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Interview with Steve Clagg, Microsoft Travel Management

Interview with Steve Clagg, Microsoft Travel Management

Microsoft’s Travel Technology Manager Steve Clagg is a very thoughtful and visionary man. In our interview, we had a closer look at the impressive numbers of Microsoft’s travel programme, its key tech projects and – of course – also at his vision for travel profiles.

Steve, I’m excited to have you on our blog. Can you share some numbers on Microsoft’s travel spend?

Absolutely, yes! We have about 100,000 employees and 80% of them travel for work. Currently, our annual spend is:

  • about 400 million USD for air travel, which translates into over 1.5 billion air miles
  • 300 million USD for hotels – that’s roughly 4,000 hotel rooms booked per day.

Our air travel also translates into 3 million hours in the air. Obviously, we have a vivid interest that those hours can be spent efficiently.

How big is your travel management team?

We have 10 internal full-time employees who mostly focus on strategic topics. In addition, there are 12 extended staff and quite a few dedicated resources at our TMC.

Is it correct that you came up with the ideas for the title and role of Travel Technology Manager?

Yes, it was essentially a collaborative idea between Eric Bailey and me to create this role at Microsoft. An important part of my mission is to look for opportunities to pilot new technologies and services.

This also includes our data strategy. It might be interesting for you to hear that GDPR has had a massive impact in the US. Unfortunately, many companies and TMCs are quite late to the game.

Which tech solutions are currently part of Microsoft’s global travel programme?

There are probably more than I can name here! Here’s a good selection:

  • Microsoft Dynamics as CRM for helpdesk, and various user engagement tools, including Yammer, Flow, Forms, Teams, and SharePoint.
  • The Microsoft Office Stack – among others for calendar integration
  • SAP Concur – mostly for booking. We’re currently piloting Expense as well
  • The Roadmap app for itineraries and travel assistance
  • Tripism for destination research and corporate benefits
  • Microsoft Bot Framework for helpdesk purposes such as policy questions
  • A consolidated data lake built on Microsoft Azure, and leveraging Azure AI, Machine Learning, and Cognitive Services.
  • Microsoft PowerBI visualisation tool for data analytics

What are your key projects for the next years?

  • Data analytics. This has a huge potential to be used outside of Microsoft’s own travel programme.
  • Smart contracts through blockchain. With this in place, there will be absolutely no need to queue at hotel reception desks!
  • Traveller identity and individualised footprints based on a profile.
  • Booking ++. The booking process can be massively improved in terms of personalisation, and new content distribution paths
  • Supplier Commodities. Maximize the value of preferred partnerships, digital transformations that increase value to all parties – employees, corporate, and suppliers.

Please share your thoughts and ideas about traveler profiles! What is reality and what is your vision?

The current reality is that the data is all over the place and very fragmented.

My vision is that a traveller owns his/her own data and is in the driver’s seat when it comes to sharing it. The profile data will be aggregated from all kinds of sources and drive the traveller experience.

I’m quite optimistic that we will get there and tools like Umbrella Faces could play a key role in this development.

The biggest challenge could be the monetisation model as commercial interests might be in the way of a traveller-owned profile. A possible solution to that problem could be non-profit models such as one sees in Winding Tree or ID2020.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up and where do you live?

I was born and raised in Seattle and still live here, so the Pacific Northwest is my home. But I haven’t been here all my life.

I spent three wonderful years in Austria, where I moved on a Fulbright sponsorship in my early 20s. After returning to the US, I had several stints in other US cities like Dallas.

You seem to love traveling. What were your most remarkable experiences?

My most bizarre travel experience was actually in Switzerland! In my early days, I travelled with a friend through Europe and we were both into punk and grunge. He proposed that we stay with some people he knew in Zurich. When we arrived, I found out that they were squatters and lived in an abandoned building.

Today, I am a big fan of adding leisure to business trips. My favourite destination is the Cote d’Azur in Southern France, to where I’ve fortunately traveled for some Amadeus projects. Nice is such a wonderful town.

Thank you, Steve!

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