Stamping your approval on T&E?
Traditional requirements for approval processes are one of the things that can be, let’s be honest, a bit burdensome. Part of the perceived gap between the light, fresh experience of a consumer travel booking and the more dowdy, heavy business trip version.
Traveldoo takes a position on this which could be seen as counter-intuitive. We have built a very flexible system, where companies can ask us to create a heavily customised and logic driven workflow, often mapping exactly onto a pre-existing paper or email system. At the same time, we strongly advise new clients, on a best practice basis, to try, as much as possible, to keep it simple … in fact to not use the tech we’ve built.
The situation is, admittedly, different for travel bookings and expense claims. We’ll come to expense claims in a minute.
For travel, one of the important things to realise is that overall, approval rates for business trips run at over 95%. People generally don’t try to book things they shouldn’t. If they are booking non-compliant, there is generally a good reason (beyond a belief in their own self-importance). A causal factor of this situation of general “good behaviour” is the fact that we have moved, for most of our personal and professional lives, from paper and telephone to online. We all have a general sense that whatever we do via our computers is logged and monitored, even if there is no specific approval system. So we self-regulate.
In this context it really makes less sense to carry over the type of baroque multi-level approval system which were very common in the past. This is true especially in a travel market place where prices can go up steeply during the time it takes for the right group of people to review and “OK” an original ticket price.
If the company can reconcile itself culturally with the approach, we have found a “notification” process works better for an average travel program. In this approach, your boss will get an email informing her that your trip is booked, but need do nothing if that is fine by them – which is true 95% of the time. If there is a problem, there is slightly more risk that money could be spent which shouldn’t, but overall our experience is that processes run much smoother and more efficiently, with less unnecessary actions for those involved.
The exception to this comes with travel to risky countries, where it is often needed to get a formal “OK”. This is usually not so much about the spend but more to align with Duty of Care obligations and to ensure that the correct actions and precautions are taken.
For expense, we similarly advise to control complexity, but don’t go as far as proposing notification only. For audit and compliance reasons, most companies need an official authentication on expense spend. The best we can do is develop useful features, such as only triggering approval workflow when the receipts are ready, which make the process as efficient as possible.
At Traveldoo we are very proud of the tech we have created around approval processes, particularly in an information rich environment where we can easily highlight policy exception, missed savings, capture reason codes for non-compliance, etc, etc. But sometimes, the right approach is not to apply the most technology, it is to think more deeply about the goals we all want to acheive. The answer can often be as much cultural as technological.