Getting all your travel program data in once place is hard. Out-of-policy bookings and poor data capture make it difficult to paint a complete picture. But if you find a way to consolidate travel and expense (T&E) information, you stand to reap significant program management benefits. To arrive at this utopia, you must clear the path of program leakage obstacles:

It’s harder to help travelers during a disruption: When full trip details are not captured during the booking process, it makes it difficult for risk managers and security teams racing to locate travelers who need help. If there’s flight disruption, it’s harder for your travel management company (TMC) to support if there’s no trip record in the system.

You likely will pay more on travel: When travelers book outside policy, they are not taking advantage of the preferred rates and fares likely available to them. Even if they think they’re are getting a bargain, they may not be accounting for extra amenities you’ve already negotiated, such as complimentary WiFi or breakfast in hotels, or lounge access at airports. Plus, when policies are not properly communicated, some staff may be unable to resist the temptation to upgrade their experience and overspend.

Holes in reporting can clog up program performance: Having obscured visibility of program performance makes it trickier to compare actual versus budgeted spend and makes fulfilling volume thresholds with suppliers harder to attain and validate. Without proper insight, it is also harder to drive program optimization and traveler satisfaction.

Time to investigate

As we prepare to get the world moving again, companies are focused on managing cost while making sure they have the right technology and processes in place to fulfill their duty of care obligations. As TMCs and corporate travel teams, we must therefore take advantage of this rare opportunity to address out-of-policy bookings and program leakage. The first step is to determine the source of the leak and how extensive it is. This requires a bit of investigative work as you follow the information trail. Data often goes MIA when travelers book trips through consumer websites, directly with suppliers, or with personal credit cards. Auditing expense reports is one way to turn up spend occurring outside the company’s approved channels.

A data analytics solution that consumes and aggregates data from multiple sources, such as travel suppliers, credit card providers and expense management vendors, can also give you insights into noncompliant behavior. With such a tool, you can measure program leakage while identifying the business units and individuals most often breaching policy. The data from this tool can provide clues to help you figure out why travelers are straying. For instance, are they mainly booking hotels outside of the program? Are particular business units or travelers usually repeat policy offenders? Could it be a larger issue, such as an ineffective travel policy or limited travel options? Once you know the root cause, you can fix the problem. 

Aim to capture total spend

Lack of spend visibility can also result from the ways programs and systems are structured. For instance, despite having a significant overlap with travel, meetings and events activities are often handled by separate teams. By consolidating them, you gain greater transparency on true spend, and create additional savings opportunities, possibly furnishing more robust volume numbers to present during supplier negotiations and reducing indirect costs associated with process inefficiencies.

As we’ve now established, tracking travel and expense is not easy. For many companies, the data lives in multiple, fragmented databases, making it difficult to align and analyze. Adding another layer of complexity is the new content, channels, and branded supplier bundles that are becoming more prevalent. To obtain a complete, accurate view of total travel spend, make sure your reporting tools capture every type of expense, including ancillary and out-of-pocket fees, and that each transaction is picked up and ingested correctly.

You also may want to consider a platform that combines booking with expense management to capture T&E data all in one place. Having just one tool creates a more complete picture of your travel program, simplifies processes, creates a unified experience for all teams involved, and generates cost savings.