Business Travel is getting back on track. Encouraged by quick vaccine roll-outs by governments and news of possible drugs by end of the year (2021), experts are predicting a quicker recovery. In countries like the US that have been able to continue their vaccination drives effectively, the travel industry is seeing getting back up quicker. In the US, domestic business trips are predicted to touch USD 500 million as early as 2022. The Covid-19 pandemic had affected the business travel sector in unprecedented ways, industry leaders like the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) are expecting to see a faster recovery with figures surpassing pre-pandemic levels by 2025.
While business trips are essential for companies to get back up, almost every industry and company out there searching for ways better control their expenses in making those trips. With the return of business travel coming up sooner than expected, this could be the perfect opportunity for travel managers and decision-makers to streamline their company’s business travel policies and approval processes. When a proper travel request and approval workflow is missing, it creates many challenges for the organization:
- Proper control over travel costs, budget approvals, and limits are not possible
- Poor management of business travel increases spends with issues like last-minute bookings.
- There are difficulties in enforcing the organization’s travel policies
- Request and approval processes that use spreadsheets and emails are difficult to manage and are not transparent
- It is easy to lose track of such practices and they cannot with scale as travel requirements grow
- Emails and spreadsheets cannot ensure that important data are correctly captured and reaching relevant people.
- There’s a lack of spend visibility, and it takes a lot of time to get things done when there is a lack of clarity.
Create a Better Travel Approval Workflow
Approval processes can be tricky and sometimes overwhelming to design and implement, especially in the beginning as there are no standard templates to follow. Each company has its own business needs and requires its policies and processes to be tailored to meet those demands. Multiple people may be involved in this activity as well.
That said, creating and implementing a winning travel requisition and approval process doesn’t have to be difficult. The below steps will help you in drafting a clear policy, taking control of your data, and implementing changes while taking into account all people involved.
1. Getting All Stakeholders Involved
The first and perhaps the most important step is to get the people involved. Start by listing the major stakeholders – frequent travelers, line managers, travel managers, top management, and even your travel agents. Understand their pain points and explain the need for a better process to be in place. Get detailed inputs from those who will be part of the approval process. Depending on your organization’s size and structure, this may take time, but it’s worth it. Without taking people into confidence the chances of any such change succeeding is extremely low.
Form a core team that includes travel managers, coordinators, or others in charge of the travel program along with representatives from Finance, HR and procurement, and line managers and other director or C-level people. This team needs to only involve the necessary people, to avoid unwanted complications or delays. This team can then go on to decide:
- How business traveler needs to be grouped
- What levels of approval are required for each group
- Who will be tasked with the approval and for which groups, etc.
2. Creating the Travel Requisition and Approval Process
Once the core team decides the groups, roles, and responsibilities, the next step is to create a plan for business travel requisition and approval flow. This is a perfect opportunity to refine your travel policy. If you don’t have one yet, this might be a good time to create one. Check out our whitepaper on “Creating A Company Policy That Works” to learn more.
Some important factors to consider while writing/refining your company travel policy:
- Define who will be in charge of making travel bookings – employees, managers, travel department
- If there is more than one booking group, then define who each group can book or request for
- Create a travel request form if required. Define what info needs to be submitted
- Which Travel Approver needs to be consulted for what
- What are the allowed cabins, classes, and categories for each traveler group
- What travel-related expenses are allowed and how they need to be accounted
- What to do in case of last-minute changes or emergency travel
- What are the relaxations allowed, how they are justified and approved, etc.
BizTripz allows you to easily define traveler, arranger, and approver groups and completely configure the way your approval flows works, allowing you to avoid non-compliance with your company travel policy. Business travelers can easily request their trips or travel arrangers can be tasked with that. The requests can then be made to pass through multiple levels of approvals including pre-trip approvals to ensure the best service at the best price is picked.
3. Centralize the Entire Process
The best and most effective way to have an organized business travel approval process is to get everything related to the trip in one place. It becomes even more relevant post-pandemic, with passengers, service providers, and the corporates themselves requiring access to a range of travel and related documents including immunization certificates, health cards, and other documents. If booking details and data are scattered across various documents, emails, calls, IMs, and notes, it’s more likely to cause problems for your business travel program.
Having all data in one place and properly organized, can help trip requisitions and approval process flow to happen seamlessly. Apart from the time and money that could be lost due to disorganized data and processes, it can also cause unwanted stress and friction between colleagues. A corporate travel management program like BizTripz can help you avoid booking wrong services, account for unused services, and ensure your travelers are traveling safely at all times.
4. Clearly Communicate the Process to Everyone Involved
Creating a clearly defined travel requisition and approval process is one thing, but implementing it is a different challenge. It’s important to make sure all people involved, including your travelers, approvers, and even your travel service providers. All stakeholders should know the processes they are involved in and what is expected of them. Ensure that a clear and formal internal announcement is sent out to everyone. Get acknowledgments if required.
You may also use other channels to get the word out, like group meetings with the travel team, approvers, frequent travelers, etc, and explain the processes that involve them in specific. If you are using or deploying a business travel management software like BizTripz, make sure that you provide people with the training required.
5. Automate as Much as Possible
And last but never least, automate the travel requisition and approval processes as much as possible. Automation saves time and makes the whole process easily accessible, especially for teams spread across multiple locations. Also, the employees today expect their organizations to embrace digitization, especially in this post-pandemic scenario. Recent studies show that as much as 91% of employees crave modern technology solutions, 87% of them think that their leaders should reconsider the way they think about technology, and 84% say they are losing opportunities by not moving to more modern solutions.
Business travel requisition and approval processes may seem overwhelming when there is no clarity in their design and things need to be done manually. But this doesn’t have to be how it is – by preparing a clear workflow, communicating it well, and using an automated, centralized system to implement and organize their business trips, organizations can be in charge again.