Two Years to Build a Travel Program – Really?

A few weeks ago I wrote this article for Business Travel News.  It lays out the steps for building a managed travel program over a two-year period.

It assumes that nothing is in place – no corporate card program, no consolidation of travel agencies, no travel policy – nada.  Are there really that many firms out there with such a blank canvas for managing their travel spend?

Oh yes. And the size of travel spend at some of these firms may shock you.  I’d recently spoken to to folks from two firms, each with a guesstimate that they were spending at least $40 million on travel.  With no hope of being sure of their spend, mind you, and big questions about where to start.  In large part, this blueprint article was written for them.

What surprised me were a few comments I got offline about the two year time period.  Two folks said this was way too long, that no travel team worth its salt would need more than a year or so. Really?

I get that there’s a “do it yesterday” expectation across corporate America.  And I’ve seen teams do incredible work under hopelessly unrealistic deadlines.  But how long should a CPO expect to build a greenfield travel program?  One that will cover the major bases and begin delivering real value?  Can it be done, really, in one year?

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3 Responses to Two Years to Build a Travel Program – Really?

  1. Ron Troup says:

    Scott, I agree with your timeline. It would take 3 months just to get either a charge card or TMC in place to begin to gather accurate data. Then another 12 months of accurate and understood data to begin the RFP process.

    Sounds like a fun project but the reality is that there is a lot of leg work to be done to go from zero to a fully functioning managed program.

  2. Paul Mullis says:

    Scott: I always enjoy your articles. We too find many companies with no travel policy and complete decentralization of their travel programs. This is crazy! Having a centralized travel managment plan with a TMC saves corporations money, plan and simple. There is no way of leveraging your spend with vendors if you don’t have data to back up your buying power. There is now way of knowing that your travelers are buying the most cost effective airfare, car and hotel without some way to let you know what their options were at time of booking. We can save companies money by effectively managing their travel. Please let us know if we can offer our services to any of your readers. Best regards, Paul Muliis at Travel Leaders.


    I guess,Scott, that I can’t help agreeing with you because what you advocate makes great sense and because of your analytical skills.

    My personal opinion calls for questioning all structures and processes currently in place. Roles will change but I see serious flaws in these structures and processes. As far as written travel policies are concerned, I would urge their destruction, turning instead to dynamic procedures that can be more easily questioned or modified to reflect rapidly changing procurement practices. When I took my first stff job at AA in 1965, my boss asked me what business we were in. after stumbling around, he said that we were really in the communication business. That certainly has not been broadly declared so i declare it. i also declare that, on a slightly higher level of abstraction, that all of us are, or should be, looking at ourselves as geography managers for our company’s operations and thus include related functions that mysteriously are assigned to other disciplines.

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