By Debra Blowers, Senior Consultant
Beginning the journey from an unmanaged to a managed travel program can be a daunting prospect. What are the key areas of your travel spend to assess and how can you determine which to address first? How can conducting a solid evaluation and assessment set the foundation for long-term success?
Below, we’ll give you some best practices to help you on your journey:
When you start the process of building your foundation, the best place to begin is your travel policy. It will be the building blocks of your program. Policies require governance so consider who can champion the policy and make decisions. Establish the goals and purpose of the policy. Most policies provide clear guidelines for employees while embracing a few key tenets, including cost controls; safety and security of employees while traveling; booking channels; and payments to name a few. Policies typically incorporate the values of the employee and customer, while supporting the organization’s overall objectives. Ensure your policy is concise! Or employees won’t take the time to read any further than opening the document.
Gathering your documents is a critical step and can be done in concert with reviewing the travel policy. The evaluation generally requires you find travel-related agreements, internal data, supplier data, and presentations. The information you find in these documents are pieces of the puzzle that can help evolve your story and drive the program forward.
Assess the Current Program:
At GoldSpring, we do several program assessments every year and clients have shared their experiences about organizational alignment. Understanding your organization and aligning with it will help you take the program to the next level with some confidence for success. For example, defining if your company is cost cutting, growing globally, and/or is in a steady state can assist you in the design of the program and next steps. Establish the travel program’s current state so you can compare to it in the future. For example, know the satisfaction level of your travelers with the program by doing a traveler satisfaction survey. A survey can help you quickly identify the greatest areas of improvement based on your travelers' experiences.
Key metrics are a critical factor to a managed travel program. Are any metrics being measured? Such as, compliance to policy, preferred suppliers and taking the lowest fares? This is still one of the best ways to measure the total cost of ownership in the program. If none exist, then you have an open book to build the metrics that will help the program be successful in your company and culture.
Low Hanging Fruit:
Early success in the process can help establish your credibility with leadership. Can you focus on a quick success from the survey you did during the assessment phase? Another idea is to do a corporate card request for proposal (RFP) or renegotiation. You might be surprised by the savings this can yield. Or negotiate with a frequently used hotel. These are great ways to build internal capital and gain supporters of the program.
Return on Investment (ROI):
Providing ROI to the organization is a crucial step on your way to building a managed program that is successful in the long term. Focus on a few actionable metrics, e.g. compliance in the program and travelers following the policy. If travelers are not following, then reach out and find out why. Outlining your metrics via easy to read dashboards are ways for leaders to easily evaluate the program. Leaders care about how satisfied their employees are with the program and whether they follow policy. This may seem simple, but make sure the dashboards are categorized by satisfaction, air, hotel, and car rental, and other metrics you have deemed important for your company. Show value to your leaders by highlighting the improvements and successes with the program!
Tackling Complex Categories:
Once you’ve finished the assessment, had a few early successes and determined the metrics, you are ready to consider the more complex categories of TMC, airlines, and hotels. Besides giving you the current state, the assessment should help answer questions about where to spend immediately to mid-term resources in the program.
For example, do you need to go out to RFP or can you simply renegotiate your agreements? If your travelers are super satisfied and your TMC agreement benchmarks are okay, then maybe a simple renegotiation. If you’ve had an update to your travel policy, but not looked at your airline or hotel programs, then consider doing an RFP in these categories. For example, if you have moved inventories, routes or have added significant volume to your program, then you will want to consider taking your airline program out to bid to gain savings and make sure your airlines are aligned in a way that best serves your organization.
The feedback loop with your travelers and other internal stakeholders are important as they will be cheerleaders or detractors. Frequent communication about improvements in the program, savings, and other opportunities will help you grow the program. When considering your internal stakeholders, which will be individuals with whom you will want to have open lines of communication, they can come from any number of departments, including; Procurement, Finance, Human Resources, Security, etc. However, identify the executive in your company who will help you drive the program to the next level.
Managing ongoing improvement is a principal part of the program. Establish governance of the program and align internally and externally with your supply base. As a part of the governance, have periodic reviews. Many companies do quarterly business reviews with their suppliers, but the frequency is dependent on your organizational culture and the goals of the program. The key item here is to always look for ways to evolve and improve your newly established managed travel program.
So, when will you begin your journey from an unmanaged to a managed travel program?