Why does Travel & Expense procurement still favour manual processes?



Shirley Le Roux, MD of TraveluXion, wonders why there has been such a slow uptake of effective technology by travel procurement professionals, particularly considering that they work in complex environments across multiple locations and across multiple Travel Management Company (TMC) partners, in this month’s SmartProcurement.

Every edition of Travel Buyer (formerly Business Traveller) contains at least one article discussing cost saving initiatives and successes or creating general awareness amongst business travellers around how behaviour can influence an organisation’s costs.

I read with great interest, not because the topic is new (procurement officials or buyers are always looking for ways to reduce costs or purchase in the most effective and controlled manner), but because I am interested in the way the authors set about measuring and implementing cost savings intitiatives in an area that is largely fragmented and which lacks effective technology to accurately measure savings.

Why do I say this?

Simply because Travel Managers monitor, measure and report on the following:

• traveller behaviour;
• cost escalation/variance of a relevant booking from the time the booking is secured until such time as it is ticketed;
• where the traveller stays;
• which preferred vendor is used;
• how many times the traveller changes a booking or ticket;
• what time they travel;
• are they complying with company policy?
• Have they taken the cheapest option available at the time of booking?
• Can they be tracked in the event of an emergency?
• Have they returned their allowance and accounted for it correctly?
• Are they travelling and staying with a reliable supplier?

These are just a few of a Travel Manager’s daily tasks, and are only centred around the traveller: they do not take into account the required effort or focus on supplier relationships, nor on any internal measurements and reporting.

Therefore, I am amazed at the slow uptake of effective technology that will assist professionals to make their business efforts more effective. I am not just referring to self-booking tools (SBT) or an eloborate SBT with an expense reporting mechanism. I am referring to end-to-end solutions for T&E.

Ask 90% of all Travel Buyers how they manage all of the above, particularly in complex environments across multiple locations and across multiple Travel Management Company (TMC) partners, and it is either by way of e-mail, manual processes, and in some instances internal measurements or face-to-face visits with travellers.

“If a traveller changes a booking three times a month I visit that person’s office,” said Maureen Masuku (Foskor) in August’s Travel Buyer. Robyn Saunders, Global Travel Manager for Aurecon, notes that she is kept abreast of each and every travel booking by being copied into their emails.

However, while I advocate face-to-face meetings, I also understand the benefits of an environment where you can manage spend before it is incurred and stop or allow changes before they happen:

• An automated approval process that includes the cost centre owner and line manager, where needed, who are able to ensure that a trip is in budget before the cost hits the underlying cost centre and has a valid business reason and business value.
• Involving a risk manager in the request to prevent a traveller from being exposed to a potential danger before incurring the cost of the trip.
• Having access to real-time data.
• More importantly, owning your own data and consequently never having to be concerned with the cost and inconvenience of changing suppliers.

While this may sound like an impossible dream, it is, in fact, reality. If you would like to discuss how this can be achieved, contact Shirley.leroux@traveluxion.co.za.

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