Curate is more than a buzzword – but does anyone know what it means?

If it seems like you’re hearing the word “curate” everywhere you go, it’s because you are. Curate content. Curate data. Curate, curate, curate. But most people using “curate,” don’t know what it means.

Curate: to select items from among a large number of possibilities for select items from among a large number of possibilities for other people to consume and enjoy; applied to many areas including music, design, fashion, and especially digital media

First, people tend to forget curate is an action verb. To curate you need to make active choices and select specific items. Museums do this all the time.

They review a painter’s collection and select the paintings that best represent their work. They can’t use all the paintings – it is too much to showcase and may include items outside of the artists most relevant work. Museums directors take thoughtful selections of artwork that are representative of a total career.

The second part of the definition of curate is focused on letting people consume the information. Once the items are gathered, be it paintings or data, the greater challenge is putting them together in a way that people can understand.

If the paintings were hung around a room without an order, no one would be able to understand them. They couldn’t track the artist’s progression or the way they interpreted various elements. Arranging the items for greater understanding and new insights is critical.

But this isn’t what most people are doing.

We see a lot of companies gathering larger and larger sets of data and referring to that as curating. Large sets of data can be a powerful tool – and we at Cornerstone have enhanced and integrated capabilities to do just that, from data acquisition to data warehousing. But large data sets don’t always tell you what you need to know.

Sometimes new and critical insights get lost in these large data lakes. Curating data allows different patterns to emerge.

When we curate, we need to be sure we’re not just selecting a subset of items but rather that we’re taking the time to take thoughtful and representative selections of content that drive greater understanding and new insights.

Cornerstone Information Systems exhibiting and speaking at Travel Technology Europe 2017

BLOOMINGTON, IN (February 2, 2017)  – Cornerstone™ Information Systems (CIS), a global leader in innovative technology solutions for travel companies, will be speaking and exhibiting at The Travel Technology Europe Show 2017 (TTE 2017). The event takes place February 22nd-23rd, at Olympia in London, UK and is expected to attract more than 6000 Travel & Tourism professionals and suppliers from around the globe.  Cornerstone will also be hosting a Cocktails and Canapés reception at a nearby upscale gastropub.

The company’s CEO, Mat Orrego, will be presenting at a session titled, ‘Using the Cloud in Travel’ designed to help organizations explore how to build cost-effective architecture in the cloud including the licensing and delivery models that can optimize savings. The interactive session, which begins at 10 AM on Thursday, February 23rd, will be moderated by Glenn Watson, Business Solutions Manager of the Advantage Focus Partnership. Other expert panelists include Brian Mebourne, Senior VP of Technology, Open Destinations and Alex Bainbridge, founder, and CEO, The Spontaneous Travel Company.

At the event, Cornerstone plans to showcase TravelOptix™ – a next-level analytics platform that allows TMCs to customize their own visualizations, data sources, and viewing device to uncover insights that help drive value internally and externally. The intuitive platform enables TMCs to optimize their business as well as regulate their policies and spend using rich dashboards, simple menus, and interactive analytics. Cornerstone will also be demonstrating its entire award-winning enterprise suite of business automation solutions that enhance travel from every touch point at booth #T81.

Said Mat Orrego, “TTE comes at a time when TMCs are thinking about how best to invest their resources to remain competitive and profitable. With the focus for 2017 likely to remain firmly on leveraging technology to optimize travel experiences and the bottom line, we are looking forward to sharing how our innovative solutions can help them drive customer engagement, productivity, and performance.”

To pre-book a demonstration with a Cornerstone expert contact ask@ciswired.com or call +1 812 330-4361 in USA/North America and +44 33 0808-0139 in UK/Europe.

For more details on the Cocktails and Canapés reception and to register, click here.

 

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.

 

 

Real-Time Strategies Chip Away at Travel Costs

Business tools with data visualizations have the ability to offer sweeping insights that can influence all aspects of operations, from marketing to client services and everything in between. Data tools like the TravelOptix™ platform offer real-time information for more-nimble and therefore more competitive strategies. If you’re wondering how important speed is when it comes to data, a McKinsey study shows that high-performing companies are five times more likely to have the tools to work with real-time data.[1]

The ability to monitor trends as they are happening gives TravelOptix users an edge in making cost-saving shifts. Travel managers can observe a change in traveler behaviors and immediately locate the pattern, study the details, and determine if cost-saving measures are possible. For instance, if flights between two company office locations increase in volume, travel managers can offer insight to employees on ideal days of the week to book this route or preferred travel times for the best fares.

Travel managers also understand trends in best practices for booking but require real-time data to ensure compliance with those best practices. With real-time tools on hand, managers can identify if travelers are suddenly booking an unusual amount of short-lead travel and can then take up the exploratory work necessary to ensure compliance or suggest alternatives. And, most importantly, this can happen as soon as a potential problem is spotted; therefore, avoiding future unnecessary expenditures.

In both cases, immediate cost-savings are the result of real-time business insight presented in a visual format that is simple to understand because it is tailored by and to the organization.

Travel and expense management can be of the most challenging operational costs to control, and is a significant budget item for many companies. Thinking holistically about how to increase the efficiency around travel operations is essential to overall business performance. While there are many ways to improve travel management, among the first and most productive is to stop using the unreliable, outdated data on which companies have been relying for so long (if you’re holding a spreadsheet right now, we’re giving you a friendly nod) and embrace real-time decision making.

TravelOptix provides you the flexibility to load data from virtually any data source including spreadsheets, databases, operational systems, ERP, and web sources. Additionally, TravelOptix gives you the control to cleanse, transform, and unify multiple disparate data sources without requiring external tools. Current Cornerstone customers will start with data being loaded from the iBank® and iQCX® platforms and can integrate other sources from there.

TravelOptix allows you to choose your own visualizations, data sources, and viewing device so you can tell the story you want, in the way that you choose. Pick your sources, then use the intuitive drag-and-drop visualization tools to discover insights that were previously hidden. Mobile integration and robust story telling tools allow you to present your findings anytime, anywhere so that you can delight customers and internal shareholders alike. Whether you are looking to improve internal efficiencies or drive greater value to your customers, TravelOptix gives you the tools you need to have a comprehensive picture of your data and real-time strategies to help reduce your costs.

To learn about our TravelOptix platform and how we can drive insights for your business, please contact your account manager or Rodrigo Cotelo.

 

[1] The Need to Lead in Data and Analytics. McKinsey. April 2016.

Where We’re Investing in 2017

As we finished 2016, we took time to look across our solutions and take stock of where we stood. Our goal is to make strong investments in our core platforms, adding new capabilities to enable you to make better business decisions, and listening to feedback from you, our customers and our partners.

2016: A Year Of Change

Last year was a year of swapping out and upgrading the old with the new at Cornerstone. We focused on making architectural changes to our iBank® software platform – changing the entire report production and distribution code base.  These efforts will allow you to create the reports and analyses that you need faster and with more flexibility. Requests that used to require engineering development can now be managed through configuration.

We also ensured our existing redundant and robust systems are ready for future growth. We increased the capacity of our server cluster and moved to all-flash memory solution. Our investment into the all-flash memory technology provides the foundation for next-generation business applications as well as bolstering support of real-time analytics. This new structure gives us eight times the input/output per second that we had previously as well as sub-millisecond latency.

We also released our TravelOptix™ software platform in 2016, as well as our new AutoPay™ product. TravelOptix provides you the flexibility to load data from virtually any data source, including spreadsheets, databases, operational systems, ERP, and web sources. Additionally, TravelOptix gives you the control to cleanse, transform, and unify multiple disparate data sources without requiring external tools. TravelOptix allows you to tell your own story on a responsive platform. The self-service data visualization enables you to answer your own questions on the fly, from any device, with data governance for your back office and reservation data built in.

AutoPay enables you to request virtual cards from within your desktop workflow, automates the generation of the virtual card numbers with the financial institution, provides that information back into the booking and passes enriched data to your back-office systems for 100% reconciliation. We partnered with two leading payment aggregators this year – eNett and Conferma. This ensures we can provide you full range of capabilities and options that best fit your individual needs.

2017: Where We Are Going

We remain committed to our mission in 2017. This year we plan to enhance our unique domain knowledge around travel data – from how travel is operationalized to how information is managed.

We remain committed to helping our customers manage their process and information, to drive better decision making. Our focus continues to be on travel data, from the management of the reservation to the creation and presentation of information.

As we enter 2017, we want to build on the progress we made in 2016 with three main areas of investment.

1) Investing in system infrastructure

We will focus on enhancing and upgrading our access to our partners, especially our GDS partners. This includes updating some of our APIs and web service calls, as well as capturing reservation data in new ways. Much of this work happens in the background – you will see the benefits in faster access to data, quicker processing times, and greater continuity of data.

We know that process times and system reliability are critically important for your business. We maintained our 99.99% uptime in 2016, and our goal is to continue provide that exceptional level of performance.

2) Expanding data capture capabilities

One of the most valuable capabilities of our TravelOptix platform is its ability to load and analyze data from any source. A critical area of focus for us in 2017 is to expand the data connections we have.

This includes building new partnerships to add data sources, and building custom links for our customers. We are evaluating the best methods of bringing data into our unified environment, so that you can view everything from reservation data to expense and human resources data in one place. This also benefits our Policy Compliance Manager™ product as well as AutoPay.

Expanding our data capture capabilities ensures that we can continue to uncover insights for your business, helping you make data-driven decisions.

3) Launching 4site™ platform

One of the areas we are most excited about is the market release of 4site. You may have seen glimpses of this Innovation Team project over the last year and a half. We have iterated our 4site platform a few times and the result is a data-driven platform designed to manage travelers before and during travel, anticipating disruptions before they happen.

We are developing 4site to use predictive intelligence to calculate the most likely scenario at any given moment, allowing the traveler, corporate travel manager, and travel management company to respond in real time.

We think that 4site will be one of the most exciting set of capabilities we bring to market in 2017.

 

Questions? Feel free to contact your Cornerstone account manager or email ask@ciswired.com.

 

 

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 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.

Making Data Count – Metrics that Matter

Identifying a strong set of KPI’s is a critical component of any company’s travel policy. Key performance indicators are a measurement of how well the company’s travel program is operating in tandem with the overall strategic objectives of the business. Access to data has been growing each and every year, to the point of having too much data to evaluate and accurately analyze. Having this chaotic amount of data, knowing what data to focus on is of paramount importance.

Both TMCs and travel managers understand that leveraging good data is crucial for their work, but what data do they need? Are they combining the appropriate measurements for real performance management, building a full and actionable picture of what is going on in their travel program?

The introduction of our TravelOptix solution solves that problem by incorporating travel statistics into a rich visualization that highlights actionable data that can be used by the TMC or company travel manager. Let’s take a look at an example.

Measuring the total cost of a particular travel segment (air, car, hotel, and rail), as it relates to budget is traditionally one of the standards for a critical performance measurement. A total dollar expense is an easy metric to evaluate. However, most large companies have hundreds of thousands of trips in any given year that include a high volume of changes and cancelations. Until now, the capability to slice and dice this information in an easy and understandable way has been out of reach. Cornerstone’s launch of TravelOptix solves that problem.

Imagine taking one metric like airline ticket travel cost and be able to view that data by such categories as a class of service, regions, city pairs or advance purchases. Also, TravelOptix will integrate any external data and incorporate it into the existing information to maximize overall relevant visibility of the data the user wants to see and understand.

Now the data starts to take shape, especially when it is leveraged to paint a more accurate picture of a company’s performance. This is a paradigm shift in the way we look at identifying KPIs.

Imagine analyzing such new performance indicators as the effect of advance purchase, not just compared to budget but compared to regions or individual travelers. This changes the question from looking at total spend to; is buying flights in advance always the smartest move? How many were canceled or paid a high change fee? What was the leakage created by making the purchase ahead of time? Is this pattern indicative of particular city pairs?

The questions are endless, and finally there is a solution to locating the answers right at your fingertips. The ability to interrupt data quickly and efficiently shifts the focus from looking for the answer to displaying the solution!

Travel Managers have claimed that analyzing data is the most time-consuming part of their job, and many have said they do not possess the necessary skills. TravelOptix solves both of those problems. Actionable Intelligence translates into cost savings, better travel management and redefines the definition of KPIs!

Note: I will be at the ACTE Conference in Paris October 14-16, please stop by the booth for a demo or contact Cornerstone at www.ciswired.com to find out more about TravelOptix 

 

Why it’s Time You Start Incorporating Data as Part of our Airbnb and Uber Decisions

I have written recently about the importance of using travel data to execute better business decisions. Companies are approaching the use of data as a core element in their day-to-day decision making, especially when it comes to managing their costs, policy compliance and future travel and expense strategy. We all need data to define our travel trends, to measure trip effectiveness, to understand our behaviors and activities and to understand our financial patterns and limitations. So what happens when there is a missing component in your business intelligence? Enter the shared economy and the growing usage of services like Airbnb and Uber by business travelers.

Whether you like them or not these shared economy giants are quickly becoming a formidable option as more business travelers are bypassing their travel management companies and booking directly with this exploding channel. According to Airbnb, 10% of their sales are to guests on business trips. Without including this data, along with other shared services like UBER, the analysis is skewed by the lack of relevant information.

There is something you can do to incorporate this missing business intelligence back into your program. First educate your company on what Airbnb is doing and how it is possibly impacting your business.  Far from the rudimentary system used by Airbnb a year ago, in July 2015, they launched a new tool that centers on a dashboard for corporate travel planners. With more than 250 business clients including Google and Salesforce, the dashboard provides centralized billing, financial reporting data, and information on employee itineraries booked through the service. Companies like Cornerstone recognize the need to incorporate this data for their TMC clients and are working toward that integration in the near future.

Before panic starts to set in – let’s take a look at the type of traveler and accommodation is being sought after through Airbnb. It’s hard to imagine that a major CEO of a company would want to stay on someone’s couch or in their spare bedroom. The majority of alternative accommodations business guests fall into two core categories, extended stay and corporate meetings and retreats.

For workers on long-term projects, or in the middle of relocating, especially in a big city, Airbnb provides a home-like atmosphere that even the best of hotels can’t duplicate. To inspire team building, imagine having your next corporate meeting in a big house or villa with all participants staying together under one roof. When examining the type of clientele that Airbnb Business is attracting, it begins to make more sense and gives both the TMC and company a place to start tracking the itinerary data.

The next step is to encourage TMC’s to help their clients design a program policy regarding Airbnb. If they do allow it, there is an assigned place on their website to enter the corporate ID. This step will bring the data back into the hands of the TMC and will provide the necessary intelligence to make future decisions on policy and budget.

It’s not the perfect solution, but TMC’s and corporations need to recognize that, as the 4th largest supplier of accommodations, Airbnb is not going anywhere anytime soon. Start with understanding their program, identify what type of traveler this would benefit and create a policy to collect the data. From there you have a laid a good foundation on how to manage the growth and adaptation of the shared economy.