How Much Data Is Too Much Data?

“Without big data, you are blind and deaf and in the middle of a freeway.”

– Geoffrey Moore, author and strategy consultant

While there is truth to Moore’s bold assertion about the modern risk of doing business without the benefit of big data, it is equally true that the data itself will not save you from traffic while standing in oncoming traffic. It doesn’t, by virtue of its existence, offer sight and hearing. Gary King, Harvard’s Director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science notes that “big data is ‘a massively important development’ but… the data itself isn’t what’s most important. It’s the algorithm” (Harvard Gazette). At the simplest level, King’s assertion lends itself to the adage: It is what you do with it (the data) that matters.

Never before have so many not known what to do with the excess of information. Rarely does a topic elicit so many catastrophic metaphors: blizzards and avalanches of data, the data lake (a term for a large repository of information with the ability to handle infinite tasks simultaneously) has become the data flood. The data burms have collapsed, threatening to wash away those who don’t have a hold on it—or so it seems sometimes.

It is time to shift the conversation. Big data is just big data. It doesn’t signify anything nor predict calamity. What big data does represent is an opportunity: an opportunity for actionable insight, an opportunity to create value, an opportunity to effect relevant and profitable organizational change. The opportunity lies in which information is integrated, how it is visualized, and where actionable insight is extracted.

In travel circles, the big data conversation often involves demographics, behavioral information, and social or psychographic data—and the new aim of big data is in the personalization of the travel experience, from marketing to booking to the stay. Perhaps surprisingly, the same holds true for travel management companies. Leveraging big data to personalize service for your clients adds value, and in doing so, allows you to not only influence your clients’ bottom lines but also your own as you differentiate from your competition.

As EyeforTravel notes in a 2015 data recap, “Increasingly companies are recognizing [sic] that it’s not necessarily about ‘big’ data, but instead using all the ‘right’ available data streams to produce results in good time.” Where travel management companies must begin in the murky waters of big data is to isolate useful information. When reviewing annual travel spend, for instance, what matters are the areas of spend that are substantial, those that affect your client’s P&L at the end of the day. An individual room night does not matter unless you know that executives will be booking suites in New York on a recurring basis this fall. What matters more than the average of all first class and economy flights is the ability to look at flight class against organizational hierarchy alongside booking patterns (last-minute or advanced) across airlines and destinations. There are two levels of value: one is in the ability to correlate different data sets as in the aforementioned example; the other is in understanding trends, averages, and the top 10 and bottom 10 of any major category of travel (flights, hotels, ground transportation, business, leisure, and so forth).

However, this only truly matters if the information is then used to guide the corporate travel compliance standards, ideally creating substantial savings. For travel management companies, providing this level of actionable business intelligence takes your role as a third-party from useful to indispensable.

In 2014, Starwood began optimizing revenue based on big data by reviewing guest preferences, inventory, and property location (i.e., particular data streams) followed by creating highly tailored incentives (i.e. action). They reported to the Wall Street Journal a hefty increase in revenue between Q4 2013 and Q4 2014—from $128 million to $238 million and an increase of 4.4% in revenue per available room. This example is relevant for two reasons. First, it highlights the relatively recent adoption of actionable big data initiatives by some of the world’s most influential travel brands. Second, it demonstrates that the process of identifying critical data then leveraging it to achieve a specific goal can be extraordinarily effective not only by creating immediate revenue increases but also by generating long-term revenue through loyalty. While travel management companies are just beginning to harness the power of big data, it is clear that when managed well, the potential is vast.

So, to the question “How much data is too much data?” we reply “data is not about quantity but about the quality of the data streams toward a relevant and actionable goal.”

Cornerstone Information Systems Debuts New Travel Data Analytics and Visualization Solution, TravelOptix™ at Travel Technology Europe

 

traveloptix_logo

Elegant platform enables travel companies and corporations to connect, prepare, visualize, engage and optimize their business around actionable data

BLOOMINGTON, IN February 18, 2016, Cornerstone Information Systems (CIS), a leading provider of innovative technology solutions for travel companies, today announced the official launch of TravelOptix™, its new user-friendly data analytics platform that delivers actionable insights for travel management companies and corporate travel managers on any device.

The new technology was developed by CIS last year to support the increasingly multifaceted travel management process and analyze complex data with complete agility.  Now out of beta, several clients are successfully leveraging TravelOptix™ to optimize their business and regulate their travel spend. From easy data preparation to beautiful dashboards and interactive analytics, the solution combines the best of visual BI and analytics in one platform. The platform has the ability to drill down, and across, multi-dimensional data. The user-friendly solution uses simple menu selections to view trend lines and visualize actionable insights from disparate data sets to support better business decisions, cost savings and policy enforcement.

For agencies and corporations, TravelOptix™ offers a fully configurable, self-service platform that enables companies to create and design their own custom reports, highlighting information and insights critical to their own unique business. Components are plug-and-play, and companies can easily create their own presentations from directly within the platform.

“Data is the key to helping TMC’s and their clients understand how well their travel initiatives are producing and performing,” explains Mat Orrego, Cornerstone’s CEO. “The aggregation of travel specific information through visually rich data empowers travel companies and corporations to optimize their travel and drive continual improvement. TravelOptix™ delivers a single solution to explore virtually all your data from any angle and at any granularity to reach real insights, fast. Even with little or no prior experience in data crunching – any data, from any data source, is quickly accessible and actionable and available on any device.”

Cornerstone, recognized for developing intelligent automation technology and innovative solutions for travelers, companies, and their clients,  will be exhibiting at Travel Technology Europe 2016 in London, February 24-25th. Attendees are invited to visit booth T81 to meet with the CIS executive team, and view live demos of the CIS suite of products.

ABOUT CORNERSTONE INFORMATION SYSTEMS

Cornerstone Information Systems delivers innovative solutions for travel companies and their clients to maximize opportunities for higher performance, greater efficiency, and ultimately, higher profitability. Our unique core offerings provide clients and their respective travelers with data insights that enable them to make better business decisions and manage their trips more effectively to be more productive and cost conscious. 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.

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If you would like more information about this topic, or to arrange an interview with the executive team at Cornerstone, please contact Lauren Wolters at lwolters@ciswired.com.

 

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