ACTE/CAPA 2017: making a case for tech

Travel buyers at the ACTE/CAPA London conference discussed the challenges of having a robust technology strategy in the face of a constantly evolving travel tech landscape.

Steven Schoen, director of mobility services at Siemens, described three key goals in an extensive long-term project to implement new tech-driven global policies and processes across the company’s travel programme.

  1. ‘Wow’ the traveller, by making the travel about the business purpose of the trip, and minimising the planning, expensing and reimbursement process.
  2. Promote Siemens’ “ownership culture” by enabling the travellers and their line managers to make decisions that are best for the business. When people are out selling or servicing contracts worth millions of dollars a year, said Schoen, it’s not appropriate to “put them through an arduous process to buy a $400 airline ticket.”
  3. Streamline and standardise the processes from end to end, to reduce the indirect costs of travel services, and provide complete cost transparency. 

In the spotlight
These three objectives were used to create a business case that convinced the company’s leadership to support the scheme, making it a “global lighthouse project.”

“But I would say be careful what you ask for,” said Schoen. “Because there’s a lot of light being shed on this – it’s being watched by the highest levels.” 

He said a cross-border functional development team was assembled “across supply chain management, HR, finance, tax, legal, corporate communications and other groups.”

The team compared existing travel policies and mapped processes of six key countries that make up 65-70 per cent of the company’s global travel spend, and identified “pain points” for travellers, administrators and other stakeholders. “We did this the old fashioned way – we went out and talked to people.”

The first key country to go live with the new travel policy was the US on July 1, said Schoen, and already one result is “we have eliminated the need to submit 1.3 million receipts a year – and have gained 34 man-years of productivity in that one step.” Measuring results from these first three months showed “unit costs down year-on-year,” despite “marketplace costs” going up.

His advice to buyers included:

  • Don’t employ technology for the sake of it – it is vital you asses what the needs are that you’re trying to fulfil, and what is the shortest distance between where you are, where you can be and where you would like to be. 
  • Don’t pursue technology that sounds good but few will need or use. 
  • There is a lot to be said for ‘off-the-shelf’ technology – you may not get everything you want, but it makes continuity of programme easier to maintain down the line. 
  • Always apply the ‘KISS’ principle: Keep It Simple & Straightforward. 

Asked if projects of this type are only feasible for large companies with large pockets, Schoen replied: “No. No matter the size of the company, all executive management needs to be shown is an ROI – hard and soft dollars.” 

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