Pre-Trip Approval Done Right

Here’s a success story that fits well with Procurement’s role in managing travel costs.

Business Travel News describes how Deloitte achieved huge savings from implementing a pre-trip approval system.   So what, you say?  How hard can it be to turn off the travel spigot, right?  That is indeed the blunt axe approach that many companies have taken in order to reduce travel costs.  Fortunately, Deloitte is much smarter than that, and we can learn from them.  Highpoints are:

  • Research showed that 28% of trips were discretionary (non-client facing, or non-revenue generating, and not essential)
  • Senior management – not procurement – set the goal of reducing the discretionary travel costs.  Procurement was included as the enabler.
  • Implemented BCD Travel’s pre-trip system (BCD is Deloitte’s travel management company)
  • Had strong top-down support in most, but not all, business units – and results were directly proportional to this

Deloite has one of the world’s largest travel programs, and as a white/gold-collar firm, has its share of big-ego travelers.  If Deloitte can do this, so can you.  Brian Nichols, Senior Manager of Deloitte’s  travel program, and his team did most of the heavy lifting.  I’ll ask Brian to share his keys to success here.

2 thoughts on “Pre-Trip Approval Done Right

  1. Thanks Scott!

    The approach we took is by no means a cure-all for every organization, but it worked well for us considering the business drivers of our travel, tools available and organizational priorities at the time driven by the economy. We do anticipate maintaining this process as the economic conditions improve, as it provides the business managers a degree of visibility and control of the travel activity. Each business manager can then make decisions that fit their business unit needs at any given time.

    You captured above most of common elements that I think would translate to any business who would like to implement something similar.

    – First, this was a leadership-led (CFO/Finance specifically) initiative which was key. From there, business unit leadership was brought on board. That is a critical piece as the reality is that Procurement / Travel is not able to make and drive a decision like this. We were able to provide a variety of solutions ranging from soft point-of-sale biasing all the way to stopping ticketing for approval. We provided the pros/cons of each and leadership chose the path. After implementation the top-down communication was key.

    – Being able to define and then identify “discretionary” travel was the next critical piece. We wanted to control travel without impacting our practitioners’ ability to service clients and drive revenue. We defined discretionary as any trip that is not associated with already-secured work for a client (revenue generating). Trips associated with selling potential work to clients were subject to approval, so that managers could determine whether the sales resources & cost were proportionate to the potential revenue. We were able to identify the discretionary trips in our ravel systems as we have a charge code structure which identifies the trip purpose at a high level, and we require that a charge code be provided for every reservation.

    – In terms of process, the approval steps had to be automated, efficient and quick so that approvers could quickly and easily review and make decisions…and travelers could quickly receive approvals or rejections on their travel plans. For us, BCD’s TripSource Authorizer (powered by GDSX) was the answer…there are likely other solutions out there – just make sure if you pursue an approval process, that the actual process does not encumber your approvers or decision makers.

    – Lastly, ongoing reporting and monitoring enabled us to measure the impact, recognize when problems were occurring and identify enhancement based on approver and traveler feedback. Our approval process after 12 months of real use feedback is much improved over what we started with.

    Hope that helps. Please feel free to contact me through Scott or directly if you have any questions.


  2. Terrific comments, Brian! Thanks so much for sharing your valuable experience with us on this important topic. We’ll keep an eye out for more best practices from you and your team, for sure!

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