Cornerstone’s Mat Orrego Talks Travel & Trends

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March 30, 2016 – As CEO of Cornerstone, Mat Orrego is passionate about helping clients solve the complex travel-technology issues of today’s operations and fulfillment processes. Here is a peek inside Mat’s mind as he talks about market-changing trends and the shifting travel industry with Cornerstone’s Director of Marketing, Lauren Wolters.

Lauren: What trends are you seeing with Cornerstone customers?

Mat: Organizationally, many of our customers are running lean, and the traditional “top-down” way of managing operations and spend is being challenged.  Decision-making is happening across a broader range of users and stakeholders than ever before. Everyone is becoming an analyst and demanding access to tools that help them stay informed and productive.  The key is to help manage the many “micro-moments” of decision making people have everyday.  Our technology needs to be accessible when people are inspired to make decisions and not only when a report or data is available to them via their supplier.

Lauren: How Is Cornerstone responding to these organizational changes?

Mat: We want to be enablers of success. Our main goal is to be a partner, helping our customers solve problems. Part of this is our availability and presence with our customers, but we also have launched products to support these industry shifts.

The TravelOptix™ platform, for instance, allows for the design and delivery of user specific interactive reports and dashboards with interactive charts and graphs. TravelOptix helps our customers deliver precise data analysis that is customized to the user and helps stakeholder make informed business decisions faster, without having to dig through a ton of useless data.

To the end of helping our customers gain control and compliance in business travel (as well as automated reconciliation and fraud reduction), we are also working diligently on integrating payment—especially virtual cards—to our iQCX® mid-office platform. The buying process is entirely different today, and payment needs to change, as well. We have already integrated our virtual card solution AutoPay™ for a variety of use cases and mostly for e-commerce and leisure travel. We’re looking to make a bigger splash in Q2. We are targeted to process over $400 million in v-card payments in 2016.

Lauren: What are you most excited about in the travel industry right now?

Mat: I really like where we are heading in the travel industry with socializing our decisions on a “per traveler” basis.  This all started with self-booking tools that made travel agents out of travelers.  Now we have travel data that can be made highly accessible with analytic- and mobile-enabled platforms.  The challenge is to capture these “per-person” interactions to help drive organizational learning across the enterprise.  These are exciting opportunities for our customers.

Lauren: What are you most concerned about in our industry right now?

Mat: The travel industry needs to become much more accessible and operationally affordable. I worry about scale and how we drive solid returns from this consolidation phase we are currently experiencing.  I see a lot of our TMC customers merging operations, and I’m concerned about the slow pace of standardizing operational processes. Our OTA customers have this wired down and the traditional TMC can learn from them.

Lauren: What’s the “next big thing” that Cornerstone is working on?

Mat: Our first mobile applications will come to the market in 2016.  The 4site™ journey management platform is all about enabling well-informed decision making for travelers and their TMCs. The process is currently broken, especially when it comes to changes, disruption and re-accommodation.  Travelers or TMCs book a trip, and once travelers receive a ticketed itinerary, they are on their own.  The 4site Platform is a mobile-enabled information platform that keeps the TMC and the traveler on the same page.  This means the TMC can be both predictive and prescriptive in helping their travelers stay on time and productive.

Lauren: Where can customers see the Cornerstone team this year?        

Mat: We thrive on quality time with our customers. If you’re at GBTA, ACTE, or PhoCusWright, please let us know so we can make time together. We also have plans for a regional customer conference. Stay tuned.




Why Data Visualization is Like a Map of the World

Every point on Earth has its own coordinates, a latitude and longitude. For the average person, a list of latitudes and longitudes is useless, but a globe is a powerful tool. Were it not for maps—the visualization of the world’s coordinates—we humans would have a far more difficult time understanding the relative location of two destinations (meaning the location of a place in relation to another place); determining the most direct route from point A to point B; or reasoning that it is easier to go from point A to point B to point C than it is to go from point A to point C to point B. Maps afford us a representation of the data that defines our understanding of the world. They also allow us to make better decisions about how we will interact with our world, and, therefore, save us hard-won time and hard-earned money along the way. As John Noble Wilford, author of The Mapmakers, notes, “Maps embody a perspective of that which is known and a perception of that which may be worth knowing.”

Such is the case with business intelligence and data visualization: data visualization allows us an important perspective of that which is known about our business, and with the resulting perception, we are able to determine what is worth knowing (i.e., what is worth exploring further, how our strategies can evolve, and where we can effect change). Coordinates are essential to maps, which are essential to many of the decisions we make every day about how we arrive at work in the most timely fashion or how much money we’re willing to spend on gas to drive from Texas to Colorado. Similarly, business intelligence is essential to data visualization. Business intelligence offers the raw information—the spreadsheets, for instance—while data visualization offers the visual representation of the data that makes it useable and actionable. And this usability is what makes an organization smarter, and more profitable.

There are very few roles in a company that necessitate seeing row upon row of raw data that then requires filtering, running macros, running regressions, and so forth. What most organizations need is to know what is most relevant in that data, a visual of where the minefields are and where the opportunities lie in wait. Data visualization—the representation of that information—allows you to analyze data on the spot, identify trends more quickly, and communicate more effectively to a wider variety of groups. For instance, presenting to CEOs and VPs about the role of travel in the corporate budget is as simple as presenting to the sales team about the importance of compliance.

So why does this matter for Travel Management Companies? Data visualization can take the past two years’ worth of traveler data for a given company and show quite clearly that the organization’s travel has shifted. The company’s employees that travel to Chicago have shifted room nights from the downtown Hilton to the new Virgin Hotel when it opened. The immediate benefit is the ability to negotiate a better rate. The secondary benefit is the ability to present the information to clients in real time, in a visually appealing way, and prove the worth of your services. The third benefit is knowing whether the travelers themselves are adhering to your companies compliance rules.

Further, when it comes to compliance, data visualization simplifies the conversation around where compliance is proving value and where new travel policies may be needed in order to save corporate resources.  For instance, data visualization can readily show a travel team what percentage of travel was in compliance, and what areas have the highest rate of non-compliance (i.e., too many refundable air tickets or a high percentage of expensive last-minute hotel bookings)?

Imagine if any of these things were presented as spreadsheets of data. The impact of the data would not nearly be as powerful as when a well-designed visual is offered. A big blue slice of more expensive Virgin hotel pie next to a tiny red slice of more affordable Hilton makes the attention to the matter of rate negotiation more obvious and urgent. (The resulting benefits of the negotiation can be presented in a similarly appealing way.)

Maps allow us to navigate the world; data visualization allows us to navigate information. Data visualization is more than a pretty face. It is the cumulative step in the data journey that illuminates the important information and allows it to be communicated rapidly and accurately. Some like to say that data visualization just slows down the process of understanding the information, but the goal is quite the opposite, to isolate what is important and speed up the analysis and reporting of those essential details. To this end, business intelligence is essential to data visualization, and data visualization is essential to your clients’ success.