Cornerstone’s Ron Childress Talks Travel & Trends

Ron Banner

July 25, 2016– As President and COO of Cornerstone, Ron Childress is excited about how Cornerstone software can improve travel experience and data management. Here is a peek inside Ron’s mind as he shares about the Cornerstone’s software suite and its reception in the marketplace with Cornerstone’s Marketing Intern, Jo Velazquez.

Jo:       What Cornerstone projects are you personally most excited about?

Ron:    Being a technology person from many years in the workforce, it is easy for me to find excitement in many of the projects Cornerstone is undertaking that will benefit both our corporate objectives and our ability to meet the ongoing requirements of our customer’s business objectives. From customer facing projects like TravelOptix™, 4site™, iQCX®, and iBank® to expansions of our SaaS application infrastructure (not everyone is so easily excited about a solid state data array as I am), it is very easy for me to be passionate about the ongoing investments we are making in Cornerstone.

Jo:       In what ways is Cornerstone innovating data visualization?

Ron:    I have personally seen and utilized the value of data visualizations to organize and present information from data in order to make better decisions. The same platforms we use to develop customer applications like TravelOptix are the same tools we use to manage many of our internal data repositories.  Analyzing data with the flexibility of visualizations only helps convey the story data wants to tell.  I love the many ways our technologies enable our customers (and their customers) to arrive at business decisions faster with more accurate outcomes.

Jo:       How does Cornerstone consider its customers when it develops updates for iQCX?

Ron:    Each iQCX update package includes requests for additional functionality that come directly from customers.  On average, each iQCX application update may contain upwards of 20+ enhancements (June PAK2016-3.2) generated from customer interactions with employees at Cornerstone.  We realize that our customers and users are the best source of creative ideas on how to solve their business problems and we do our best to incorporate many of these ideas in each application update.

Jo:       What has been customer reaction to TravelOptix?

Ron:    TravelOptix has seen an expanded adoption in our customer base in recent months which only continues to drive new, creative ways to view data.  Because of this very positive reception of TravelOptix, we have been able to build on the creativity of the user to offer insight into their business.  It is very exciting to have the ability to improve our technology that then allows for an expanded base of decision makers to stay informed and productive.

Jo:       What are customers most excited about with soon-to-be-released 4site™ software?

Ron:    With the introduction of our first mobile application in 2016, the 4site journey management platform is all about enabling travelers and their service provider access to information that will allow them to quickly handle any situation or issue that may arise on a given trip. 4site integrates additional information from outside traditional resources, yielding it the most informative platform in maintaining alignment between traveler and TMC during travel.

 

Cornerstone™ Information Systems Names Global Industry Executive Thomas Lacny as Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing & Advisory Services

Former HRG Sales and Marketing Veteran Joins Team to Help Drive Corporate Growth and Strategy

BLOOMINGTON, IN (July 15, 2016)  – Cornerstone™ Information Systems (CIS), a worldwide leader in innovative technology solutions for travel companies, today announced a strategic new addition to its executive team to accelerate its growth in the enterprise travel management market. Thomas E. Lacny has joined the Cornerstone team as Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing, & Advisory Services, bringing a deep industry background in travel and corporate services, and to oversee the continued expansion and  growing demand for the company’s solutions.

Lacny comes to Cornerstone from HRG (Hogg Robinson Group) where he served as Executive Vice President, Sales, Marketing, & Consulting for North America. He helped establish HRG in North America, growing its footprint to over $3.0 Billion Dollars (USD) of revenues and over 1,000+ employees.  In his 25+ years of experience in multi-national organizations, Lacny has an impressive track record of success in global travel services, expense management, and the corporate services arena. Before HRG, Lacny held executive leadership positions for both BCD Travel and WorldTravel BTI. He has traveled to and transacted business in over 60 countries around the world and successfully led North American sales, marketing, consulting and client facing teams during periods of dynamic change and consolidation. Lacny is a skilled attorney and has a BBA in Accounting with honors from the University of Notre Dame.

“Cornerstone continues to grow at a fast pace,  and we are expanding both internationally and in complex market segments,” said Cornerstone’s CEO Mat Orrego. “Tom joining us as a new senior leader will undoubtedly accelerate our client’s and the industry’s adoption of our innovative  solutions, including AutoPay™ and TravelOptix™, our virtual payments and data analytics offerings.  We also are launching 4site™, our latest mobility application with great anticipation, and continuing to add consultative resources to assist our clients in their planning.    We will continue to focus on high-value and innovative solutions to the market. Our clients, partners, and team members will benefit tremendously from Tom’s experience, keen market insights, and his strategic approach, and we are thrilled to have him on board.”

“Using the latest technology and data-driven insights has become essential to re-invention and success in the evolving travel sector space,” explains Lacny. “The more smart devices, networks, services, regulatory constraints and integrated client applications that we see in the world, the greater the need to manage that complexity  with superior systems and expertise. I am excited about Cornerstone’s success and future.  We have a powerful platform, and committed clients and partners. I’m honored to grow and play a role in shaping the future of the company.”

Mr. Lacny will join Cornerstone Information Systems at GBTA Convention 2016 in Denver, Colorado (Booth 1464). To learn more about Cornerstone Information Systems visit https://www.ciswired.com or call 1 (888) 778-0897.

 

About Cornerstone Information Systems

Cornerstone™ Information Systems is a global technology and services provider that has a unique domain knowledge in the travel industry, from how travel is operationalized to how information is managed. With a foundation in automation, we design, build, and deliver technology for travel companies and corporate buyers. We help our partners manage their process and information, to drive better decision making. Cornerstone has a single focus on travel data from the management of the reservation to the creation and presentation of information. The result is higher quality customer service and more nimble operational responsiveness at a lower cost with fewer resources yielding higher profit. We are people-centric, service-focused, and technology driven.

Companies managing more than $25 billion in travel spend annually trust Cornerstone to help them proactively lower the costs of travel management and drive revenues through travel optimization. Founded in 1992, Cornerstone Information Systems is a privately held company headquartered in Bloomington, Indiana with customers in more than 50 countries. To learn more, visit ciswired.com

Unless indicated otherwise, all trademarks and service marks herein are trademarks of Cornerstone Information Systems Inc. or an affiliate thereof.

 

 

 

Travel Payments: Why Virtual, Why Now?

The latest trend is going virtual, whether it’s working virtual, virtual reality or virtual payments; doing things virtual is the way to go. It should be of no surprise that travel payments are going virtual too. Soon the days of carrying around physical plastic cards will be a thing of the past. This article summarizes the benefits of using virtual payments.

Benefits

  1. Unique Card Numbers – Each card is generated on demand and has a unique 16 digit number
  2. Reduce Physical Cards – Only issue physical cards to frequent travelers; issuing corporate cards and their fees are expensive, especially if travelers only travel once or twice a year.
  3. Reduce Fraud – Since no plastic card is issued, it is harder for someone to steal or lose their card
  4. Increased Security – Unique 16 digit card numbers can be set for single use or multiple use before becoming invalid
  5. Increase Policy Compliance – Virtual cards can be set to only issue when travel adhering to company policy is booked
  6. Set Transaction Specific Parameters – Individual parameters like budget limit, carrier set, hotel chain, currency type, number of use, valid date range, etc can be set for each individual card
  7. Enhanced Data Quality – Additional data from the booking is passed into payment generation and back after payment occurs, ensuring detailed information like airline ticket number, cost center, user ID, project number, etc are accounted for in every transaction in both travel and financial systems
  8. Globally Accepted – Virtual cards transact through the same infrastructure and platforms that current credit cards work
  9. Real Time Processing – Virtual cards act like normal cards and are transacted immediately and settled daily
  10. Rebates Enabled – Like normal cards, earn rebates based on transactional volume
  11. Lower Fees – Because virtual cards are more secure than other types of payments, the fees to use them are also lower, saving you money on every transaction
  12. Transact In Global Currencies – Virtual cards can be funded, issued and settled in any currency that credit cards can
  13. Reduce The Cost Of Business –Reduce manual labor in your Accounts Payable department and eliminate costly fees for payment like wire costs for international payments
  14. Supplier Default Protection – Virtual cards are back by card networks like MasterCard, Visa, Amex and Discover who provide money guarantee protections
  15. Reduced Currency Fluctuations Exposure – Currency fluctuations can often be avoided by locking in rates at time of booking
  16. Manage Cash Flow Better – Reducing fraud, currency fluctuations and fees allows more precise budgeting and smarter use of your money

 

 

 

A Step-by-Step Guide to Virtual Cards for Travel Managers

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The internet is littered with articles espousing the benefits of virtual cards — or Virtual Account Numbers (VANs); and the industry agrees, VANs are the future.

Now that we are all on the same page, let’s talk about making VANs a reality for your travel program. This article is a step-by-step guide in adopting VANS.

#1: Evaluate Your Travel Program Goals

#2: Understand Your Ecosystem and Available Options

#3: Choose A Virtual Card Product

#4 Operationalize VANs Across Your Enterprise

#5 Set Your KPIs and Measure Your Goals

#6 Increase Your Travel Program Efficiency & Profitability

P.S. If you are new to VANs, no worries, here are places to learn about them here and here.

Step #1: Evaluate Your Travel Program Goals

Think of VANs as a verb, a solution that executes a valuable service. As such, VANs must be adopted with purpose to drive a meaningful measurable goal. Without a specific goal, VANs can be a solution in search of a problem.

Typical travel program goals VANs help achieve:

  1. Increase supplier adoption
  2. Decrease personal card use
  3. Reduce fraudulent charges
  4. Expedite reconciliation time
  5. Earn rebates on spend

Step #2: Understand Your Ecosystem and Available Options

The phrase, “you are only as strong as your weakest link” holds true with VANs. The partners in your ecosystem – banks, travel agencies and 3rd party technology – could heavily influence how quickly and efficiently you adopt VANs.

Key things to understand about your partner ecosystem:

  1. Bank – Do they offer VANs? If so what types?
  2. Travel Agency – Can they support VANs? If so, from which providers?
  3. 3rd Party Technology – Do they integrate VANs? If so, is it seamlessly into existing workflows?

Step #3: Choose A Virtual Card Product

Now that a goal has been identified and alignment within the ecosystem has been established, it is time to choose the type of VAN to subscribe to. Depending on the banking institution, many types of VANs are available.

Common types of VANs include:

  1. Prefunded – Spend up to amount put onto card in advance
  2. Debit – Spend up to amount in debit account with overdraft features
  3. Debit with credit line – Spend up to amount in your debit account with a set credit worthiness additional fund amount
  4. Credit – Spend up to amount based on credit worthiness

Each VAN has its own benefits and features, this is for your travel program to find the right fit. Similar to applying for a consumer card, not every card type is meant for everyone.

Step #4 Operationalize VANs Across Your Enterprise

This step is the most crucial of all! Making VANs work seamlessly in day-to-day operations is the difference between a concept and a successful implementation. It is simple to issue a virtual card, it is not simple to issue one within your current workflow while improving productivity and lowering costs. With many ways to generate a VAN, you want one that drives efficiency rather than more work.

Things to consider in making VANs a reality:

  • Who is requesting the VAN? Technology Partner, Travel Agent, Traveler, Corporation
  • Where is the VAN request generated from? GDS, Portal, Website, Application
  • How is that VAN request being handled? Automatic, Manual, Mixture
  • Who is responsible for maintaining the technology? Technology Partner, Travel Agency, Corporation

Step #5 Set your KPIs and Measure Your Goals

When VANs are properly operationalized, they can be tracked and reported on. Access to proper VAN detail and essential data allows you to isolating trends and understand data. Whether through static reports or on-demand visual dashboards, understanding VAN usage is important.

Common VAN key performance indicators (KPIs) to keep track of:

  • What are the total amount of issued, authorized, settled VANs?
  • What are average amount differences in issued vs settled VANs?
  • Which months are peak issued and settled VAN amounts?
  • What is the average refunded VAN amount?
  • Which travel products are VANs being used for the most and where?

Step #6 Increase Your Travel Program Efficiency & Productivity

Now that the infrastructure to a successful VAN program has been laid, you can test and try different strategies to make it more efficient to your specific program. Being creative in motivating traveler behavior is only possible if a VAN program has sound fundamentals and the ability for customization.

Possible VAN areas to tweak and test:

  • How low can hotel VAN tolerances for incidentals become
  • How low can the ratio of VANs issued to traveler become
  • How high can airline ancillary attachment become when paid by VANs
  • How quickly can my VAN process turnover from start to finish

Ways we can help

In summary, as you look towards introducing VANs in your travel management company, the Cornerstone AutoPay solution is designed to operationalize the request and reconciliation of virtual cards. Operating on a the Cornerstone platform,  Cornerstone AutoPay is an integrated automatic payment platform facilitating VANs for corporations, travel agencies, and developers.

Cornerstone AutoPay and our suite of products service through each step of the guide:

#1: Evaluate Your Travel Program Goals

  • AutoPay reinforces travel program initiatives either directly at payment via our VAN solution or upstream with our business rules logic engine iQCX that powers AutoPay.

#2: Understand Your Ecosystem and Available Options

  • AutoPay integrates to travel agencies, GDSs, payment providers, back office systems, banks and card networks.

#3: Choose A Virtual Card Product

  • AutoPay is a MasterCard prepaid VAN product by eNett; we are in development of more types of VAN products.

#4 Operationalize VANs Across Your Enterprise

  • AutoPay seamlessly integrates into travel workflows by allowing the travel agency to automatically request and generate VANs directly from the GDS. We can also automate movement of VAN and travel data to payment or back office systems.

#5 Set your KPIs and Measure Your Goals

  • We have complement reporting, business intelligence and visualization tools to help drive insights and analytics from your VAN data.

#6 Increase Your Travel Program Efficiency & Profitability

  • Our various suite of products are fully customizable to be tailored to your specific workflow and operational needs.

Meeting Customer Expectations and Driving Business Outcomes

Waiter: Have you guys decided on what you’d like?

modern kitchen and busy chefs

Jill: Yes, we’ll have the grilled chicken with wild rice and green beans for the sides.

Waiter: Great, grilled chicken, wild rice, and green beans. Anything to drink?

Jill: I think we are good with just water – thanks.

Waiter: Sounds good. We will have that right up for you guys!

– Fifteen minutes pass –

Waiter: Here are your dishes! Does everything look correct?

Jill: Oh…um I think we ordered the grilled chicken, not the fish.

Waiter: Oh I’m terribly sorry! I’ll fix that right away.

Sound familiar?

 

We rarely stop to think about what occurs during those fifteen minutes in between ordering the food and receiving the food. There needs to be some way for the cooks in the back to deliver what was requested by the consumers in the front. There needs to be a mediator that enables the cooks to fulfill the promises presented by waiters. Whether waiters are tasked with communicating those orders by physical order tickets or by an automated ordering system, a mid-office system is required. This mid-office system acts as the connecting point between the two operational systems – the ordering and the cooking.

Now, not all mid-office systems are considered equal. The restaurant industry has been shifting from a system of shouting orders to more advanced computer-driven ticket systems. These systems are designed to decrease turnaround time and to avoid human error. This evolution is driven by a desire for increased efficiency and accuracy to better align the front of house and the kitchen, with the goal being a satisfied diner. This evolution toward error-minimizing systems is paralleled within the travel industry, an industry in need of more efficient, more accurate mid-office packages.

iQCX is that more efficient, more accurate mid-office system, linking the front office that travelers see when they book a ticket to the back office travelers experience hopping on a plane. iQCX enables you to deliver what you have promised when the consumer booked their ticket. But just as with the restaurant industry, not all mid-office systems are considered equal. Gone are the days of TMCs recording and delivering tickets by hand based on booking requests – automation is the new norm.

With iQCX you get a premier automation package that processes, validates, and optimizes the booking and ticketing cycles. Think of it as a restaurant mid-office system that not only delivers the order ticket to the kitchen, but also confirms accuracy of the order and consistently upgrades your meal when particularly fresh, local ingredients are available. iQCX, with functionalities like reservation validation, itinerary delivery, fare and seat optimization, boosts efficiency and accuracy as an extension of your day-to-day operations. iQCX gives you another set of hands, freeing up precious time and bringing peace of mind.

So, what can you do with that with that extra time and security that come as a result of increased efficiency and accuracy?

You can be proactive, instead of reactive. Instead of managing ticket processing hiccups, you can take time to analyze your travel data from the past quarter and adjust for the coming quarter. Instead of handling undelivered itineraries, you can take time to train your employees and staff members. Instead of constantly checking air rates to offer customers cheaper fares, maybe you can take an extra half hour of lunch (we were on the subject of restaurants, after all). iQCX’s functionalities give you the freedom to do your job better and to provide a reliable, satisfactory experience for your travelers.

In the opening example with which we are all familiar, something went awry.  Perhaps the waiter forgot the correct order or the chef misread the ticket or maybe they simply gave the customer another customer’s food. Whatever the case, the bottom line is that the mid-office system did not efficiently and accurately provide alignment between waiter and chef and the result is an unsatisfied consumer. With iQCX, you can be assured that the front end and back end of the traveler experience align. You can be assured that your customers are satisfied.

 

Why VANs Haven’t Gone Mainstream and How They Can

Shoot TargetIn 1997, Microsoft launched Sidewalk.com, a site intended to house all things local, from restaurant listings to hotels to handymen and so forth. Sidewalk.com went head to head with newspapers to offer arts and entertainment information but couldn’t compete and was eventually purchased by CitySearch. During the same era, AOL launched Digital City; however, AOL’s local endeavor integrated with each city’s content partners—newspapers and magazines—to monetize what they knew users wanted, local online content. They upped the appeal by hiring locals to blog. This new concept aimed at generating fresh local content as well as launching user-generated content such as live polling about local issues.

Why does Digital City matter, though it no longer exists? Many include the Bulletin Board System that AOL used to support Digital City’s blogging and user-content capabilities as one of the key steps along the path to modern social media. At the end of the day, Sidewalk.com and Digital City had similar intents, but only Digital City listened to the needs of their audience, and the site succeeded by integrating a new technology within the existing media framework.

Virtual card technology was developed in 2009; however, in 2013 just 18% of companies were using the technology.[1] The widespread adoption of Virtual Account Numbers (VANs) has been surprisingly sluggish for a product with exceptional value. However, products with value come along every day, and many of them fail. Remember Apple’s MessagePad? It was the precursor to the modern PDA. But it wasn’t user-friendly enough and was possibly ahead of its time.

This idea of “ahead of its time” can often be read as “didn’t respond to consumer needs” or “didn’t integrate with existing consumer technology.” Herein lies one of the most important and, perhaps, under-discussed issues with new technology. Technology does not exist in a bubble.

It can’t revolutionize based simply on its existence.

Technology must fit into today’s systems, bringing Netflix and Hulu to your existing televisions via your current Internet access with an understandable interface.

Many companies have yet to work out the system-to-system communications required to make VANs a valuable enterprise tool. Most hype the intrinsic value of the number, focusing on the one-time use and security of virtual cards. Cornerstone  Information Systems (CIS) sees the role of VANs differently. Rather than just providing the technology of virtual numbers, CIS’s role with AutoPay is to facilitate the integration, data management, and execution of virtual numbers so that they increase the overall value of your service.

Of course, VANs do reduce fraud and improve security. They also help travel managers enforce policy compliance far more effectively primarily by virtue of having a set limit (i.e., a VAN can be issued for the exact amount of an airline ticket). But these are only useful elements if they are properly integrated with a travel manager’s existing technologies. This means:

  1. VANs can be requested from any GDS (and in 30 currencies).
  2. Travel managers do no manual work in getting the numbers integrated across different systems, and the numbers are automatically associated with the booking for tracking and reconciliation.
  3. VANS are integrated with your reporting mechanisms, so you know if you are saving money through travel compliance and can quickly identify issues.
  4. Fewer expense errors with less manual reporting from employees.

When all is said and done and VANs are properly operationalized, they offer increased profitability and efficiency. But you can’t achieve or identify their benefit if they are treated only as a number.

So what will it take for VANs to hit the big time?

Last year, Apple launched Apple Music in an effort to revolutionize the music streaming industry and compete directly with powerhouse Spotify. Recent numbers from Billboard have Spotify at 30 million paid subscribers and Apple Music at 11 million.[2] While Apple Music has met with some success, it is far from toppling Spotify, and just one year in, Apple is already re-launching its interface and working to better integrate its streaming and download platforms. Apple Music must deliver more than music in order to succeed. The company must, instead, figure out what its users need. As Macworld reports, the interface is “needlessly complicated” and the integration with Apple’s existing iTunes has been “a disaster.”[3]

Similarly, a sixteen-digit virtual number on its own won’t provide the value that travel managers need to adopt it.

Interface and integration—fitting VANs into overall operations—are essential to ensuring virtual cards succeed.

 

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[1] McCann, David. Will Virtual Cards Finally Find a Big Market in AP? CFO. May 2015.

[2] People, Glen. As Spotify Nears 30 Million Subscribers and Apple Music Exceeds 11 Million, Is Streaming Turning the Corner? Billoard, February 2016.

[3] Apple Music May Get Returned in June. Macworld. May 4, 2016.