EF Education First’s mission is opening the world through education, with programmes focusing on language, academics, and cultural exchange. They have more than 40,000 staff and teachers operating out of 500 schools and offices in more than 50 countries. Established as a small entrepreneurial start-up in 1965, they ascribe their 50 years of growth to an ethos summed up as “for profit, for good” and an entrepreneurial culture “where new ideas are heard, creative risks are taken and ownership is encouraged.” EF is now the world’s leading international education company.
Such a dynamic, growing company, with a young, highly mobile workforce has the challenges that many other companies would recognise when it comes to travel management and the processes related to expense management. Before working with KDS, EF Education First had a fragmented solution, using the Amadeus e-travel booking tool in the US and Europe, but with no Self-Booking Tool at all in Asia, a consistent user experience, policy enforcement and approval workflow wasn’t possible.
Johanna Wigg, Travel Manager for Europe, at EF Education First since 2012, led a process to improve online booking adoption levels and streamline the approval process by deploying a new travel system worldwide. The top priority was to find a global solution which could drive a consistent workflow but which would still be configurable at country level to accommodate the different requirements of EF Education First’s territories. She also wanted the solution to offer seamless linking with the expense system.
Having evaluated, among others, Concur, Sabre and the incumbent Amadeus, Johanna chose to work with KDS primarily because of the similarity in culture, outlook and approach between the two organisations. Like EF Education First, Johanna considers that KDS is “innovative and fast-growing.”
Technologically, the stand-out capability which impressed the EF Education First team was KDS Neo Door-to-Door. For EF, this new approach to travel booking, whereby the traveller fills out a simple form about where they are trying to get to and quickly gets back a complete bookable door-to-door itinerary, including ground transportation and predicted expenses for the trip, was very much aligned with the kind of user experience their employees expect. Also, as it was available on mobile devices as well as via the web on PC, it fit very well with a workforce which is not usually desk-bound.
According to Joanna Wigg KDS Neo’s Door-to-Door solution was something she simply “hadn’t seen with other suppliers.”
Johanna Wigg led the supplier selection process, working closely with the Finance and Legal departments. The decision to move ahead with KDS and start the project was signed off by the Group Treasurer.
As well as implementing some best practice recommendations based on KDS’s long experience of Self-Booking Tool deployments, KDS consultants also worked with EF Education First to customise NEO with unique content relevant to EF Education First’s travellers including travel guidelines, personal information, special deals and messages. To further increase user loyalty it was internally rebranded as “EFly” and made available via the corporate intranet without the need for a separate log-on process.
The roll-out started in Europe in October 2014, kicking off the change management with a series of office presentations. The US quickly followed, enabling their users in November 2014. After those deployments went smoothly, EF Education First rolled out their first online booking tool in Asia in May 2015. EF launches KDS Neo/EFly in Canada later in 2015.
According to Joanna Wigg, user feedback is extremely positive. “Users love how easy the tool is to use, and how accessible it is on their mobile wherever they are.” As a result, EF has seen the online adoption rate improve dramatically, which means less interaction with their travel agency and hence more cost efficiency.
Also bringing benefits from day one has been the new approval system and user profile synchronisation which allows preferences to be managed online using KDS Neo and then synchronised back to the GDS (Amadeus). As a result of these process changes Joanna Wigg has been able to report huge time and efficiency savings both for managers and travellers.
Additionally, the deployment of KDS Neo has helped to reinforce EF Education First’s internal positioning as innovative and responsive to their users’ needs. The Travel team, led by Joanna Wigg, has been able to give the company a tool which not only functions well but also meets their youthful workforce’s expectations for ease of use and mobile accessibility. “They are absolutely pleased” with the new tool.
Following the Canadian roll-out Johanna Wigg plans a review process to formally evaluate the success of the project. Future plans include integrating an automated expense module to streamline further the user experience and approval process.