• Strategy
  • CFO.com | US

Travel Expenses, Down to Earth

Some thoughts on keeping your global spend from flying off in all directions.

For Matthew Hackett, “power traveler” is hardly a glamourous label. A Waltham, Massachusetts-based business designer with the Global Consulting Oracle Practice of Computer Science Corp. (CSC), he spends 80 to 90 percent of his working hours on the road.

“I’ve been caught in situations where I’m not sure where I’m going from one week to the next,” says Hackett. Not surprisingly, when he books travel, Hackett simply wants to see the best options, without any hassles.

At CSC’s headquarters in El Segundo, California, Emily Rademaker faces broader issues. As director of Global Travel and Fleet Management, she monitors the spending of thousands of employees like Hackett. In fact, says Rademaker, about one-third of the company’s 79,000 employees travel for business — half of them, frequently.

Conflicts between personal travel concerns and companywide financial expenditures are a challenge for many organizations. Managing those differences effectively depends on an ever-changing balance between software, policies, and people.

Making Your Connection

Like most business travelers at CSC, Hackett relies on a web-based booking tool from GetThere, a division of Sabre Holdings. GetThere’s online tool, says Hackett, lets him review his previous travel, see where he’s scheduled to go next, and make close-in travel plans a little as four hours before a flight.

Back in El Segundo, data from GetThere feeds an online database called PowrPac, from Carlson Wagonlit Travel. Rademaker uses PowrPac to capture and analyze all of CSC’s travel-related expenses and bargain for the most competitive rates. When she negotiates with hotels, for example, she can confidently assert that “I have this amount to spend in this property, and I want a rate that’s commensurate with my spend.”

CSC employees can also call the company’s preferred travel agency to make their arrangements, but Rademaker notes that most employees prefer to book online. “The tools have come a long way in their ability to offer full content,” she says.

Indeed, competitive rates for airfares and hotels are just a jumping-off point for the latest web-based corporate travel systems. American Express Business Travel and Rearden Commerce recently launched what they describe as “an online personal concierge for business travelers.” AXIOM (the American Express Intelligent Online Marketplace) enables employees to find, purchase, and manage not only flights, car rentals, and hotel stays, but also related services like dining, ground transportation, event tickets, package shipping, and audio/web conferencing — more than 135,000 suppliers in all. At many companies those “ancillary” items are unmanaged, according to American Express Business Travel, yet they may account for as much as half of T&E.

After a traveler enters the basics of his or her trip, AXIOM automatically recommends related services; the completed itinerary can be loaded to Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes, and invitations can be automatically sent for calendar items such as a business breakfast or a teleconference. Updates are sent automatically, by voice, email, text, or fax, if any booked item is changed.

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