Is digitalization killing business travel?

Digitalization itself is not a technology or a solution model. It’s a continuous development process that involves the adoption and increased use of computer or mobile technology by the companies, organizations or nations. The idea of staying connected and working remotely would not have possibly materialised had the world not seen the rapid growth of internet in the recent years. In a very short period of time internet became the communication medium that was quickly accepted and adopted by the mass.

Digitalization is changing the work life

Internet has not just made the idea of global village a reality, but it has brought revolution to the way we work, communicate and deal with businesses. Social networking sites and mobile devices are two factors to name that have enhanced internet usage. They have changed the way people use the internet and brought people together digitally. Recent technology advances along with the widespread use of the internet has revolutionised the working landscape that has changed the business thinking, information sharing, work practice and the marketing strategies.

traveling-for-business

Digitalization and connectivity work side by side, in order to shape the new work environment. Digital evolution has completely changed the way business is performed. Internet has been a blessing in connecting consumers with the enterprise. Even the wall between purchasing offline and online is fading and the service is required to be tailored accordingly. Digitalization in fact has a great impact in the current world economy. In the quest of finding new ways to approach the customers, increasing productivity, enabling new business model or enhancing services, companies are thriving to take advantage of the advancing technologies.

And the newest player in the game is cloud computing that has also turned out to be a game changer. Businesses are now exploring the flexibility of the way employees can perform when not at the workplace premises. Organizations around the world are totally relying on the cloud to work smarter, increase productivity, reduce costs and improve efficiency. Cloud allows work to be accessed from anywhere on multiple devices and share files and resources via the web.

Technology enhances collaboration

The explosive growth of digital technologies is erasing the physical boundaries, bringing people from all around the world together in interactive platforms. As the technologies and the enterprises are getting mobile, the need for people to travel is reducing every day. Tools and platforms providing even more powerful means of collaboration are emerging. Real time collaboration technologies, videoconference, telepresence allow the freedom to collaborate and communicate outside the physical premises of office confines and thus improve the workforce and business performance. World never had so many ways to come together without having to be in the same place. Travelling could thus be considered as a huge waste of time and capital.

Collaboration technology vs business travel

With such change in the business scenario, it would be reasonable to expect that business travelling would reduce drastically but quite the contrary, we’ve not seen a stop in the growth of business travel yet. So why is it unlikely that collaboration technologies will ever take over business travel? Even with the new wave of collaboration tech, companies and enterprises are still facing trouble connecting and communicating remotely.

Though telcos help you to attend business meetings miles away without leaving your office, there are many issues that pose a roadblock to quick adoption and widespread usage of teleconferencing like this hilarious video shows. All too true, right?

  • Technical failure or a glitch in the equipments
  • Difficulties in complex interpersonal communications and bargaining
  • Hard to determine the speaking order
  • Acoustic disturbance. Audio problems might destroy the conference, but properly equipped room might be costly
  • Conversation somehow gets unnatural as eye contact cannot be maintained
  • Security issues: Additional security measures might be required for data protection
  • Connectivity: uninterrupted connection doesn’t come cheap

How about videoconferencing then, is it any better? It clearly fixes some of the telco issues. With the increase in reliability, acceptance and adoption will gradually increase. Although it might not totally replace business travel, it can definitely reduce the frequency of travel.

Facts in favour of business travel

According to research performed by Oxford Economics, $1 spent on business travel can yield up to $9.50 revenue which means $2.90 profit per dollar invested. That is three times return in investment. Study was conducted on 14 industries over 18 years period, taking into account growing operational cost and real wage growth. The outcome was confirmed by the frequent business travellers being surveyed, who supported the findings by stating that 42 percent of the customers would be lost without meeting in person.

In such scenario, cutting back on business travel would be a loss of both revenue and profits to the company instead of a money saver. This could also give an advantage to the competitors. Companies need to invest more in order to achieve more and to stay on the top.

In addition, so far we haven’t found better way to network and build a strong corporate relationship than meeting in person. When meeting face-to-face you can put forward your agenda and proposals in an efficient manner and have an open discussion. It also enables you to understand the marketplace, customer, distribution chains or the product in a better way.

Conclusion

Despite the outburst of technologies that enable people to communicate swiftly, the importance of travel and face-to-face meetings have grown more than ever. And the development of technologies has definitely made the travel smoother. Road warriors these days love to travel smartly, armed with the latest gadgets and accompanied by smart apps, the collaboration tools are used efficiently in interacting with co-workers when they are on the go. Following all the evidences and studies conducted, we can say that slashing the travel budget may turn out to be a costly mistake for businesses. Even though the collaboration technologies will be a boon in maintaining relationship with old clients, they are unlikely to fully take over business travel.

- Chandani @Uros