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Travel consultant Dennis Bailey answers an anonymous buyer’s query over the issue of how to begin the travel programme automation process in a high-touch business

Dennis Bailey DeNovo

Management Ltd.

Dennis is a travel sourcing, operations, and indirect purchasing veteran with over 20 years' experience running multimillion pound corporate travel programmes on a pan-European basis. Previous employers cover the insurance, manufacturing and consulting sectors, including the Ford Motor Company, Fiat and Vodafone. He now uses that wealth of purchasing and travel experience on an interim or day rate basis in the business travel and indirect/ service areas.

Q. We're an international law firm with complex traveller itineraries that we manage manually. I've been tasked with cutting ten per cent off our travel spend so am looking to automate some aspects of the process. What would you suggest as a starting point?

A. On the face of it this appears to be a fairly straightforward question but I’m afraid, after some thought, the response is not nearly as simple as you may have hoped for. I’m tempted to say just cut non- essential travel by ten per cent, but I know that’s not what you want to read! At the risk of using too many clichés, I’d like to

state up front that when talking with prospective clients, I often use the analogy of a jigsaw when discussing corporate travel programmes, in that all of the constituent pieces have to be in place to produce the finished picture, which in this context is a well managed, 'best practice' travel programme. So what exactly does that

'complex traveller itineraries that we manage manually'. Am I to deduce that you make all travel bookings in-house using the internet and phone and this is undertaken by your own staff? If so, I would suggest that your first consideration is to look at various TMCs to see what they can offer you. One of the value propositions TMCs can offer is

their ability to manage complex itineraries efficiently and cost effectively. If, for example, you have complex multi-sector flights, they have the expertise and access to global airline inventory to be able to construct cost-effective tickets with carriers that it would be virtually impossible for your staff to achieve. To summarise, if you have been tasked with saving

“Automation alone will not suffice if some or all of the other

constituent pieces are not in place”

mean? Well, you are suggesting that automation will help in your target to save ten per cent of your current spend, but automation alone will not suffice if some or all of the other constituent pieces are not in place. If we go back to basics, one of the prime facilitators

for savings in any corporate programme is the ability of the travel department to control traveller behaviour, and by that I mean compliance – compliance to policy, booking methods, preferred suppliers etc. In my experience, it is this area that is often the

most overlooked. You can have the best deal in the marketplace for a particular hotel, for example, but if everyone is staying in the property next door, that deal is worthless and the savings are lost. My first suggestion therefore would be to obtain as

much data as possible – from both your own finance team and through your appointed TMC – with a view to understanding the levels of non-compliance for each and every aspect of your programme. Is everyone booking through your TMC and utilising

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their expertise and supplier deals? A basic reconciliation between your general ledger travel spend versus the TMC data would give a broad indication as to the level of any leakage, if any. Although the two figures will never match, any large differences may suggest a possible issue worthy of further, more detailed investigation. I have referred to the TMC a couple of times in the above but your question states that you have

ten per cent I suggest you look first for any leakage with a view to understating who isn’t following the rules, why they aren’t, and then to quantify what that equates to in monetary terms. Of course, if there are no rules or policy, you really need to develop and communicate a document which clearly lays down what is required of employees. You may well have found your ten per cent at this point, and if

that’s the case you can then start developing a strategy for implementing and communicating a far more structured programme, which will hopefully deliver far greater savings. This may include some form of automation, but

remember that most of the current online booking tools, while having the technical capability to handle multi-sector trips, are really designed to offer the best functionality for simple point-to-point traffic.


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