That’s a serious question, after reading this recent GBTA report.
The key findings, covered in more detail here, show that unmanaged travelers achieve better business trips, are more satisfied with their business travel – and here’s the kicker – don’t spend any more than their managed traveler counterparts.
Let’s assume the study is valid, and that managing travel doesn’t produce significant savings. Deep breaths, everybody – we can debate that last point later. For the sake of argument, if there aren’t significant savings from managing travel, why would we do it?
Three reasons come to mind: Culture, data and safety.
Culture: Managers need fence posts – markers that tell employees what’s expected. With travel being such a personal purchase, it’s easy to see why companies want to apply travel policies. It’s an efficient way of defining fence posts.
Beyond liking fence posts, managers have a deep-rooted belief that managing most anything is productive. It’s hard to imagine asking a Senior Vice President in most any company “So, should we manage our travel program centrally, or leave everything up to our travelers and their budget managers?”
The answer is predictable, unless more data emerges to challenge current common wisdom.
Data: Travel accounts for roughly one percent of a company’s revenues. Not a huge chunk, but enough to warrant collecting as much data as is practical. Even if management trusts their travelers to do the right thing, they want data at hand to answer the inevitable questions about policy compliance, spending trends, and achieved and potential savings.
It’s been impossible to collect sufficient data without having a managed travel program. That could change with the likes of ProcureApp and Concur’s Open Booking tools. Until then, managed travel programs are the only practical conduit of useful travel data.
Safety: This is the trump card. Management understands the need for traveler safety, and that the only practical way to achieve that is with good travel data. Even if managed programs didn’t deliver savings, they’d be needed to deliver traveler safety.
The Bigger Question: Setting the issue of savings aside, the two most fascinating findings from GBTA’s study are that unmanaged travelers achieve better results from their trips, and that they are much more satisfied with their travel.
OK, so if we need managed travel programs for the reasons above, how do we blend the essentials of managed travel with the freedoms – and benefits – enjoyed by unmanaged travelers?
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