Is travel anarchy alive and well in your organization? By definition, travel anarchy exists in an organization where travel is virtually unmanaged. Employees book their flights, hotel rooms and car rentals based on what provides them the best personal benefit. Discounts from travel vendors are nonexistent and employees waste much time and lose productivity when they secure their own travel and reconcile their expenses. Lack of management nurtures chaos, and we’ve typically found that in this situation, a business’ bottom line is negatively impacted.
When travel leadership is achieved through a managed travel program, success for the travelers, as well as the overall business, is the norm. Travel costs go down, productivity of employees goes up, travelers feel more supported and control of the travel and expense line item is back in the very capable hands of the finance department. This is travel management bliss.
If your business is experiencing travel management anarchy, how do you structure a managed travel program? Where do you even begin to start this seemingly huge project? We’ve worked with a number of businesses on this very issue and find the following four steps help to move them in the right direction.
1. Assess Business Travel Needs
Sometimes the toughest and most important question is: Where would you like to see your business’ travel program one year from now? Gather the myriad of answers from all employees and departments that work with travelers. We encourage our clients to develop a “travel squad” of people, selected from specific areas of the organization, to ask these tough questions, discuss options, gather feedback and once ready, communicate travel program changes to all employees.
The travel squad should spend some time identifying the needs of your travel program. Here are some questions to help you get started:
- Do we need additional savings options from travel vendors?
- Have requests been made regarding an automated online booking system?
- Does the finance department need an automated travel and expense management system to expedite reporting?
- Is specific data required to manage the program and if so, how do we get it?
- What are the increased operational needs for the program?
The questions above will guide you to be more strategic as your develop you corporate travel program.
2. Conduct a Travel Data Audit
Once these questions and more are completely discussed, look internally at what information and data is already available to you. Do you know how often and from where your travelers have been travelling over the past few years? Is there financial information that shows how much has been spent on airfare, hotel and car rentals? Through this internal audit, you’ll know what you information you do have, and more importantly, what information you will need to collect moving forward.
After you’ve assessed where your program is at the moment, look outside of your organization to find out where you compare to your peers. Topaz International publishes free data on its website to give you an initial idea of the results of your current travel program compared to others. This will allow you to establish appropriate travel and expense benchmarks, and in turn give you an idea of whether your corporate travel program is moving in a positive or negative direction.
3. Dig Deeper Into Your Travel Management Ecosystem
We call the 10 key elements of a successful travel management program the Travel Management Ecosystem. Use them as a guideline to help you identify the important pieces of your travel program and in turn, reveal opportunities for improvement.
- Policy – establishing a travel and expense policy
- Preferred – securing suppliers and contracts
- Protection – insurance, liability and avoidance
- Payment – credit card systems, virtual payment
- Price – web and published
- Productivity – confidence and time savings
- Profiles – adherence to preferences
- People – relationships, quality and dedication
- Procedures – data and systems
- Possibilities – meetings, vacation, solutions, etc.
Take the time to note all action items that need to be taken with regard to each of these elements to ensure that your travel plan delivers the results you need.
4. Establish a Clear and Concise Travel Policy
Let’s take moment to focus on your travel policy. Developing a clear corporate travel policy and enforcing it consistently are the most important steps you can take to reduce travel costs, according to the Global Business Travel Association. Your travel policy is the engine that powers everything related to your travel management process. Unless your senior staff supports this important document and everyone is 100% clear on its details, you’ll be wasting time and money and might even create liabilities.
A clear travel policy needs to direct employees in the following three areas: control, satisfaction and savings. Once these areas are clear, the policy needs to be completely supported by upper management and clearly communicated to everyone in the organization. A travel management company (TMC) can help you develop a clear travel policy that addresses the key issues that your travel program may face. Read, “How to Create an Effective Travel and Expense Policy Workbook” to help you get started on developing a great travel and expense policy for your business.
Structuring a managed travel program can be overwhelming, but the benefits far outweigh the time and energy spent. Take some time to review the 4 steps and assess your organization’s overall bandwidth, and when necessary, consult your TMC for their expert advice. We’ve found that when a business works with a TMC, they realize a 10-20% savings on their bottom line.