ACTE/CAPA 2017: becoming a travel programme CEO

Attendees at the ACTE/CAPA London conference had the chance to hear a panel of experts from a range of backgrounds discuss how travel buyers can become the ‘CEO’ of their company’s programme to take control and drive strategy.

Panel chair Mick Lee, founder and president of WINiT and MD of Arrow212, asked the audience to pick an area to focus on during the session, and buyers overwhelmingly asked for advice on being fearless in their role.

Patrick Marter, chief procurement officer at Fidelity International, said: “Firstly, it’s about positioning; you have to position yourself, along with your service and capability, in a perspective that your firm can understand. Fidelity is an asset management company, and they think in terms of training, discipline and research, so when I communicate my team’s strategy, I speak in their vernacular. This breaks down some of the barriers whereby people ask how you can add value and gets them to start getting to the more specific question of ‘how can you help me’.”

Marter also argues that it’s up to travel programme managers to help their company understand that their role involves much more than just buying and booking. “I’ve heard from the delegates here that they’re using technology to drive change. What I’m hearing is that travel managers are utilising skills and expertise to influence their organisation at a very deep level.”

Lee followed up by asking him how travel managers can prepare themselves for making the true scope of their role known to their colleagues. “First of all, you have to be open to the challenge. It’s easy to become deeply engrained in your area of expertise, and you will always be the most knowledgeable person in your company when it comes to your travel programme. I also believe you have to listen. Doing so will inform you on what your company needs and how you can help them.”

An audience member then asked how travel managers can develop a successful strategy. Marter said this was especially difficult at Fidelity because the company’s offices around the world each had different policies. He commented that his team formed a scheme by aligning policy across the whole organisation, introducing measures that matched the corporate culture of each office.

“Using that, we devised a coherent strategy that took a very disparate programme and turned it into something that worked for the whole organisation.”

Caroline Strachan, managing partner at Festive Road, added that travellers need to be a major component of any strategy, along with HR, finance, IT and risk. “If you don’t have a good relationship with all four of those departments, I honestly don’t know how you can have a successful travel programme.” She said looking at data is only part of the solution and managers need to be able to talk to their travellers to find out what they want from a policy.

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