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Travel Programme Consolidation - Bringing it all together!
Consolidation of a company's different locations' travel programmes means that service levels can be streamlined and there are controls and a vision of spend and traveller behaviour. As a consequence, multinational companies are increasingly opting to manage aspects of their organisations' travel programmes more centrally but still respect the needs and cultures of local offices.

This paper aims to describe the process and address the considerations and what factors might affect decision-making. These apply whether you are consolidating a programme for the first time, or revisiting or refreshing an existing one.

Assessing the need



Understanding your company

Travel buyers embarking upon a consolidation programme need to start with an understanding of their own company.

A company's structure and culture will affect the nature of the solution. For example, some companies with an international presence are in fact partnerships or franchises where each is individually owned and run their own profit and loss accounts. Even if the company is wholly owned, it can vary anywhere on the axis between a very centrally run organisation and empowered individual business units.

Structure will also affect how travel procurement relates to different departments and stakeholders.
How a company is concentrated geographically may be a factor in whether you opt for a regional or global consolidation.

The reasons why a company has an international presence and whether this is likely to grow are important. Companies that are embarking upon aggressive acquisition strategies are likely to have constantly changing travel profiles whereas one big merger may result in a relatively stable travel profile.

Identifying your objectives

It may sound obvious but you need to know why you are consolidating and be aware of the different drivers. A company's objectives may not be the same as those of individual stakeholders. What a traveller wants may differ from what a travel manager seeks and, again, from that a CFO wants.

Cost

Decide whether you are looking for cost reduction or cost control. Savings can be generated in a consolidated programme through process standardisation or through leveraging supplier costs through volumes.

Service

Consolidating a programme can yield consistency in service. Travellers in all locations can feel they are being treated equally both in policy and in service.

Compliance

Business travel in some sectors such as oil and gas or mining can involve challenging traveller environments. Consolidated booking data means that all travellers can be quickly and efficiently located in the event of an emergency.

Getting started



Devising a plan and a strategy for globalising a travel programme will require resource and commitment. Once you are confident about your company and its objectives and have assessed where you are and where you want to be, you can begin your research.

A company's technological infrastructure may be local, at a country level or be global and that will affect solutions. If there is already an active company intranet it will be well-suited to incorporate a travel programme. There could be an expense management system already in place.

Bear in mind what areas are your responsibility and what related areas could be realistically added. For example, you might want to tender for a card programme after you have done the travel programme but in some companies this is not controlled by the same department that has responsibility for travel.

Data gathering



Travel data gathering can be especially challenging when there are multiple data sources and a corporate is using different travel management companies in different markets.

The more information you can gather about your current spend, the better able you will be to identify the solutions that will work best for your company's objectives. Find out the number of transactions and how they are distributed, how many trips, how much you spend, average ticket values, type of travel, class of travel, how much last-minute travel, who the frequent travellers are. Identify how the travel budget is distributed among different countries.

Senior and stakeholder support is vital. Without it you may encounter barriers in getting information from within your own organisation; people could perceive consolidation as a threat to them.

Internal stakeholders



If you want to move your programme successfully from local to global, you must have a senior level executive sponsor and then you'll get buy-in from different parts of the company or different countries.

Senior support has the ability to filter a message through an organisation, help you assemble a project team across regions (at least the important markets that drive volumes) and the people that drive the technical departments - accounting, HR, sometimes IT - to ensure consistent processes and perhaps offer technology to monitor success and drive consistent processes.

How you intend to organise the travel programme will determine the size and shape of your stakeholders. An interface between expense management and an online booking tool will satisfy the CFO and also involve him or her. Addressing corporate governance affects HR. Vendor compliance and policy compliance may interest individual coast centres.

Engage stakeholders from day one. Understand their local requirement as well as the global position. You need a champion in every area as well as senior stakeholders.

Assembling the business case



Understand local market needs. You might want to be global except for certain markets.
Make sure you can monitor what you want to achieve. What will be the KPIs and what outcomes will mark success? Think of what you aim to accomplish in 3, 6, 12 months. What are you going to benchmark and how?

Policy



Company culture, organisation and objectives dictate travel policy. A single umbrella policy can glue any global programme together. There can always be local exceptions.

The plan



Management structure

Consolidating a travel programme requires thought about how it is going to be organised both internally and with suppliers.

You can be connected and have an umbrella travel policy and some global supplier deals but still retain local account management, relationships and deals. The internal organisation can be devolved down either to the local office or regional managers travelling round the offices, talking to arrangers.

If you do take this approach, bear in mind that some countries may not have the volumes to justify the administrative cost and effort to be included in a global programme or serviced locally. Regional centres can remove duplication of effort and make communication more efficient. You may not need an agency in every market but you need to consider how you will support every market.

Implementation

The project plan should have a road map. After you've decided what to do, you will have to work out a plan of how to achieve it.

Service centres of local delivery

A central decision is whether consolidation is merely to unify travel policy and consolidate volumes for supplier negotiations but retain local agents and local service delivery or whether it is a much more centralised approach in which local travel offices disappear and all bookings, fulfilment and services becomes virtual, actually taking place only in a regional operations centre.

Which markets

Sometimes the plan will be to implement one country at a time, sometimes a market or a region. Additional implementations are sometimes postponed until there has been an opportunity to review the success or otherwise of the first.

No matter what every country or region affected needs a local sponsor who is committed to the success of the project.

RFPs



Consolidating a programme is likely to result in the travel profile changing significantly so the incumbent travel management company should be reviewed.

RFPs can be expensive and time-consuming exercises. Buyers should engage with both the travel community and individual TMCs to understand the broad challenges and issues and also to identify those intermediaries whose structure and culture matches theirs.

Before the RFP is issued big decisions need to be made such as whether "global" really means global or does it mean bilateral (two countries) or regional. Buyers conducting a TMC RFP by no means universally want a single TMC platform for every country and every region.

However, if a multi-TMC solution is the preferred option, thought must be given as to how the different TMCs can be managed and how consistent data can be collected from different sources.
A lead agency for data consolidation purposes should be appointed to aggregate date on behalf of all parties involved.

Travel Management Company

Travel management companies do more than booking and fulfilment. When you set about the process of appointing a TMC, you need to decide what you want it to do and you need to think of that in relation to your own organisation's company structure, infrastructure and culture.

If you want local market fulfilment, you will need an agent with a presence in the markets you want to consolidate. Appointing a local agent has benefits for first time consolidators as it is often seen to be a more culturally sensitive approach. Service level agreements could be different at a local level although the core services would normally be governed by a global SLA agreement for best effect. In addition to having global account management, some companies value local account management. Such a service would incur an additional cost so can only be justified in markets with a fairly large volume country.

Conclusion



Consolidation of a travel programme means different things to different companies. No one size fits all. No matter which of the options outlined above suits your own organisation it is vital always to have a programme in line with your corporate structure and objectives, to work out what needs to be managed globally and what needs to be left to local management and to engage a senior sponsor and travel stakeholders.
Their involvement and support is vital to a programme's success.

Box: Key takeaways



  • Do your homework
  • Be honest about your capability to effect change
  • Distinguish between what are absolute "must haves" and what are "nice-to-haves"
  • Devise a programme that is sympathetic with your company's culture and structure
  • Identify who your executive sponsor is going to be
  • Create a stakeholder group; they can inform you of needs and their buy-in will be critical to a successful implementation
  • Engage with TMCs before you create and distribute your bid
  • Decide what needs to be under a global umbrella and what needs to be left to be managed on a local basis

Box: Richard's view



In his role as Vice President Strategic Sales at Portman Richard Ware gets to know companies and understand how they change. He says, "As companies get more successful, their people travel more, looking for new markets, setting up satellite offices. When they're small they can be managed centrally but as they grow they might want more local control.

"It is essential to engage with stakeholders. Create a travel user group and listen to what works for whom and what doesn't and what needs to be put into place. If stakeholders aren't engaged it's not going to work. You might find, lo and behold, that certain countries just won't come on board.

"Engage with different TMCs early. Meet the people and see which company might be a cultural fit for your company.

Richard believes that it is important for buyers to engage with the travel community. "You don't need to reinvent the wheel. There are now opportunities for engagement. Join the ITM and talk to people who've done it and find out what works for them. Then work out what works for your organisation.

"The biggest mistake is when people don't engage with stakeholders - purchasing, finance, bookers/administrators, HR, technology, travelling community, sustainability department - make them feel part of the process.

"Don't be afraid to hear their opinion."

It is vital to continue to engage with some suppliers at a local level. "Local deals are often the best," he says. "Global supplier deals can act as a safety net but you might do better locally.

"You don't have to use the same self-booking tool in every market in which you operate. Some tools are great in the US but not necessarily in all of Europe, India or APAC."

Richard Ware has been delivering solutions to multinational travel management programmes for 20 years.

Box: Emmi's view



It is vital to understand your company's objectives and challenges when building a multinational travel programme. "Understand what your stakeholders are hoping to achieve, what are absolute musts and what are nice-to-haves," says Emmie Mees, Global Sales EMEA, Radius. "From the beginning understand who the stakeholders are. Are they centralised at a group level? Do they make decisions across the globe for everybody?

"If you're consolidating for the first time, the key thing is getting the data. You need to know how you are spending money today so that you can analyse where the opportunities might be.

"If you've done stakeholder engagement early, you will start to identify whom you should invite to do your business and who is best for your organisation so you send out your bid only to a handful of people at the most. You will get a more superior result than if you just cast your net out.

"You also need to have an approach to technology at this stage. Understand if your technological infrastructure is at a local, per country of global level - that will determine solutions for the rest of the programme.

A TMC will build a programme development plan specifying the practical things that we are going to deliver such as cost savings, online tool and better ways to service travellers.

"Policy needs to support what it is that you as an organisation want to achieve. Even companies with one centralised view will still allow a bit of flexibility at the local level."

Emmi always starts with her clients by discussing the challenges and listening to what the organisation wants to achieve and what is the driving force for the change.

She says, "We all talk a lot and actually we should listen more."

Emmi Mees has been delivering solutions to multinational travel management programmes for nearly 20 years.
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