Gamifying Travel at Intuit

Hencke outsidel in casual attire at a resort.

Supply chain professionals, expert at improving processes and reducing costs, fill roles in a variety of areas leading and supporting initiatives that help the bottom line. As a new analyst at business and financial software giant Intuit, Nathan Henckel, B.B.A.’17, teamed up with three other Intuit employees to pitch a way to reduce employee travel costs that would benefit both the company and the employee. The team created a gamification process where employees earn rewards with the “Price to Beat” plan.

“In order to pitch a program like this, we had to the have the data and a program to back our idea,” says Henckel. “This was my part of the project. I created an algorithm using Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications programing language that analyzes Intuit’s historic and real-time travel data and generates a price to beat for the specific route the user is seeking.”

Using the company’s travel booking system, employees can “Beat the Price” generated by Henckel’s algorithm and receive half of any savings in their next paycheck.

In order to deploy a program where Intuit provides cash incentives to employees, the group presented their invention and explained the algorithm to Intuit’s chief marketing officer. “Following our presentation, he advocated to senior management for the deployment of this program as a pilot to approximately 1,000 Intuit employees,” says Henckel, who credits his time in the Haworth College of Business with sharpening his knowledge of data analytics as well as his communication skills so that he could effectively present information and data about the project in a way that is meaningful.

“The business analytics skills and effective communication techniques I learned as a WMU student are put to use every day,” says Henckel. “As a sourcing analyst, my day-to-day responsibilities include deriving insights from data and effectively communicating those insights to our leaders. While a student at WMU, I took multiple courses that prepared me for the role that I am in now.”

To date, the travel game has generated $40,000 in savings and has been received very well by Intuit employees. “The primary goal of this project and pilot was to show savings for the company as a result of the incentive-based travel program, and we accomplished that.” The team is now looking at expanding the pilot.

Excited about his position at Intuit and the opportunity to develop his skills for the future, Henckel anticipates his chosen field will change often. “In today’s world, more and more roles and tasks are being completed programmatically and with artificial intelligence and machine learning,” he says. “As a result, the roles of traditional sourcing professionals and analysts could be quickly changing directions. At Intuit, we employ the top software engineers in the world, which makes it the perfect place to further develop skills such as Python and other programming languages. I have already seen my skills pay off with the creation of our travel gamification algorithm using visual basic.”

Henckel's path to Intuit

Henckel’s path to Intuit began as a sophomore student participating in the introductory integrated supply management course taught by Dr. Sime Curkovic, professor of management. “I think back to that course and how much passion and thought went into that class,” says Henckel. “After being exposed to the excitement and rigor of the course and the ISM program, I knew this was the field I wanted to pursue.”

Henckel went on to participate in the ISM program’s Bronco Force initiative where he helped develop a scorecard for a manufacturing firm in southwest Michigan. “This hands on experience, as well as the fact that students earned a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt as part of Bronco Force, helped me land my first summer internship at Brunswick Corporation in Chicago.”

As an indirect sourcing co-op at Brunswick, Henckel performed heavy data analytics and assisted in corporate travel and ocean freight bids. He later landed a co-op with GAST Manufacturing “where I finally got to put the manufacturing engineering knowledge ISM students gain to good use. This experience was substantial for developing my business acumen in a fast-paced setting and honed my ability to effectively communicate and negotiate.”

When Henckel was approaching graduation, Curkovic talked about the business and culture of Intuit, and Henckel was intrigued. After some research, he applied for a position in San Diego. After several phone interviews, he was invited to a case interview, and the next day had the job.

“The opportunity to move out to San Diego and work for such a progressive company was a career-defining move, and I couldn’t have done it without Western’s ISM program,” adds Henckel.