GetThere product package includes ROI calculator

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GetThere, vendor of a corporate online booking system, is developing modules to assist companies with assessing return on travel investments and tools for booking alternatives to travel such as videoconferencing.

GetThere previewed a patent-pending collection of products, called the Collaboration Suite, at its European Customer Summit in London on Wednesday.

Central to GetThere’s goals is a component called the Return on Invested Collaboration (ROIC) Calculator, designed to generate instructions to a prospective traveler based on a projected value for a possible trip.

The prospective traveler is asked six or seven questions along these lines: What is the value of this customer? How much influence do you have on the outcome of the planned visit? How many visits have you made to the customer this year?

GetThere spokesman Michael Brophy said the traveler would provide answers on a sliding scale, the first with a dollar value, the second with a rating on a scale of one to 10 and the third with the number of visits.

Algorithms at the back end, created by the Sabre research department that helped create yield-management software for airlines, would translate the answers into apples-to-apples values and typically generate a rating of 1 to 10.

Depending on how a corporate user sets the values, Brophy said, the possible results could be "find an online alternative" for scores of 1 to 3, "talk to your manager" for scores of 4 to 6 and "it’s OK to travel" for scores of 7 to 10.

For a different kind of trip, the system would generate a different set of questions. In all cases, the corporate customer could adjust settings to assign more or less importance to any given question or to recalibrate the rating groups or the instructions associated with each. Participants at the London event saw a prototype.

The staffer instructed by ROIC to find an online alternative to travel would turn to another component, the Collaboration Inventory Management module. Once fully developed, it will include the travel booking elements GetThere customers use today, along with capabilities to book space as needed for virtual meetings.

For example, Brophy said, at least two hotel chains are considering making teleconference rooms available for rent. At the expanded GetThere inventory system, the customer would shop such spaces and book them.

A third component, GetThere Meetings, designed to allow planners and delegates to book and manage meetings, is expected to be available this quarter, Brophy said.

GetThere said this module will enable companies to track and control meeting and associated travel costs, while driving compliance with policies and contract commitments.

A fourth module, the Cubeless community platform, but it will get new features. Currently, a company can use Cubeless for a private community — Brophy called it "Facebook behind a firewall."

Cubeless can help save money on travel because of helpful information that employees in different cities can share with traveling colleagues, Brophy said. One group of employees might advise visiting colleagues about good restaurants or entertainment for hosting clients.

GetThere is developing technology to allow a user to drop his or her itinerary into Cubeless for sharing with others in the company. That will allow employees to coordinate travel plans to share cabs, share rental cars or enjoy the efficiencies of staying in the same hotel at a destination, Brophy said.

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