CWT Connect as an individualised portal solution in operation at Cegelec GmbH & Co. KG

01. September 2003

Carlson Wagonlit, one of the world’s leading service providers in the travel management business, offers its customers an individually configurable platform with the CWT Connect platform, which integrates all the processes associated with the subject of business travel. The case study examines Cegelec Anlagen- und Automatisierungstechnik GmbH & Co KG, which uses CWT Connect for the management of its business travel. The solution can be individually adapted to the customer’s travel policy and combines all travel-related processes under one roof: need-based “one-stop shopping” thanks to intelligent integration.

1. The company

Cegelec Anlagen- und Automatisierungstechnik GmbH & Co KG Deutschland offers technical services and solutions above all in the field of industrial plant and equipment, technical infrastructure and supply and waste disposal facilities.

The German company originally started out as AEG Anlagen- und Automatisierungstechnik GmbH before it was acquired by ALSTOM and then finally became part of the globally operating Cegelec group, which is based in France, in 2001. Cegelec Germany has a workforce of around 2,800 employees in 32 locations and is the second-largest group with annual sales of approximately € 600 million.

Industry sector, products and target groups:
The services of Cegelec can be subdivided into the five business sectors of energy production and distribution, automation and control technology, information and communication technology, heating/air-conditioning/ventilation/mechanics/mechatronics and general services. The breadth of its range of services becomes especially clear on the basis of a few examples. Thus, Cegelec installed all the electrical equipment at LEGOLAND Germany, linked up the Hessian regional revenue offices with LAN and WAN technology, modernised and extended the computer system of the Hamburg Elbe Tunnel and took responsibility for the electrical engineering in the Korou space centre. Specific competitive advantages are above all seen in its worldwide presence, extreme proximity to customers, high quality standards and wide-ranging technical expertise.

Corporate strategy:
Diversified positioning which covers a wide range of promising technologies and opens up a broad customer base forms the core of the corporate strategy. The driving force for growth is the further expansion of the service business, which allows the company to react to the continuing trend towards outsourcing, the increasing demand in the areas of energy and facility management as well as maintenance and servicing. This strategy requires extreme proximity to customers not only with respect to sales, but also in terms of the availability of service experts.

Cutting procurement costs is very important strategically, both for improving competitiveness and also for extending margins. The “Stretch 30“ programme, which was implemented across the whole group for this purpose, also concerns the area of business travel management, which is the focal point of this case study.

E-Business in the company:
Of the varied E-Business activities in which the company is involved, only internet and intranet use by employees is relevant in this case. At Cegelec, access to the company intranet is possible from all PC work stations. The information offered there, such as job descriptions, further training possibilities and company addresses enjoy a broad level of acceptance by employees and are used intensively. The majority of employees also has internet authorisation and can therefore access the non-corporate range of information offered by the WWW.

2. Travel management

In order give a better understanding of the context of the E-Business integration solution, this chapter begins with an introduction to the field of application of travel management and its structure at Cegelec.

Importance of travel management within the company:
The Travel Management Office is part of the purchasing department and is responsible for purchasing e.g. flights, train tickets, hotel accommodation and hire cars. Operative functions such as advice, research, bookings and the issue of tickets are carried out by a travel agent, with whom an appropriate basic agreement exists. Additional basic agreements exist with a number of service providers (airlines, hotels, hire car companies), which grant Cegelec employees special conditions. In the hotel sector, for instance, it has its own database, in which the negotiated tariffs with numerous local providers and a few hotel chains are managed. In the main, one employee at Cegelec Germany is responsible for contract management, coordination and monitoring, who is supported by colleagues in the purchasing department where necessary.

Owing to the integration in the Cegelec Group and the associated stronger concentration on national markets, the number of long-distance journeys and therefore the volume of business travel has gone down overall. It currently stands at around € 1.3 million annually and is mainly attributable to flights and hotels. The aforementioned group-wide measures for cutting costs and especially for optimising procurement also apply to the area of travel. The company’s travel policy strictly stipulates that all employees have to choose the cheapest travel alternative. It also contains details such as the maximum prices for hotel accommodation and restricts the use of business class to a few special cases.

Travel agent partner:

Choice of partner
In the past Cegelec Germany worked with various large travel agents. Since October 1998, an exclusive contract has existed with Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT). This choice of partner originates from guidelines issued by the then holding group ALSTOM following a call for tenders. By combining the travel volume of all ALSTOM subsidiaries worldwide, condition benefits could be negotiated with the travel agent and also numerous service providers (e.g. Air France, Lufthansa).

Carlson Wagonlit Travel
Carlson Wagonlit Travel is the world’s second-largest provider of business travel services. At present, around 50,000 firms in 140 countries use the company’s services. Approximately half the company’s annual sales of over USD 10 billion are generated in Europe. In Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Carson Wagonlit has a total of 1,100 employees. The business travel specialist has already been utilising a broad range of E-Business solutions to support the personal care of its customers for some time. The focus is on the efficient provision of information and handling of processes.

Organisation of cooperation
The cooperation with CWT is carried out according to the “dedicated staff model“: i.e. a team of 12 travel agents in Kronberg is exclusively available to look after the German Cegelec and ALSTOM employees. By allocating a fixed team, a significant improvement in the quality of advice can therefore be achieved. The travel agents are informed about travel policy and the customer’s special needs and act as personal contacts. The quality and continuity of the team take top priority as far as Cegelec is concerned. This is due to the fact that the choice and booking of travel services are demanding activities with considerable decision-making freedom, which require a special flair for assessing the customer’s individual needs. A personal and trust-based relationship is therefore important.

CWT is paid according to the basic agreement and is made up of lump-sum management fees for the provided travel agents and transaction-related fees for each booking carried out. Commission for service providers is passed onto Cegelec by CWT (known as “kickbacks”) and is offset against the fees at the end of the year.

CWT is paid according to the basic agreement and is made up of lump-sum management fees for the provided travel agents and transaction-related fees for each booking carried out. Commission for service providers is passed onto Cegelec by CWT (known as “kickbacks”) and is offset against the fees at the end of the year.

Travel booking process:
An order is placed with CWT either via one of the secretariats of Cegelec or via the Travel Management Office as a rule. In doing so, the required details, such as travel destination, dates and times and any special wishes are communicated. Sometimes research has already been carried out prior to the order, e.g. via the flight timetable, so that the required flight numbers can already be given. The preferred communication channel for this order is the telephone, as this is the least time-consuming, allows questions of detail to be sorted out directly and makes it possible to get back to the client quickly about the availability of offers. Alternative channels such as fax or e-mail are of course also supported.

After accepting the travel request, the agents of CWT put together a travel schedule which complies with the travel policy and send this, as a rule, to the appropriate employee by e-mail. The latter may arrange for the booking to be made or ask for alternative offers to be prepared.

The bookings through the service providers and the issue of tickets and any other travel documents are on the other hand carried out by the CWT agents. These also act as contacts for any other tasks connected with the journey (e.g. information, rebookings or cancellations).

Integrated E-Business solutions in the Travel Management Office:
Both the development of internet-based travel management systems and their acceptance in user companies normally take place in several stages, which are accompanied by increasing integration:

  1. Stand-alone solutions: airlines, hotels and other service providers as well as travel agents provide isolated applications via the internet. These are used, e.g., for product information, to research travel and flight timetables, to check availability or to place an order. As there is no joint responsibility, the integration of these individual offers is omitted. Customers therefore have to compile their solution from a multitude of sources, which each require separate addresses, log-ins, passwords, and, if applicable, agreements and settlements.
  2. Integrated travel portals: an individual provider integrates a broad range of the aforementioned applications on one site (cf. railtour case study, p. 109). This reduces the complexity considerably, as each user henceforth obtains all required offers from one source and only has to use one address, one log-in and one password. Integrated portals also offer the advantage of a standard user niterface, which makes operation a lot easier.
  3. Individualised portal: the information range and functionality of the portal can be individually adapted to the customer’s company or the individual user. This may, e.g., take place by presetting preferred providers and comfort categories or by integrating additional applications which are of special interest to the customer. The integration of internal company documents and the inclusion of basic agreements for displaying travel alternatives or prices still makes sense.
  4. Integration of self-booking tools: instead of travel planning, booking and the issue of tickets being carried out by an agent, the booking is made to a greater extent by the customer themselves. Appropriate systems are provided via the internet. Process integration at the travel agent’s may take place to varying degrees. Implementation alternatives range from the semi-automatic inclusion of data pertaining to customer enquiries in booking systems or the reduction of manual tasks to checking and clearance to the fully automatic issue of tickets. Heavily integrated solutions are above all suited to simple travel situations with a low advice requirement where appropriate expertise and experience exists on the customer’s part.

As far as user management is concerned, a distinction can be made between the use of a standard, non-personalised log-in for all employees in a company (“default user”) and the allocation of a personal log-in to each individual employee (“known user”). While non-personalised log-ins are sufficient for most applications, self-booking systems (development stage 4) require the use of personalised log-ins in order to be able to identify who is making the bookings beyond any doubt.

3. CWT Connect integration solution

The CWT Connect travel management platform presented below mainly supports integration stages 2 to 4. In this case study concerning the platform’s use at Cegelec, it is in a process of transition from stage 2 to stage 3.

Fig. 3.1: Data integration, participants and their functions in the operation of CWT Connect

Fig. 3.1: Data integration, participants and their functions in the operation of CWT Connect

Business perspective:
Connect was developed by CWT in response to two current and important customer needs:

  1. the sharp increase in demand for convenient online self-service systems for booking business travel in view of the lower transaction costs, greater flexibility and the improved supply of information.
  2. the desire for “one-stop shopping”, i.e. for the integration of a number of product-specific research and booking systems with different log-ins, passwords, user surfaces, billing systems and contact persons under one roof. The general rule applied during development was not to provoke any disruptive changes by introducing CWT Connect, but to smoothly embed it in the existing business and to ensure a smooth transition from the traditional methods for travel management to an internet-based system. CWT Connect therefore provides a range of services which is offered to the customer as a supplement to the existing services of Carlson Wagonlit Travel.

Process view:
Travel processes can roughly be subdivided into three phases: “pre-trip“ (preparation of the trip), “on site” (during the trip) and “after trip” (assessment of the trip) [Werthner 1999]. In each of these phases there are potential points of contact between the travel agent and the traveller, which can be supported electronically. An optimum structure for the corresponding processes is shown in Fig. 3.2.

Fig. 3.2: Typical processes before, during and after the business trip

Fig. 3.2: Typical processes before, during and after the business trip

Application view:
The portal is broken down into process steps, although the booking process is allocated a separate domain:

  • Pre-trip services: before booking a trip the employee can find out about available connections and accommodation, timetables and flight schedules, visa regulations, city guides, weather data and the destination.
  • Booking services: here, travel services can be ordered or booked depending on the configuration and legitimacy of the enquiry. In doing so, both travel guidelines and the individually negotiated conditions of the customer’s company are taken into account.
  • On-trip services: The traveller obtains access to current travel data and travel schedules. As CWT Connect is provided via the internet, it is also possible to call up this information on the road.
  • Post-trip services: This phase is expecially interesting for travel management, as invoices can be viewed online here and controlling data can be downloaded. The traveller also has the option of giving feedback in this phase.

An area also exists with general services, which provides services such as a content management system for company or department-specific documents and currrent offers.

Fig. 3.3: The portal is broken down into process steps (view of user default)

Fig. 3.3: The portal is broken down into process steps (view of user default)

Technical view:
CWT Connect stands out due to its broad functional scope, worldwide applicability, platform independence, easy adjustability and simply integrability. This requires CWT to operate a complex IT system with user and profile management, content management, integration of various data sources, interfaces to travel reservation systems and numerous other functional components. The system runs on an open source LAMP environment: a Linux operating system, an Apache server, a MySQL database and PHP and Perl programming are used.

CWT Connect is mainly linked up to the service providers’ systems via reservation systems which are commonly used worldwide in the travel business, such as SABRE, Galileo and Amadeus (referred to as Global Distribution Systems, GDS). In individual cases a direct connection is also set up via proprietary interfaces, in order to save GDS fees. Web services are used for some portal functions. XML-RPC is mainly used for messaging and in some cases also SOAP. Standards for service description and repository (e.g. WSDL, UDDI) are (still) not used on the other hand.

The system may appear very complicated from the standpoint of CWT, but it is in fact very simple for Cegelec customers to use. As the platform is centrally hosted and is made accessible via the internet, no changes had to be made to the IT architecture. Numerous standard formats in the office field can be used to upload conditions and documents, such as Word, Excel, Access, HTML, XML and PDF. Invoice data is provided by the portal in XML, and controlling data in the Cognos Powerplay data format.

4. Implementation

The implementation was completed in two phases: to start with, a standard configuration was released by Connect for the employees of Cegelec in 2001. Since the summer of 2003, the possibilities of customisation have been utilised and the platform is being extended for company-specific information offers.

Launch at Cegelec:
The launch of Connect at Cegelec goes back to an initiative by CWT in 2001, whereby the Travel Management Office was offered the chance to use the system that had just recently developed. As the required software is operated centrally at CWT and is provided via internet and all relevant employees already had internet authorisation, the launch costs incurred by Cegelec were minimal. The around 50 employees who arrange travel through CWT as a rule were assigned personal user IDs and passwords for the platform (“known user”). All other employees were given non-personalised, restricted access (“default user”). The employees of Cegelec were informed about the existence, benefits and access possibilities of Connect. A link to the platform was installed in a prominent place in the in-house intranet. Employees were trained how to use the system at the headquarters in Frankfurt.

Customising and expansion:
The scope of funtions made available to Cegelec initially corresponded to the standard configuration of CWT Connect. For a while now, the wide-ranging possibilities of customisation have also been utilised. The document manager which is integrated in Connect is used for this. By using a web-based interface, which can be operated intuitively, suitably authorised users - in this case the travel manageress - are able to extend the platform by incorporating their own menu items. In this way travel guidelines, the company’s own hotel database and other company-specific conditions were integrated into the Cegelec portal. These are now available to all employees under the normal Connect user surface.

5. Operation

The platform is used by both the Travel Management Office and by travellers and their secretariats. The offered functions enjoy varying degrees of popularity.

Scope of use:
The information offers compiled in the pre-trip services area of CWT Connect offer Cegelec employees the possibility to research flight and train timetables, enquire about flight availabilities, call up information and city guides of destinations worldwide and to view weather forecasts. Although most of this information can also be obtained from other internet sources, the compilation of information “under one roof” is regarded as a very useful feature by Cegelec and is frequently used. A special feature of the system is the hotel research function. Here, it is not only possible to search for accommodation worldwide, but the special conditions negotiated by CWT are also taken into account along with the list price. In addition, the most suitable hotel can be selected based on the available information and city guides.

Users with a personalised log-in can arrange the booking of travel services directly via the platform. An order form is available for this, in which the required details are entered; special wishes can also be expressed via a free text field. This form is rarely used, however, as most employees find it easier to place an order by telephone. Complaints have also been received that the details researched in the pre-trip field cannot be directly included in the order form, but have to be noted down to start with and then keyed in again.

In the on-trip field, it is possible to view the schedules of trips which have already been booked by entering the booking number. This function is only used very rarely, as CWT already sends employees the travel schedules by e-mail or letter as a rule directly after the booking has been made.

On the other hand, the possibility of downloading booking data in the post-trip field and of evaluating it in various ways with “Interact”, a reporting software provided by CWT, has proved to be especially useful. This function is only available to the Travel Management Office of Cegelec and is used by this department in a variety of ways. By breaking down the travel volume according to, e.g., flight routes, airlines and departments and by making comparisons with previous periods, valuable criteria can be gained for structuring basic agreements, adapting travel policy and for internal accounting systems. Information on implemented and assigned saving potential can also be called up by using this system.

All employees at Cegelec can use the pre-trip, on-site and post-trip services via the default user access without user management tasks arising. The session management of the portal allows several employees to be logged in as default users at the same time.

The around 50 known users who are also provided with the order function are currently still managed manually by employees of CWT. The development of an appropriate administration tool with which the Travel Manager can carry out this task independently and which also allows the import of user data from other systems is currently in the pipeline.

Costs and benefits:
A one-off fee of € 2,500 was charged for providing CWT Connect, which barely made any impact, given the high travel costs volume, and was offset against a significantly higher annual credit entry. The benefits which arose to counteract these costs are difficult to quantify. Workloads were above all reduced with respect to researching travel services and reporting. Whether the resulting savings will exceed the stated amount is, however, questionable, although it is important to take into account that in the procurement field, an improvement in the information base – such as has undoubtedly been achieved using Connect – may already lead to considerable savings by avoiding one single wrong decision. It is, however, very difficult to prove and account for such effects as a rule.

6. Evaluation

The experiences which have been gained at the present time mainly refer to the standard configuration of CWT Connect. The use of the document manager and the customising functionality is still too fresh to already merit a thorough assessment.

Success factors:
A key factor in the smooth launch was the existing excellent business relationship between CWT and Cegelec. By retaining the existing processes, conversion difficulties and resistance were consistently avoided. It is rather up to each employee to decide the extent to which they want to make use of the advantages offered by Connect. The continuing creation of added value by adjusting and extending the portal will undoubtedly increase the scope of benefits further. Owing to the low-cost provision and simple implementation of the system, the risk of the launch was minimal.

Specialities of the solution:
The key advantages of the solution lie in the integration of information offers, applications of various service providers, the travel agent and travel management under one roof and in the customisation of the platform to the company’s situation and the needs of individual employees. The hosting architecture reduces the customer’s technical expenditure and makes it possible to link the system up to an existing intranet.

Improvements have above all been made in the Travel Management Department, where product research, data evaluation and the provision of information can now be handled conveniently and efficiently via one and the same platform. Travellers themselves and their secretariats are now also provided with simple and integrated access to all relevant information.

In the ordering field, however, virtually nothing has changed. Strong preferences for telephone contact with agents in the travel agent’s still exist. In order to achieve more widespread use of the ordering function of CWT Connect, the userfriendliness of this application must be improved. In general, the use of this module appears to be too inconvenient for employees. Especially the media break between the research of offers and performance of the booking has attracted criticism. Here, it would be preferrable to install shopping basket functionality or something similar. Employees at Cegelec could also envisage executing complete bookings via the web interface for simple travel requirements which do not require any advice (e.g. the frequently flown direct flight connections from Frankfurt to Paris and Berlin). To achieve this, however, it is essential to create appropriate incentives to compensate for the additional time expenditure involved.

All in all, Cegelec is satisfied with the launch of CWT Connect and wants to use the adjustment possibilities of the portal more in future.

The scenario presented here where CWT Connect is used in combination with dedicated staff, mangement fee and commission refund is typically used for companies with upwards of 500 employees. If the travel volume is high and is distributed over a lot of company locations, it is also recommended for companies with less employees. For companies with a smaller travel requirement, Carlson Wagonlit offers suitably tailored solutions with a low fixed cost share, which can also be used in combination with CWT Connect.

Owner/s of the solution

Carlson Wagonlit Travel
Michael Boyle, Product Manager
Industry: Haulage contractors/Transport/Logistics, travel management, business travel
Company size: large-scale enterpriseCarlson Wagonlit Travel
Cegelec GmbH & Co. KG
Sylke Linn, Travel Manageress
Industry: Engineering/Precision engineering
Company size: Small enterpriseCegelec GmbH & Co. KG

Case study author/s

Andreas Voss
Universität Bern

01. September 2003
Andreas Voss (2003): Cegelec case study in: Schubert; Petra; Wölfle; Ralf; Dettling; Walter (Eds.): E-Business integration – Case Studies on the Optimisation of electronic business processes; Munich; Vienna: Hanser Verlag; 2003; pp. 95-107.

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