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5 Trends to shape business travel and spend management in 2019
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5 Trends to shape business travel and spend management in 2019 

Here is a closer look at the trends shaping business travel and spend management in 2019:

1. Small business domination

Small businesses continue to dominate the Canadian business landscape, making up 99.7 per cent of all businesses. Small businesses will continue to grow at a faster pace in 2019 by leveraging scalable and subscription model artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to gain a competitive edge over larger companies. Small businesses will also prioritize leaning on their professional networks to learn from thought-leaders as well as crowdsource data insights to grow.

2. Machine learning will open new doors

Expect to see machine learning really take hold in 2019. We’ve seen 80 per cent of Canadian businesses adopt automated systems to improve their financial processes and operations. Now, with faster processing power and machine learning tools, developers will extend beyond automation to include unique data-driven insights, greater compliance and improved user experiences.

Machine learning capabilities will continue to improve spend management tools. For example, models that can read and capture handwritten receipts will continue to become smarter. This will lead to businesses replacing legacy technology and allowing them to analyze and audit spend faster than ever before. Being able to identify patterns in real-time and glean new insights from data will improve business efficiencies and reduce overall costs, including fraud.

On the side of travel booking processes, machine learning will improve employee productivity. Automated travel technologies can already automatically assemble personalized itineraries based on your bookings, but they will also be able to anticipate flight or hotel searches based on an upcoming conference in your calendar. These conveniences will eliminate the stress and time spent traditionally preparing for business travel, giving more time back to employees to focus on moving the business forward.

3. Employees demand consumer conveniences

The rise of booking apps and platforms have changed how we plan our vacations. As a consumer, the entire travel process can be customizable. It’s not surprising employees want, and expect, the same options and conveniences in their corporate travel experience.

In a 2018 Travel Management Automation in Canada report, at least two-thirds of employees were using an online booking tool and more than a quarter were using a mobile app to book their trips. This trend will continue to increase and could extend to include booking through voice assistants like Alexa or Google. Traditional corporate travel booking tools will need to evolve to satisfy employee demands, while still providing travel managers the visibility they require to manage compliance and cost.

4. Women want safer business travel, too

With women accounting for more than 40 per cent of business travellers and that number set to continue growing this year, C-level executives need to place a priority on female travel concerns. Business travel experiences are not the same for both men and women. In a recent Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) report, 83 per cent of female business travellers surveyed shared they’d experienced a safety-related event within that year. Women believe they face greater risks travelling to a nearby city or across the world than their male counterparts, and these threats can impact their productivity, but more importantly their well-being.

While female business traveller safety is a concern, only 18 per cent of travel policies specifically address female safety. Companies need to do more–evaluating corporate travel policies to ensure they address female safety needs is a start. In the year ahead, duty of care will remain a top priority.

5. Data privacy shaping product development

The implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018 made data privacy a global topic of conversation, and fundamentally changed how global companies work with and protect user data. Expect to see that momentum continue throughout much of 2019 in Canada. End-users are increasingly concerned with what companies are doing with their personal information. Awareness about data privacy concerns has encouraged companies to be more accountable to protect users’ personal information. This pressure will ultimately fall on the product engineers and developers to ensure transparent data collection and that cybersecurity protections are built in to their solutions from the beginning.

Is your business already ahead of the curve? As you kick off 2019, lean into these trends to be the leader in building enjoyable workplace environments, advance with smarter tools and set secure business practices. This will position your business both as a preferred employer and as a partner of choice.

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