There is no single market better suited for a well-managed travel program than the government contracting arena. The reasons are many, but I want to focus on the top four “must haves” and then offer three more that are worthy of consideration. All point to the need for government contractors to have a strong travel management program and a trusted partner to provide the leadership and administration to drive success.
The Top Four Cs
C1 – Cost
Clearly in today’s era of shrinking budgets, discretionary accounts – and travel tends to be one of the largest – come under heavy scrutiny and are often slashed indiscriminately, with no regard for operational implications. The secret is not to stop traveling, but to travel wisely. In these cases, that means ensuring the best value for your travel spend and applying all facets of the travel program to extract the most from every dollar. A strong travel program will ensure all cost elements are considered and all discounts and preferred supplier programs are leveraged.
C2 – Compliance
The FAR includes particularly well-defined rules pertaining to government-related travel. From per diem rates to permissible exceptions to fare choice limitations, contractors must ensure the expenses incurred with government contract-related travel follow the rules. The Fly America Act adds a much greater level of complexity. All of these compliance issues are best handled through a well-crafted travel policy which is typically at the heart of a well-formulate travel program.
C3 – Contracts
The FAR alone doesn’t mandate all the requisites related to travel expenses. Very often contract terms and conditions, clauses, fee structures, prime/sub relationships, WBS requirements, etc., have exacting constraints and guidance regarding travel spend. Add to these items, direct and indirect costs, overhead allocations, G&A applications, fixed-price vs cost-plus considerations, and a solid travel management program will help capture, track, allocate, bill, recover, reimburse and report as appropriate.
C4 – Control
Combining a clear travel policy that meets all contractual and compliance demands with well-tested approval, authorization, and quality assurance systems helps preclude issues before they occur. Additionally, fulfilling obligations to suppliers, vendors, and partners is as important as compliance and contract related fulfillment. Often controlling traveler habits and behavior ensure maximum value can be achieved from every travel dollar spent, while at the same time protecting future opportunities to save even more. The last thing a supplier wants is to offer a discount based on a volume that never materializes because the organization has no systems to control where the traveler directs the business.
These four C’s are undeniably the top essentials that every government contractor needs and the very benefits to be realized from working with a savvy travel management company. But there are others worthy of mention. Here are three more good ones:
C5 – Care, duty of
Today’s environment, especially when traveling overseas, demands closer scrutiny before and during a trip. Contractors are often traveling to some of the most remote, underdeveloped, and often hostile locations. Duty of Care and Risk Mitigation should be at the top of the list of every Program Manager, HR Director and CEO. Even seemingly insignificant travel interruptions – weather, mechanical, natural phenomenon (earthquakes, volcanoes, etc.) and system failures – should have clear processes to support the affected travelers to ensure their safety. This includes notifications, communications, parameters for accommodation, and in severe cases, evacuation, or worse, extraction. Knowing where personnel are, should be, arriving/departing times, potential issues that may interrupt or effect their ability to fulfill the purpose of their trip, or worse, return safely, are all services available within a comprehensive travel program.
C6 – Competitiveness
Keeping costs down on existing programs and contracts is one thing, but being able to competitively price bids and proposals in order to win and retain business is just as important. Having a trusted travel management company partner, familiar with your business and policies can be an invaluable asset in helping build pricing models and budgets when pursuing opportunities that contain a travel component. Inaccurate or unrealistic pre-bid travel cost analysis could be the difference between profit or loss, especially in the fixed price arena.
C7 – Cyber Employees
As the tech-savvy, mobile-leaning composition of the workforce continues to grow, a travel management program that combines the right technologies, right systems, and right people to leverage the tools available to support these mobile hungry travelers is a must. It is not just about supplying the technologies. It is about integrating and managing them consistent with the top 4 C’s to deliver the best results for both the travelers AND the organization.
For Government Contractors, the best approach for smooth sailing with the Seven C’s is to partner with a travel management company experienced in the federal arena, especially those with a portfolio of contractor clients.