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Going, Going… Global

As businesses continue to extend overseas, so must their travel management programs. Here’s a six-part plan for global expansion.

“In about five years there will be two types of CEOs: those who think globally and those who are unemployed.” — Peter F. Drucker

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Globalization — perhaps more appropriately called multinational consolidation — is sweeping across the managed travel landscape. Yes, we’ve all been there before, but an increasing number of companies have now gained the required magic to move forward: senior management support.

This spurt of multinational activity is motivated by a number of goals, including travel policy harmony, airline contracting, centralized travel management, other company multinational consolidation efforts, and procurement directives. Regardless of the cause, the effect is eagerly welcomed by the managed travel community.

However, these initiatives cannot be maximized without the proper supporting business case to measure the results. To help make that case, we present the “6 S’s” as best practices that create maximum value while consolidating multiple countries into a cohesive managed travel program. They are Solid Support (or Sincerity), Simplify, Standardize, Streamline, and Sell.

Solid Support (or Sincerity)

To make the business case for multinational consolidation, as well as to create the foundation for ongoing support, travel managers present certain assumptions about the current and proposed future state of the business travel industry to senior management. These suppositions will certainly be used to value the results. Astute travel managers ensure that the underlying estimates are unquestionably accurate and achievable. This builds the credibility and integrity that is the bedrock of all successful programs.

Simplify

With the proliferation of data at hand, today’s tendency is to quantify and report it all — everything. Managers have many responsibilities (and much to review), so less truly is more. Identify a few, significant goals (drawing on focus groups and customer sessions) and pay attention to the majority of your efforts in their direction. This allows your team to stay on track while concentrating on fewer common goals. By focusing on only key goals, you’ll have a better chance for success. (However, remember, if goals are truly identified as key, you must achieve those goals.)

Standardize

Diversity, in this case, is not good! With many countries come many cultures and approaches to measuring progress. Together with your team, develop key measurement standards, apply universal definitions, and require all key suppliers to work within that common framework. This allows for instant multinational comparisons, ease of understanding by company management (including those responsible for travel in that country), and consistency of supplier reviews. As noted above, ensure that the required reporting is the minimum to accomplish your key objectives — this will also help focus the key suppliers towards your key goals.

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Streamline

Best practices call for common procedures in all locations — a mostly unachievable goal considering today’s complex multinational travel industry. Most corporate travel management programs have successfully built their main country programs (usually in the US, Canada, and the UK) to their liking via travel policy, travel counselor client interfacing, mid-office processing, reporting, and technology add-ons. The ideal solution is to move that system into each country that becomes part of the program. Since companies often heavily customize these processes, they are easily transferable. Companies should strive to replicate as much as possible as they enter new countries, again focusing on the key objectives. These usually manifest themselves in travel policy and reporting.

Scorecard

How do you know if you are successful? Identifying these criteria in advance helps ensure cohesive execution that meets the objectives and strategies you’ve identified. Ensure that those measurements and their supporting calculations are above reproach. Travel managers want to be certain that success can be celebrated — rather than debating the scorecard — when these goals are achieved.

Sell

No program, no matter how widely managed, or how successful, will promote itself. Travel managers must spread their gospel far and wide. Presentations to senior management will be required, but other avenues should be pursued to ensure the message is consistent and clear. Programs that do this well seldom spend time on subjects such as “Why should we manage travel?” and “The Internet is cheaper.” These have been diffused early and often.

Putting it All Together

Take the hottest day of the year with perfectly blue skies and the sun shining down — and hold a magnifying glass over a pile of newspaper. Nothing will happen as long as you keep moving the magnifying glass around. But the moment you hold the glass still, it will concentrate the sun’s rays, igniting that pile of papers. Travel managers who focus their magnifying glass on these “6 S’s” can pinpoint that collective energy toward maximum success.

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