Travel managers can have it tough. You have to work to ensure safe and efficient travel while managing a complex process fraught with risks and a breakdown of compliance – it can be hard to keep all of your stakeholders happy.
So, how can you simplify the process? From approving a trip to paying for it, a holistic approach which encompasses every aspect of the travel procurement activity will allow you to control each step along the way. This should include:
Sure, most employees do the right thing most of the time, but probity requires a formal system of requesting and approving travel. A verbal request or casual email is not enough, you need a transparent process that generates a trail of accountability. To streamline the requisition process, you should utilise a booking and expense management tool that will automate the requisition process while ensuring that all the data surrounding the trip (such as reason for travel, cost centre, budget, etc.) are captured and verified.
Travel Policy Compliance
According to research conducted by the Aberdeen Group, travel and entertainment expenses account for 8 - 10% of total operating expenses, with the cost to the company ranging from $50,000 to $100 million dollars annually.
Taking that research into account, it is important that you have a clear travel policy and that you maintain control of all travel expenses by ensuring access to all trip data including itineraries and costs. To help manage compliance, this data must be supplied in formats that are consistent with your booking and expense management tools.
An efficiently managed travel policy linked to your booking process and expense management tool can result in savings of up to 20% of your total travel spend.
Until not so long ago, expense management systems were the domain of enterprise accounting systems, card providers or banks. Increasingly, they are now being integrated into travel booking systems because expenses are the other face of travel bookings. They are two sides of the same coin and integrated systems can help track both travel and expenses – and make sure the billing is accurate and timely. In short, integration with your travel booking systems and expense management tools makes sure you are billed for what you booked – no more and no less, streamlining the booking process.
Duty of care
Travel management is not just about cost management. It’s also about ensuring traveller safety. If all trips are not captured and monitored in your system, it is impossible to know when your travellers are at risk. Without knowing who is travelling, where and when, it is impossible to meet your duty of care obligations as an employer.
An integrated, end-to-end system can be invaluable in looking after your travellers. Duty of care provisions for example, can be built into the requisition process to ensure that travellers can’t book a trip to a risky destination without your knowledge, counsel and special support.
Sound procurement rests on rigorous negotiation, comprehensive contracting and strong compliance to policy.
You’ve done the hard yards, securing good fares and rates from your suppliers, however how do you make sure that your travellers are actually using your approved vendors and getting the prices you agreed?
Firstly, the rates needed to be audited to ensure they are loaded properly. A rate loading error of $10 can amount to considerable lost savings if not detected. In our experience an average of 10% - 20% of negotiated rates will be picked up as incorrectly loaded. Your TMC should be able to assist you with this as part of the negotiation process.
And secondly, your travellers need to use them, otherwise good luck negotiating better rates next year! The best way to ensure that they are used is through a mandated travel policy, but this isn’t always a viable option (dependent on your organisational culture). Other than that, encouraging travellers to follow your requisition process (through your TMC) will allow you to have visibility into their choices. Better still if this data (along with your payment data) is fed into your expense management system.
Managing – not just monitoring
If anything goes wrong, you’ll inevitably find out about it. If a traveller has flaunted policy and flown Business Class instead of Economy, it’ll be obvious when the bill arrives. The same goes for staying at the “wrong” hotel, or taking a cab from the airport instead of using a mandated shuttle.
Finding out afterwards doesn’t help you achieve your aims. What you need is early intervention. An end-to-end system can prevent unwelcome surprises. If a traveller somehow manages to make an out-of-policy booking that your requisition process didn’t catch, linking your booking and expense systems in an integrated approach should alert you to irregularities before the trip and allow you to intervene and make changes before the expense is incurred.
From go to 'woah'!
As we’ve mentioned, there are a number of tools and processes that improve efficiency at every stage of the travel process.
Your company can benefit from these tools by giving increased visibility as well as control over spend while allowing you to have more choice and control over bookings and expenditure. As well as time savings, it can save your company money, and it allows everyone to profit from a simplified, more efficient process.
When all the systems and processes work together as part of an integrated, end-to-end solution it can really help you to “manage” your travellers and your suppliers.
Are you confident that your processes all work together effectively? If you’d like your systems checked or to find out where to start on your journey to end-to-end travel management, click here to get in touch.