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GCN : October and November 2016
Despite a modest degree of automa- tion and modernization, the steps federal government employees have to go through to ma ke travel arrangements and then file vouchers is unnecessarily complicated and time-consuming. By adopting best practices already in use by private enterprise, federal government agencies can streamline processes, save money, increase visibility and efficiency, and improve the user experience for both the individual and agency administration. The federal gover nment took a step toward this goal in 1998, when the Depar tment of Defense (DoD) sponsored the development of the Defense Travel System (DTS), which included function- ality derived from existing commercial travel systems. Similarly, in 2003 the General Ser vices Administration (GSA) launched the E-G ov Travel Ser vice (ETS). ETS is a government-w ide, web-based travel management ser vice that success- fully consolidated more than one hun- dred separate travel management center contracts and hundreds of disconnected expense management solutions across the federal government. While both DTS and ETS helped federal agencies get closer to the goal of reducing paper-driven systems and costs, they continued to rely on custom solutions that mirrored existing paper-based processes. GSA’s follow-on contract, ETS2, has moved the federal government closer to its goal by offering a commercial Software as a Ser v ice (SaaS) solution. Unfortunately, that solution still reflects the federal government’s overly complex, restrictive policies. While today’s processes incorporate some degree of automation, the underlying rules are based on policies around travel ser vices and expense man- agement that haven’t changed much since they were established decades ago. There’s currently a movement throughout federal government to at least consider how commercial organizations manage modernization and innovation, including their travel systems. For example, organizations like the U.S . Digital Service, the Defense Digital Services and 18F, which incorporate people and processes from the commercial world, demonstrate how adopting commercial best practices can pay off for government agencies. Simplify and Update Travel Policies The Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) and Joint Travel Regulations (JTR) com- bined run more than 1,800 pages, while the typical commercial travel policy is about 30 pages. A nd that’s before individ- ual agencies add requirements suppor ting their own policies and procedures. While the federal government clearly has many more rules and regulations than even the largest company, this disparity proves that a clear, updated, and simplified travel policy is not only possible—it’s critical to improv ing efficiency. One of the reasons for the massive size of the FTR and JTR is they attempt to reg ulate every traveler action in order to prevent misuse or any possible user error – creating an environment of complex configurations rather than providing the user with intuitive workflows and back end controls for agencies. Commercial travel policies use the opposite approach by adopt- ing the “trust but verify” mentality, as well as inser ting more seamless fiscal controls. “ With the data analytics available today, it’s not necessary for software to provide for every possible eventuality,” says Jim Lucier, Chief Customer Officer at Concur, a leading prov ider of integrated travel and expense management solutions and dominant vendor on ETS2. “If you have data analytics, you can quickly pinpoint issues that are outside of policy and manage them at that point. This mentality would allow the fed- eral government to vastly simplify its travel policy and make it much easier for travelers to navigate, saving the federal employee time and the ta xpayers’ money.” The best way to get started with revamp- ing travel policy is to look at it with fresh eyes. While some changes w ill undoubtedly require legislation, simply revisiting exist- ing policies and re-interpreting them for the 21st century could yield benefits. Agencies are beginning to make progress updating travel policies by working with GSA’s ETS Program Management Office (PMO), in concert with its Unified Shared Services Management Office, to establish a set of default display settings around pas- senger air and lodging. It’s expected these changes will optimize savings and drive utilization to enterprise-wide solutions of fered to the federal government. DoD is attempting an even more am- bitious goal. In August 2016, the White House announced that the U.S. Digital Service is assisting in the transition of DTS over to a cloud-based Software as a Service EXECUTIVE INSIGHTS: TRAVEL MANAGEMENT SPONSORED CONTENT Adopt Commercial Best Practices for Travel By taking advantage of solutions aligning with commercial best practices, federal government agencies can make travel processes more efficient and cost-effective.
August and September 2016
January and February 2017