KDS Helping Companies Embrace 'Maverick' Spending

Booking and expense tool provider KDS plans in the second half of 2012 to launch a tool for managing reservations by clients' travelers, even if they book outside approved channels.

Similar to an independent product already on the market called ProcureApp, KDS Maverick is a web browser plug-in which can detect attempted travel bookings made on any company laptop or desktop. Depending on a client's attitude on forbidding, tolerating or perhaps encouraging out-of-policy reservations, the application can be configured to respond in different ways to the booking attempt.

In the first instance, similar to ProcureApp, Maverick would trigger a pop-up on the screen warning travelers they should be using the preferred booking tool because it ensures they can buy at the negotiated rate. If the traveler elects to go ahead and book anyway, Maverick would forward the data to the KDS client reporting tool and, if required, to the client's travel security provider for employee tracking purposes. KDS vice president for product strategy Oliver Quayle told The Beat that the company also is working to offer travelers the option to flow payment information into their online KDS expense report.

Quayle said the impetus for Maverick was corporate travel industry discussion about the extent to which employees bypass official booking channels, and whether that should be permissible. The debate follows the pioneering lead of the much-cited Google travel program and the belief expressed in some quarters that travelers often can buy more wisely outside their preferred program than within. "We don't see this as a major play today, but it could become one," said Quayle. "On the other hand, it could be a hot topic today that vanishes tomorrow. We think travel programs are likely to end up somewhere in between, with say 70 percent of the spend managed and 30 percent unmanaged. We're not saying you don't need a managed travel program, but let's open the debate."

Quayle hopes that Maverick will answer such questions as whether it makes sense to cut travelers loose. "We will be able to report on whether maverick spend is costing you more than spend through preferred channels," he said.

KDS also provided an update on Project Neo, which it previewed at its client conference in Paris in February. To make the corporate reservation process more attractive to travelers, Project Neo aims to reduce to just three clicks the planning and booking of an entire trip by asking for only three pieces of information: where they want to go, when they need to be there and how long they are staying.

Quayle said KDS hopes within the next few weeks to start the first beta test, with plans to run pilots with three direct clients and around eight clients of two travel management companies. KDS will use the iPad as its test platform.

The company is talking to clients about the variables they want included to make the best door-to-door trip recommendation, such as the risk of missing a meeting, calculating the cost of the traveler's time and how many routes they want compared. "The technology is working but the door-to-door travel policy has to be right," Quayle said. "We have to make sure that 95 times out of 100 the tool suggests the trip the traveler was expecting."