“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
– Abraham Lincoln
Implementing a new company Travel & Expense (T&E) tool significantly impacts all employees, which is why preparation is vital. While T&E software companies may claim they can implement a system in as little as 4 months, it takes as much time, if not more, for preparation before the official start of the project. The introduction of this type of project requires a long-term vision, even if the project can be done in stages. In short: there’s no shortcut to success!
Build in flexibility for future adaptability
According to Amelie Berreux, of Axys Consultants in France: “The company can define a step-by-step roadmap and start by implementing a tool for expense only or for travel only – but must give it plenty of thought from the start so as not to limit future opportunities. For example, if the company acquires a travel tool and then wants to equip it with an expense tool a few years later, selecting a tool with the ability to do both must be a prerequisite.”1
But before discussing the implementation of an expense tool, the company must clearly define its needs and requirements.
Amelie adds: “You have to ask the right questions beforehand. For example: should I choose the travel agency before setting up the tool, or after? You must set the guidelines at the start, simplify and make structural choices. During this phase, geographical areas must be defined correctly. The geographical limits can be of importance as the specifics of expense are usually defined at the country level. In addition, the travel part also has its share of local uniqueness. Finally, the more the company defines its scope, simplifies its processes and reviews its organisation, the more T&E providers will be able to put figures on an offer that is going to be competitive.” 1
Because the devil is in the detail, Rosa-Maria Liechtenauer, Global Mobility Lead Buyer of Atos International, explains that overlooking some points which may seem minor at first can become a bottleneck: for example the regulations for financial data that vary from country to country. 1
10 tips for successfully implementing a new Travel & Expense tool:
- Set clear goals and SMART objectives for the project – ones that align with the company’s overall vision (not just regional or location based objectives).
- Set a budget as well, and a budget for expected savings, so ROI can easily be calculated.
- Ensure you have a senior level project sponsor.
- A project manager is essential, someone from within the company or from an external consulting firm who is a dedicated success manager.
- Implementation should be run as a project, with involvement from all stakeholder departments – and don’t forget your travel management company!
- Ensure your travel & expenses policy is in place and agreed by senior executives. If this is not done, your expected savings could be compromised.
- Choose the right software for your company. It must address all the company’s known and anticipated needs: the right travel content, meeting all the financial specifics of the country, and a robust interface with the other systems being used within the company. Be detailed and think long term!
- Don’t forget change management and internal communication is a big part of this technology advancement, and this should start long before the ‘go-live’ date. It’s vital to get buy-in in the battle to win not only minds, but hearts too.
- Test and train, then test and train some more. You can never be too thorough in this regard.
- Use change champions to promote adoption after implementation, and provide on-going support, especially during the early stages where teething problems may emerge.
These are just some of the factors that need to be considered when implementing a T&E solution, but there are many more that will help ensure success. With comprehensive preparation, the support of stakeholders and the right solution that checks all the strategic boxes that the corporation has for smarter T&E management, a corporation can easily achieve significant savings. A more efficient travel management process translates into real benefits of up to 20% savings in direct travel costs and 65% savings for indirect costs. 2
1 Translated from French into English, from Amadeus France Opinion Paper: “De la stratégie au déploiement : Comment mettre en place un outil de gestion des déplacements et des frais professionnels? Comment impliquer les équipes concernées et développer l’adoption?
2 Ana de Pro, Chief Financial Officer – Amadeus IT Group