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August 4, 2009 -- by Jessee Allread, Energy & Travel Editor -- Many of our readers seek the most efficient devices to improve their efforts at completing the task at hand. Just-in-time communication allows the road warrior to seek, obtain, and submit that quarter-end/year-end forecast-busting order just under the wire. Such behavior drives management nuts, but that may be because management didn't know where you were, didn't see your travel plans, and hadn't the transparent authority to view the opportunity before it happened. If your company doesn't have a mobile book-authorize-travel system, you need to complain. The advent of mobile devices, laptops, cell phones, flash drives, mini-projectors, has allowed the salesman to convert what used to be down time into production. The next step is at hand. You need mobile travel tools.

Business travel is down and declining, off by more than 15% year-over-year. Claims are 2010 will be down or flat with 2011 showing small increases. Up is at least 15 months away. You can't wait. Neither should your shareholders.

As in any market down-turn, efficiencies thrive...once the shock wears off. Corporate travel HAD to cut back; business was down and travel spend is the second highest expense for a company. Enter those that know how to take advantage of an opportunity. Sure Web-Ex, yes, Go-To-Meeting, but what about looking at your prospect across the table? No salesman worth his commissions prefers hands-off meetings. Body language, look-aways, eye contact, and trust-building are all key components to a successful close and follow-on business. So, how does mobile computing meet business travel?

Simple. Whether booking, changing, or canceling travel plans, your laptop, and now your cell phone, provide instant decision-making, allowing you to quickly and efficiently book or change travel destinations and receive management approval in the office or on the road. Email and SMS approvals now take place with end-to-end, company travel policy-compliant permission because you're plugged into the budget, the actual money-spend, the approval process, your auto-pop expense report, and the company's ERP system. If this isn't you, call me; I'll tell you who you need to speak with (hint: CFO)

Business travel is shrinking but not only because of an economic downturn. This shrink-to-mobile is the opportunity visionary's and technologists love to see. Capital efficiency is always good business but essential in a down-turn. From this opportunity, careers are made. By reducing travel-spend, and using ERP-enabled mobile tools while on the road, salesmen support the shrink because they're a part of the forecasting and decision-making for smarter and more productive travel in which they play a key role.'re beginning the 4th quarter, you know you're at 60% of your forecast. You've managed to secure your booked sales with less than half of your forecasted travel budget. You're not even breaking a sweat...yet. With your transparent Travel Analysis System (TAS), you know in advance whether or not you will hit your numbers. Up and down the approval chain, every authority sees you're on track to meet your forecast, AND you are under on travel spend. Who's going to say no to go? You control your travel spend because your company put the right tools in place. If you don't use such a system, you may not receive approval for the trip...there goes the commission. If you don't have an ERP-enabled mobile device, and I mean iPhone, Blackberry, or some other internet-connected hand-held gadget, allowing you to make instant travel plans on the go, you haven't shrunk enough.

Come to San Diego this August and see what the National Business Travel Association offers the shrinking mobile traveler.