Travel Tech Blog

How to manage travel profiles in the scale project business

Swiss Thoroughness in Travel Management

At ABB, cost assignments might change with every new booking. Managing this is formidable task which affects the entire travel management process. But with the right IT partner, it turns out to be not so tricky after all.

ABB is a major global player in the automation and energy industries, with its headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. The corporation employs over 135,000 people in 100 countries. Thomas Spillmann is Managing Director of ABB Intra in Zurich, the internal travel agency at ABB headquarters. He had overall responsibility for supplier selection and implementation of Umbrella Faces at ABB:

Thomas, thank you so much for your time. How many travel experts work at ABB intra and what is your organisational setup within ABB?
We have a team of 18 employees (10 FTEs). Our internal travel agency is a part of ABB’s HR organisation. In addition to the traditional operational organisation of trips and events, we are also involved in strategic aspects such as contract negotiations with suppliers like airlines or hotels.

How many travellers can count on your expertise?
We have about 5,000 traveller profiles for the approximately 8,500 employees at ABB HQ and ABB Switzerland. Many of our engineers and sales people are frequent travellers.

When did you introduce Umbrella Faces in your organisation?
That was on August 1st, 2015 – together with the go-live of our new mid-office system

Why did you decide to implement a profile management tool?
When we saw the seamless collaboration between and Umbrella Faces, we quickly realised the possibility for a major improvement in our travel process: all trips could be correctly and automatically assigned according to cost centres – all the way through to the authorisation of the invoice. This process used to be predominantly manual, which took a lot of effort and resulted in many errors.

Why do you have such frequent changes of cost assignment for business trips?
That is because we are in a project-based business. Many trips are assigned to a certain project or order. Until we introduced Umbrella Faces, this assignment had to be entered manually in a specific format with certain GDS reference fields. Our accounting department then had to manually transfer it to our backoffice systems.

Is this kind of automation possible with every profile management tool?
No. Even Umbrella Faces didn’t have this feature initially. But we saw the possibility and discussed it with Umbrella. They came up with a very convincing solution and delivered it quickly. Now we are even able to define for each traveller whether he or she has a permanent or flexible cost assignment.

This is a good example for how important it is to have a technology partner with a deep experience and understanding of the travel business.

Which data interfaces are in place for your travel profiles?
We have automatic, real-time synchronisation from Umbrella Faces to our mid-office and to our GDS Galileo. The next step is the synchronisation with the Self Booking Tool “Traveldoo”, which is currently being implemented at ABB Switzerland.

In addition, we evaluate the synchronisation of SAP HR data. We have to investigate how we can ensure that HR data is always correct and up-to-date.

Did you clean your travel profiles before they were uploaded to Umbrella Faces?
Oh yes, the “Faces” project was a brilliant opportunity to clean up the data. We have introduced a unique global HR number for each employee. This unique identifier was the key to quick progress. Finally, only about half of our initial datasets made it to Umbrella Faces.

Why would you recommend Umbrella as a preferred travel technology partner?
Umbrella is very fast, very reliable and very flexible. This is certainly due to the software architecture, but it is also due to the people at Umbrella. This makes our lives and our work at ABB Intra a lot easier and much more effective.

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