Best way to save money on travel? Don’t travel. Obviously that’s not an option in today’s modern world. For many companies, it is important to implement strict controls around the approval of business trips. So, how is your corporation handling pre-trip approvals?
A request & approval process that uses spreadsheets and emails is difficult to manage at scale, and not transparent. Corporations generally prefer to automate trip approvals based on pre-defined criteria. In this scenario, an employee would select the flights and hotels they’d like to book. Once they complete their itinerary, the employee adds a trip purpose then submits it for manager approval.
Managers can see the exact cost of the options that the employee has chosen, and evaluate the price of the trip versus the value of its business purpose.
While this method technically does work, it creates headaches for travelers and managers.
Pre-Trip Approval Headaches
In the scenario described above, travel requests have to be approved by the ticketing deadline for the airlines, which is often 11 pm on the same day. It takes managers time –hours, if not days, before they can review travel requests. If the manager does not make a decision same day, the employee is forced to go through the whole submission process again because the system automatically cancels their booking at the ticketing deadline.
This increases the traveler’s frustration. Equally, the manager is interrupted from their day to stop working, evaluate a request and approve or reject it.
It’s no secret that travel approvals cause more frustration than any other obstacle for employees. Booking business travel is time-consuming and stressful, especially when you factor in the countless policy guidelines that must be followed in order to secure reservations. What’s more painstaking is that most trip approval platforms are limited to how much pre-defined criteria you can even build into the workflow, and who is allowed to approve trips.
Variables in Approving Travel Requests
You can reduce traveler frustration by improving any part of the business travel process that slows them down. One way to do that is to implement a pre-trip approval solution that automates most of the process, especially for standard business trips at volume.
Before implementing a pre-trip approval solution, you must first know exactly WHAT you want to approve? And, WHY?
Instead of building a workflow that embodies your travel policy, you could consider setting a comprehensive, per-trip budget, say $1,000 to cover flights, hotels, etc. Then the manager does not need to be involved as long as the traveler stays within the approved budget. Ideal, right? Wrong.
Remember, you do not have much say on certain price variables in the travel industry. Oftentimes you are forced to accept whatever price the travel industry is offering you at the time of booking. The cost of flights is dictated by what the market says and prices change dynamically each day, each hour.
For example, an employee may ask their boss to fly to Hong Kong. The request may be reasonable, and typical from the employee – so the manager agrees. However, perhaps there is a big trade event taking place and the cost of all flights is well above the normal expected cost. The idea of setting a per-trip budget isn’t flexible enough to accept these market fluctuations.
Additionally, flight prices get more expensive the closer a departure gets. Lowest logical fare, which travel managers love so much, is useless as the base is on time of booking. Let’s say pre-booking approval takes one day on average, and you have 10,000 flights per year. Booking one day later WILL cause higher prices.
Then, there’s the question of purpose. If your VIPs and C-suite executives need to travel, the price will “always” be within policy.
Who decides if a lesser-tier employee needs to travel or not? As long as no reliable methodology for calculating the benefit of a business trip exists, you can only approve the business need, not the cost.
It is critical to inform the approving managers what the purpose is and give them the tools they need to approve or reject a trip immediately. Trondent’s Authorizer PRO gives managers the option to Approve or Reject a travel request directly from the emailed notification.
In an ideal world, it’d be great to trust employees to use their own common sense and follow policy rules when they need to book travel. If your goal is to make your employees feel valued and trusted, and create less work for admins and managers, you could remove all or most of your travel approvals!
But companies have a fundamental need to track every penny spent, especially after the Sarbanes Oxley Act.
With pre-trip approval, it is best to develop a system to handle total travel volume, and accommodate the exceptions. Most pre-trip solutions on the market today stifle the complexity of corporate travel policy by stuffing them into basic platforms that allow for only a handful of workflow rules.
Trondent’s rule-chaining technology offers an unlimited number of rules available for an unlimited number of trip approvers of all levels within the organization. The capacity for intricate workflows sets Authorizer PRO apart from any other trip solution today.
If you are ready to flip the switch on how your company handles pre-trip approvals, check out this Sample Workflow from Authorizer PRO. It’s a moderately complex set of rules built into an automated workflow that saves the traveler and manager time and curbs excess spending.
For more information about how Trondent can improve your company’s pre-trip approval process, contact us today.