travel programme to support the changing expectations of a diverse, dispersed and blended workforce.
In the second part of this two-part series, we will examine the need for, value and impact of total collaboration management on other essential stakeholders, including HR, facilities/corporate real estate, IT and finance.