Transforming Travel Management For The New World

This chatter around outsourcing the travel manager job to the travel management company is annoying, but I also accept that many travel managers are bogged down with too many administrative tasks and the management may perceive that the position can be eliminated. After all, if a T&E budget is drastically slashed, you don’t need great discounts with suppliers, right?

This is simply wrong.  [more]All of us managing travel should not be managing “travel,” but rather managing the travel program with emphasis on strategic program management. In my recent presentation titled “Strategic Program Management of Travel” that I’ve done at Oregon Business Travel Association, I talked about earning a seat at the table of key internal stakeholders, such as Internal Audit Committee, Budget Committee, Executive Committee. This is done by knowing absolutely everything about your company’s T&E spend, offering trends and forecast, future industry intelligence

Here are some of the key program components that can only be managed from inside the company:

a. Understanding all internal trends that affect company’s T&E spend in the near future and in the long run. If you have a seat at the table when M&A activities are discussed, you can reach out proactively to your suppliers to negotiate new deals, etc. Also, if you are a part of the meeting for your PSO (Professional Service Organization), as soon as you obtain information such as new billable consulting clients, you can take action proactively.
b. Demonstrating to key stakeholders on “rightsizing” T&E spend.
c. Using the future/leading industry indicators to monitor/adjust T&E budgets.
d. Creating a continuous learning environment (blog/ discussion board, intranet/email newsletter, actionable analytics, forecasting trends) and providing information on how to obtain the proper $ for budget, changes in key travel markets (example: the company’s third-largest city pair is losing xxx airlines, which is forecasted to increase the segment airfare by xxx percent (due to reduced competition), which would translate to $xxx for each quarter per xxx department. Be prepared to either reduce the number of trips in the market, or incur x percent more in T&E).

Tell me if any of the above points can be managed by anyone outside of your company? I ask all of us to elevate our role from being “travel managers” and transform it to a new title: Strategic Program Manager-Travel.

All of us--travel management companies, other travel suppliers and buyers, must work to create more strategic travel program management jobs, rather than sitting around watching our jobs disappear. We must create better awareness of what managing travel program is all about.