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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Xtify or Capptain to pilot your apps?

Creating a mobile application , publishing it tothe store and counting the downloads are only the first steps of a mobile application lifecycle. We need more.
I found two different solutions to help maintain the link between my app and the downloaders.
CAPPTAIN and Xtify ...
The first is very popular in France and pretty cheap. TRhe second is very popular in North America and much more expensive. So, i'm looking for some help. Please comment this post and share your experiences.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Leveraging Transparency Through Social

Transparency is key to enable TRUST. Trust is needed to increase adoption of the corporate travel program objectives.

I'm convinced that social media could help corporate travelers be more engaged and offer the transparency required to make people more confident on the travel program. One of my key idea I have is to move away from complex and too technical travel policy that only traveler agents or booking tools could support, and to move to a crowd sourced socially powered control.

What is needed:

  1. Simple and easy set of rules. 
  2. Corporate Social media to discuss and report on the travel policy usage and conformance.

In brief, enable anybody to see how you, your team, tou Business group travel and if your adherence to the company travel policy. Of course you need to preserve personal data privacy (impersonate some content) and there are always exceptions to rules, but this can be handled easily.

A small example.

Imagine that each time you want to go somewhere, you can use a trip planning tool and get a CAP (max price + accepted ancillary services).
Then you just need to make your booking and publish your Itinerary back to a centralized service. Your Itinerary will then be analysed and:
  • the corporate trip dashboard will be automatically updated
  • your trip will be used to build your travel policy scorecard to be published on the corporate social network
  • your trip will be used as a guideline (of what to do or not to do). 
Of course some key "personal" or sensitive information will not be published. The idea is to have a real time, decentralized, crowd sourced control. Everybody could then see how many trips you've made and how much time you did not follow the policy and why.

The more we empower travelers (right tools, right training, inform them about the preferred suppliers, right best practices in context), the more they will be able to act. With gamification techniques, you could also imagine to reward them. That's where social is good at also ..

The End of corporate Travel as we knew it!

2011 Time person of the year in is "The Protester". People fighting for their freedom, mainly using CAR (Computer Assisted Revolution).

The corporate world, especially in country where the economic recession will put pressures on jobs and projects, will obviously be changed by this tidal wave. Transparency will become number one request by travelers in their companies, but guess what, it's not the number one for Travel managers. The more you dehumanize your travel policy (rules created and published without any explanations) the more the risk to have "protesters" in your company.

I want to choose my tools and devices

Travelers, travel arrangers will ask for using the tools they want on the device they want. They know how to perform and will not accept anymore choices made by others without being asked. They use tools like the ones created by Google, HipMunk, and Superfly with great user interface, and easy way to find what they need. We have to admit, corporate Online Booking Tools are still far away from their counterpart in the B2C world (even if recent improvements were done). 

I also have the feeling that B2C online services in travel will kill (or force morphing) in the mid term pure B2B suppliers: Concur bought TripIt, Rearden moving to Deem and Traveldoo being bough by Egencia, (what will be the future for KDS?). Corporate Travel policy are so stringent and their revenue model so tight that Corporate Online Booking Tool can not survive alone in the B2B world.

Trip lifecycle needs to be humanized and customized to each traveler

Online adoption is linked to booking tool user experience, but also to the processes pit in place. Online is not always the best way to interact.  More and more, travelers will prefers to talk to humans as some point in their journey.

Some, could not afford anymore, to spend hours on a tool to see all possible biased (by the travel policy) choices they have. They want to go straight to the point ... In the coming months, new solutions will be launched to ease corporate booking being done on B2C tools, reinforcing then the role of travel agents as "travel advisers and facilitators".

Travelers need travel agent answering their call in a reasonable time, speaking well their native language and able to answer timely and effectively all demands. Some road warriors will do everything themselves, but others will request help.

Revolution in Trip Planning and shopping

Trip planning and shopping will be done more and more with existing B2C web sites (Kayak, Orbitz, Google, etc.). Trip planning tools will be able to give travelers a CAP of their trip cost and propose some great tips based on how they want to optimize their trip (fare, time, agony, etc.).

So B2C tools will be used to find preferred flights or hotels. Then, their choices will be sent to an online (or offline) "travel policy compliance service" configured to implement the corporate travel policy. It could be a tool or a real human behind a computer or a phone. Then, in the next 15 minutes, travelers will get back a proposal compliant to the travel policy (preferred suppliers) and  the corporate rates.

Booking will be eased, and  ordering a trip will be only a click (or screen tap) away. Each trip segment will be then checked and validated in real time against compliance rules (and you got a sort of automated approval rule). Safety and security rules, plus warning information about visa and money currencies could be set immediately.

Booking direct or Booking through Travel Agents (aka through GDS)

At that moment, a new disruption is then possible. You can book directly to the airline or Hotel web site or use a travel agent (TMCs, OTA). Ideally, this should be defined in your travel policy. The next step being, of course, the capability to send this booking to the expense management tool, to avoid data entry.

Companies, due to hard economic time and talent retention needs, will not be spending time and money anymore on building a specific travel booking platform for their company. They will try to go with the flow and benefit from others. The Saas (software as a service) model is here to stay. This SaaS model will be then applied on the whole travel lifecycle to enable Business Process Outsourcing and best of breeds solutions adoption.

Impact of Mobile of the travel lifecycle

The travel industry is being transformed by Steve Jobs vision "there's an app for that". Every micro-need could be served by a dedicated app and a dedicated supplier. The travel industry being very fragmented, this is a great opportunity for local "champions" to emerge (like Uber for "black cars", high speed train apps, etc.). That's why new marketplace will emerge in the travel 2.0 industry ... That's also why B2B On line booking tools have no future. Power of the crowd is here to stay.

Corporate travel tools needs to move from a monolithic view where only one tool does all (the OBT), to a marketplace of micro-trip services offer (based on mobile app for example) across the travel lifecycle where the traveler can buy what he/she needs when he/she needs it with the device he/she wants and at the negotiated price (compliant to the policy).

And what about:
  • Global Itinerary? Well depending on the travel policy a company could rely on a travel agent for all bookings and in that case, it will be offered. If not, then the travel policy compliance service offered could be used for building the itinerary. Finally, tools like TripIT (most pervasive) or Wipolo (most social with its great Facebook integration) could do it.
  • Duty of care? Again, based on the travel policy, the duty of care service could be feed by the travel agent, the travel policy compliance service or could be done manually by the travelers. Most of the time these services are offered by third party companies (like Ijet or Myassist).
  • Expense Mgt. Expense capture will be done more and more on Mobile. Expense tracking could be done via credit card data transfer to dedicated tools. So Global New Entrants like Expensify or dedicated credit card tools will do the job.
Corporate Protesters and Transparency 

Travel Policy is the cornerstone of the "Corporate travel", make it pervasive in the travel 2.0 world (best tools at the best moment on the travel lifecycle), explain the objectives behind the main rules of the policy (track and report on them internally to see if objectives are met), educate your travelers (preferred suppliers, tips and tricks, etc.).

Travelers needs to understand why the corporate travel policy was created, and what benefits for them and the company you are looking for. They also want transparency, to ensure that exceptions to the rules are not the golden rule. The rules should be the same for everybody, even if several travelers types could be defined (VIP, Frequent traveler, occasional traveler).

Exceptions should be created to make the corporate world more human. A travel policy, should take into account travelers age, health, travel/rest ratio (number of trips per month), average length of your travels, ancillary services they could benefit from, type of flights (domestic or intercontinental), etc.

The travel policy going hand and hand with duty of care, it should be clear to both parties what the company must do for its employees and what employees must do when then book and travel. For example:

  •  frequent traveler should have a better Health / safety
  •  security insurance while occasional traveler should be better supported at time of booking and trip planning
  • Better car should be rent in winter i certain zones
  • etc.
Some predictions to conclude

  • Social network will be used to document best practices and engage discussions. But also to document the ones not following the policy. Exceptions to the policy need to be tracked and reporting should be shared. Transparency is good, but you need to create some limits, for sure. Instead of reporting on people not following policies, you can report on teams (and reduce their travel budget for the next quarter), or comments on non compliant behaviors. 

  • Gamification will be key to create fun around the travel policy and to reward the ones that "play the game"
  • Mobile and API will be used for and more for on the go, on demand travel policy compliance. Request for spend request could be created easily and approved more or less automatically. Best price or trip options will be found more easily. Travelers will use more and more mobile immediacy to request corporate Big Mother, and move away from their Big Brother fear.
Corporate Protesters will look for justice within their company since justice will be less and less visible and accessible outside. It is a great opportunity to engage the dialogue with employees to understand their needs and to use the travel policy as a way to define "the rules" and make them understood and applied by all.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Discussing Global Corporate Social Network Adoption

What is great with Yammer, a company offering a corporate social network SaaS solution, is that they had the bright idea to create a network for their own users. You can then ask questions, post your ideas and share your findings.

So, last week, I reacted to a post where somebody shared the fact that France an Germany users adoption of corporate social networks was pretty low. And in fact, some of us, discovered that we are all facing the same issues within our communities:
  1. Asia Pacific (and especially Australia) and North America and Canada are early adopters and using the tool quickly and effectively.
  2. Latin America users are pretty good adopters, but they tend to speak in their native language (aka not english) and the noise/signal ratio is pretty high. 
  3. France and Germany are far behind all the others in term of adoption.
Even if we can not draw generalities from several experiences we can nevertheless draw some conclusions:
  1. Age of the employees as an impact on user adoption of a corporate social network. The older being the less confident in the tool (for political, social and technical reasons).
  2. The language is often a barrier. English is not well spoken everywhere in the world, and it should not be.
  3. Nomenklatura (or circle of power) exist in companies. This nomenklatura is the result and the combination of two distincts trends: "Knowledge is power" (aka hierarchy vs. network) and "Let me out of the Pleb" (I do not want to talk to share with people below me in the hierarchy). If you have ones in your company, then, consider the fact that a social network will make it more obvious to all. 
  4. Eastern Europe is open to corporate social network, but needs more "education". The great point is that they consider the corporate social network as a way to be part of the whole and join the "group". They really see it as a hook to the company world, ideas and ... possible future jobs or projects.
  5. In France and Germany in particular, in the corporate world, people do not want to "write" or share ideas or thoughts that could be used against them. At least, they fear much more to be fired than their counterpart in other regions. In some regions, a simple social network chart is enough for everybody, in these two countries, people will wait the government to publish a law before using a social network ;)
  6. The network and desktop computer used have an impact on usage. Think mobile ... Agile ...
If you want to deploy a corporate social network globally, you could benefit from the following lessons learned (of course it depends on your company and project!):
  1. Begin by designing, building, and presenting the corporate social chart. Everybody should understand it, so it should be available in many languages. Depending on some countries, a social chart could not be enough ...
  2. Deploy France and Germany at the end, when all others are on board. Like a startup try to grow quick, fast and follow the path of least resistance. 
  3. The main benefits of a corporate network are based on communication and dialogue. The more users, the more usage, the more data created, the more exchanges, and you hope at the end the more chance to create value to people or communities.  
  4. You need to be able to scale well (from 10 to 10000 users from 1 to 150 messages a day, etc.). IT cost could become unsustainable quickly. So think BIG since the beginning, and choose the right business model that will support your community for at least 3 years. 
  5. Choose social network tools suppliers based not only on cost and services, but also on their communities and the way they interact with them.
  6. Document successes immediately and share them within your corporate social network.
  7. Stay transparent, work for the mass with the mass. Avoid an elitist view of your communities except if it is dedicated to it.
  8. Let people speak their language, in their communities. You just need to have community managers able to speak these languages to control what is going on.
  9. Learn from others, adapt, evolve ...
As somebody said on Yammer, a corporate social network is a journey, not an end.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rise of GWT usage in Google Services

Ray Cromwell recently shared the list of Google's newer services written using GWT. The list is awesome.
Here are some Google products that use Google Web Toolkit that you may not know about:
Is GWT then poised for success? Interestingly, it is still not yet widely adopted ...

LEWeb 2011

Interested by LeWeb 2011, this is the list of links that should provide you access to all material you need.
It was a great conference, eclectic and conventional at the same time. Big "Bravo" to Loic and GĂ©raldine LeMeur.

SOLOMO - USA First ... Then what?

Not a week without a new announcement in the Social, Local, Mobile (SOLOMO). Most of them are in general associated with a mobile app release in the USA Apple app stores. And then, what about the others?
Everybody has to wait ...
How long? nobody knows ...

Some years ago, when a company was able to create a product and be the only one (exclusivity) to sell it for several months it was great. So the company tried to put immediately the product in all markets to benefit from this unique period.

In the SOLOMO world, there is a "de facto" hierarchy in the entrepreneurs world. USA first ...
Europe is so complex with different languages, legislations, etc ... but it is still second ... The key question is then for How long?

If you like games and console, it was always Japan first and USA second ...

This is creating a long tail of desired products and services that might or not reach the European consumers. This desire is participating to the current bad mood.

Nothing is more depressing for a customer to not be able to buy what he wants. It could be because he does not have enough income to buy, but we are in the heart of a financial crisis so that's understandable. He then thinks that he's not part of the middle class anymore ... Depression again.

Worse, if he can not buy what he wants just because he lives in Europe, or in France, then, this is creating a bigger frustration. That's why so many young people leaves France after their studies (studies paid by country taxes by the way). Fortunately, USA and their VISA regulations are preventing a more massive exode. So they are moving to countries were being young is an opportunity: BRIC countries ... and more generally, Asia Pacific and Latin America.

The only solution is to make more innovations in Europe and to keep our talents in Europe. This means more early stage funding, and motivating young people to stay and innovate in Europe. Silicon Valley needs competition as Eric Schmidt said, the question is : is Europe able to build it?