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GCN : October and November 2016
(SaaS) solution. The new system, which is being piloted “has greatly improved usabil- ity, simplified travel policies, and has the potential for large cost sav ing potential,” according to a White House statement. Standardize and Simplify Years ago, the typical mindset was that since agencies had such unique travel requirements, they needed systems cus- tomized to their needs, a similar mindset to commercial companies. Today, some federal government leaders are realizing the benefits of taking a more standard- ized approach. Mov ing to a cloud-based travel management system, for example, ensures capabilities will be continuously updated and the user experience will be much simpler. The cloud model—in this case, SaaS—also saves agencies money. This model can simplify the travel management and reporting process. Take a look at the federal government’s long and complex pre-travel authorization process. It requires posting an obligation to the financial system before a trip even takes place. That means travelers must go through multiple steps, the request must go through multiple rev iewers, and there are multiple interactions w ith the financial system—all for one trip. In the commercial world, a traveler can request a trip in a single step. The traveler’s manager then checks their budget and authorizes the trip. If actual expenses differ from predicted expenses, ever ything is reconciled after the trip. Eliminating the federal government’s need for authorization and pre-travel obligation eliminates most of the complexity. Bringing budget management down to a lower level within the organization is a major time-saver. Here’s how it works. Agencies first obligate funds at the organization’s budgetar y level; then managers are able to manage that budget. With the tools available today, they can easily determine how they are prog ressing against the budget. The right automated tools can also improve expense report processing and save money. For example, if the system is set up so federal government credit card data feeds directly into the travel and expense system, travelers no longer have to maintain receipts or manually enter data into the system. This makes the reimbursement and compliance process much faster and more accurate. Twitter, for example, replaced its manual accounts payable and expense management system w ith an automated system, reducing its expense submit-to-pay cycle time by 65 percent. Reduce Costs Recent amendments to travel regulations stress the impor tance of sav ing money on government travel. There are concrete steps agencies can take for considerable savings. Simply using an online booking tool is a step in the right direction. The Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO) found using online booking for travel reser vations whenever possible saved a law enforcement agency nearly $3.4 million in transaction fee sav ings during FY2015 alone. Likewise, a subset of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) components saved more than $3 million in airfare tickets from 2015 to 2016 by streamlining policies and pro- moting the lowest cost airfare. That’s just the beginning. There are many other ways to reduce travel-related costs. One of the easiest changes agencies can make is sw itching the booking process from refundable to non-refundable fares. While the federal government has negotiated favorable rates on refundable fares, booking non-ref undable fares even at market value can generate real sav ings. “ The reality is that refundable fares can be as much as twice the cost of non-refund- able fares,” says Adam Joseph, senior vice president and general manager of govern- ment for Concur. “Our commercial custom- ers typically require employees to find the lowest available fare, even if it incurs a pen- alty for cancelled or changed travel plans. Even when you factor in cancelled travel, they almost always come out ahead.” Another area that can generate consid- erable savings is a change in the per diem rules with respect to meals and inciden- tal expenses. For example, the FY2017 per diem rate for meals for an employee traveling in the Los A ngeles area in Januar y is $64. A federal government employee would receive $64 for meals and incidental expenses ever y day of their trip, regardless of how much he actually spends. In contrast, most corporations reimburse employees for actual expenses incurred, up to a ma ximum amount. Changing the process to mirror commercial best practices could save the federal government millions of dollars per year—not only from unused per diem money, but also from reducing the EXECUTIVE INSIGHTS:TRAVEL MANAGEMENT SPONSORED CONTENT GAO found using online booking for travel reservations whenever possible saved a law enforcement agency nearly $3.4 million in transaction fees during FY2015 alone.
August and September 2016
January and February 2017