Automated Travel Management Software – Simplifying and Streamlining Business Travel
With globalization pushing geographical boundaries of businesses, the discipline of travel management is crucial for optimizing overall performance of the business. Planning for corporate business travel is a challenging proposition, given planning, negotiations, and budgeting involved in travel management. A travel management system helps companies organize corporate travel, track travel expenses, and design a comprehensive travel strategy. Read on to understand travel management workflow, uses of travel management software, and the top 5 business travel software for 2023.
Mapping the Travel Management Workflow
Travel management systems focus on organizing corporate travel, tracking all expenses related to travel, and designing a comprehensive travel strategy. As a business discipline, travel management systems help businesses and employees optimize the way they deal with their travel planning. A travel management platform ensures that all travel plans are handled properly and productivity and financial results are not affected by travel.
Organizations can take 2 approaches to travel management – they can either handle it in-house or outsource it to an external travel agency. Using an in-house travel agent means that the responsibility for managing travel remains with the business. An existing employee may be reserved for travel management or a new employee may be recruited exclusively for the purpose. Having an internal travel management team allows you to scrutinize their work easily and also avoids paying commission or subscription fees to external agents. The only disadvantage of having an internal travel agent is that he/she will be blocked only for these activities, hence, will not be available for other work activities.
External corporate travel agents on the other hand take care of all the travel planning and arrangements for several organizations. The entire responsibility for travel management is outsourced to an agency/agent that specializes in the travel management discipline. The person managing travel strategy will not be an employee of the company but engage their services whenever travel planning is needed. Payment to the external agency/agent is done as a commission or as a subscription fee.
The advantage of employing the services of travel agencies is that employees are freed from taking up other work responsibilities. Moreover, businesses can gain insights from their specialization in travel management. Travel agents can come up with the best travel plan that avails discounts and seasonal rebates on travel costs. The disadvantage of employing external travel agents is that it is difficult to scrutinize their work.
The Key Tasks in the Travel Management Workflow are Listed below:
Travel planning – The main focus of travel management is planning ahead of time for business travel. The points that need to be considered include, choosing the right dates for travel, the best times for flights, the best accommodation, and whether airport transfers are needed. Employees or travel agents with in-depth knowledge of the travel industry are best suited for travel planning. Internally, travel managers can work on travel planning. Externally, a travel agency will ensure that travel is well planned and nothing is missed or forgotten.
Price negotiation – Negotiating the price for travel and accommodation is an important part of travel planning. Corporate travel management involves arranging business travel at the best possible price. Travel agents need to skillfully negotiate with a number of vendors to avail the best price for travel. Travel management agencies are adept at price negotiations because their staff will be experienced in negotiations and will be in constant touch with people in the travel industry. Travel agents can leverage these contacts to get the best travel and accommodation deals.
Accommodation arrangements – Arranging for accommodation for business travelers is an important part of travel management. Cost-effective accommodation arrangements require careful consideration of all available options of hotels, bed and breakfast, and even shared accommodations. One needs to consider the right number of rooms, the right number of days, and the right price while planning for accommodation. Rather than focusing on the cheapest accommodation or available accommodation at the required location, travel agents must evaluate travelers’ requirements and match them against the available options. Only after weighing various factors must they decide on the right accommodation.
Transportation – In addition to the actual travel, transportation to the airport/station and to the accommodation also must be handled by travel management solutions. Transport arrangements form a huge part of travel planning. Booking flights, securing a rental car, arranging airport transfers, purchasing train tickets, and booking discount travel passes are all part of the transportation arrangements in travel planning. Optimizing the corporate travel strategy requires planning all these aspects well in advance, for the best possible price with the guarantee that travelers get to their destination on time.
Meeting and event planning – Business travel is usually undertaken to attend meetings or business events. Travel planners need to include organizing these meetings or events within the scope of planning. For example, ensuring that everyone attending the event has the right credentials to get in and that they know exactly where they are going and what they are doing is part of travel management. When the planners are in charge of hosting the business event, deeper planning is required.
Managing travel expenses – Managing travel expenses is the most important part of travel planning. Staying within the allocated travel budget is a must while planning for corporate travel. Travel costs, accommodation costs, transportation costs, and extras, all of them need to be accommodated under a single bill, that too within the allocated budget. Travel managers can refer to financial reports in order to fine-tune travel arrangements as per the budget.
The role played by face-to-face meetings with clients and business partners in promoting business growth cannot be undermined. Building relationships with clients and partners become more meaningful and relevant when preceded by a personal meeting. Arranging for such meetings is a must for businesses of all types and scales. The best way to arrange these meetings is by using corporate travel management solutions. A travel management platform includes travel arrangements and a travel expense management system.
Travel management software is often confused with expense management systems. However, expense management is different from a travel expense management system. The former is concerned with all the expenses in the organization, while the latter is concerned only with expenses associated with corporate travel. The requirements of travel management software vary with the organization type.
What is a Travel Management System?
Travel management software or corporate travel management system is designed to help companies coordinate the travel activities and expenses of employees. Travel management apps handle a variety of tasks from booking hotels and flights to coordinating the travel schedules of all employees to recording travel expenses. A corporate travel management tool allows organizations and individuals to spend less time planning trips and logging travel expenses manually.
Other features of travel management include the automation of corporate travel policies and the ability to consolidate travel invoices and vendors. Archaic travel management methods followed by small to medium-sized businesses consisted of employees following the company travel policy to make travel bookings and then submit the claims for reimbursement.
This method would not work for large-scale businesses, where several employees travel at the same time and submit claims for reimbursement. The best way is to use a travel management app for making corporate travel bookings as per the company’s policies, submit reimbursement and get it approved automatically.
A travel management system equips the company and its employees with complete information on travel inventories, travel policies, reporting, auditing, and other services. A travel management platform can be used to manage travel arrangements for employees and also track travel expenses. Companies can ensure that travel policies are enforced and traced, and hold their employees accountable on all business trips with a corporate travel management tool. Other capabilities that a travel management system adds to a travel management strategy are corporate travel policy automation and the ability to integrate bills with accounting software for expense reimbursement.
Features of a Travel Management System
The features of the travel management solution are based on the unique requirements within the organization. Travel policies and reimbursement policies are different in different organizations. The right travel management system must take care of the entire travel management process – from logging travel requests to travel expense reimbursement. There are some must-have features of travel management systems that you cannot do without.
1- Managing travel requests – The most common way of logging a travel request is via a form that gathers information like employee name, employee number (code), travel details, and approving manager. In some cases some of the fields in the travel request form are auto-filled.
2- Approval hierarchies – A completed travel request form is submitted to the travel management system. The system routes the request to the manager or approving authority as per preset rules in the software. The approval hierarchy may comprise multiple levels. Some travel management software provides auto-approval features and notification features for speedy approvals.
3- Policy compliance – Adherence to company travel policies is a must for all business travel. When the travel management system takes care of policy compliance with travel requests, it lifts a significant workload off the manager’s shoulders. Travel management apps flag off any policy violations so that there is no scope for fraud or duplication.
4- Simple bookings – The main reason why companies go for travel management solutions is to simplify travel request processing and approval workflows. The employee’s travel planning must be carried out smoothly, and the manager must rest assured that all requests are well within the budget and compliant with travel policies.
5- Reporting and analytics – The travel management software must provide real-time reporting and analytics into travel request status and spending. Real-time updates enable managers to spot overspending and take necessary action to curb budget overshoot.
6- Multiple inventory options – The travel management platform must allow the best route to access flight and accommodation vendors. The software must allow users to get the best quotes, compare them, and choose the one that not only fits their travel requirements but is also pocket friendly. In short, the software must offer the best value for money and also provide a seamless booking and travel experience.
7- Easy to use interface – Overly complex user interfaces are a put-off for users. The interface must be simple and intuitive at the same time. Minimal or no training required for operating the software is ideal. Navigation through the software also must be smooth and seamless.
8- Integration – The travel management system must seamlessly integrate with other business systems. For example, the travel management system must integrate with the finance and accounting systems for quick and timely payments. The data exchange between travel management systems and other business systems must happen smoothly.
9 – User support – The travel management platform must offer real-time flexibility to handle exceptions in travel request processing. User support must be available to quickly resolve any unexpected issues without causing delays in subsequent processes.
10 – Cost-effective – The travel management solution must be a good value for the money. The software must take care of all the aspects of travel management- right from logging a request to expense reimbursement. The pricing structure of the software must be transparent and clear, without any hidden costs.
The choice of the travel management system is an important decision that an organization has to make. Software that provides all of the above features is definitely worthy of consideration. Cflow is a no-code workflow automation platform that can automate your travel management workflow within minutes. The easy-to-use user interface makes it super easy to create forms for any workflow. Reporting and analytics feature provides users with deep insights into process cycle times, bottlenecks, and efficiencies. The customizable dashboard in Cflow provides a bird’s eye view into all the processes in the workflow so that managers can make data-driven business decisions within minutes.
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Advantages of Using Travel Management Software
Automating the travel management process is the best way to manage travel approvals and travel expense management under a single platform. Travel management software simplifies the way travel-related arrangements are managed. Gathering all the details needed to start the process and enabling changes along the way can be easily done with travel management software. Let us go through the other advantages of using travel management software.
Provide personalized, intelligent trip itineraries – Travel management software leverages the information on employees to create personalized travel itineraries. Each travel itinerary weighs traveler preferences against the company’s travel policies. Employees can enter complete information about their travel into a form that captures all the details. The software provides employees the flexibility to handle simple overnight trips to multi-week international travel as well.
Centralized data capture and access – Travel management software helps capture travel-related data and store the information in a centralized location. With all travel data available in a centralized location, the employees can view the status of their travel requests. Role-based access is given so that crucial information cannot be tampered with by employees. Travel managers and finance personnel can make informed decisions based on the data visibility provided by the software.
Maximizes value from travel spending – Travel management software provides insights into the latest travel trends and policies, so that travel planning can be done to maximize value from travel spending. Travel planning using the software focuses on driving cost savings, increasing traveler satisfaction, and providing maximum value for the money spent.
Full visibility and control over travel spending – A travel management system provide travel managers with new ways to understand and control travel spend. Real-time updates on traveler data, new travel policies, seasonal offers, etc are made available to travel managers, which enables them to have complete visibility over travel spending and control expenses as well.
Timely approval of travel requests – An automated travel management system routes the travel request to the right people. Approvals are built into the workflow so that the approving authority is alerted and notified of pending approvals. Employees too can check the status of their travel requests via automated notifications.
A workflow automation software streamlines the entire travel management workflow, by automating redundant and repetitive steps in the process. Travel managers are freed of these steps so that they can work on more productive tasks like managing travel spending.
Travel Management System Versus Expense Management System
The terms travel management system and expense management system are often used interchangeably in many organizations. There is confusion regarding the focus and scope of these two systems. Travel management systems are mainly focused on travel planning and spending management. These systems take care of the entire travel management workflow, from travel request submission to expense reimbursement. Travel management systems need to factor in market updates, policy changes, seasonal discounts, and offers, for the travel planning process.
The expense management system on the other hand focuses on managing expenses incurred by all the departments. Any expense incurred by the employee is recorded in the expense request form and submitted to the approver along with the proof of expense. The first line of review is usually the department head. Once the expense is approved by the line manager, it is forwarded to the finance team for review and approval.
Top 5 Travel Management Software for 2023
As per a report by Market Research Future, the Travel Management Software Market is positioned to grow at a CAGR of 10.5% to reach $ 17.4 billion between the forecast period 2020-2030. As we embark on 2023, let us take a look at the top travel management software that will be dominating the market scene.
1. Cflow – Complete workflow automation platform for streamlining travel management workflows.
Cflow is a no-code BPM solution that can automate key business workflows within minutes. The visual workflow designer in Cflow can be used by anyone to create process workflows as per the unique requirements of the process. The rules engine in Cflow can create completely customized travel workflows with rules and conditions tweaked as per specific business requirements.
2. Concur travel – Great travel management software for small to large businesses.
Concur travel enables businesses to set up their travel plans quickly and easily. This software simplifies travel management and lets employees book travel on their own by leveraging the best rates and discounts. Travel managers are equipped with control over travel spending with Concur.
3. TripActions – Save time and money with corporate travel management
TripAction enables travel managers to book travel within minutes and automate the rest of the processes like expense report management, accounting, and approval. This software provides real-time control and visibility into travel spending.
4. TravelPerk – Largest travel inventory guide and powerful travel management features
TravelPerk offers the world’s largest travel inventory guide and travel management features like travel spending tracking, expense reporting and integrations, and compliance insights.
5. Flightfox – Modern corporate travel services
This software is suitable for travel agencies. This travel management software is an online tool that can be used to review upcoming trips, download expense reports, etc. This gives you the experience of using the corporate travel services of a travel agency along with modern software features.
Each travel management software is designed to cater to varying business needs. Choose the software that covers all the requirements of travel management, from request logging to travel planning to expense reimbursement.
With business operations transcending geographical boundaries, the frequency of business travel has increased considerably. Organizations must consider investing in a travel management system that helps them strategize corporate travel planning and maintain control over travel spending. Business travel software helps businesses spend less time manually planning trips and logging travel expenses.
A travel management platform helps companies coordinate travel activities like flight bookings, booking hotels, coordinating travel schedules of team members, and recording travel expenses. Travel management software also helps travel managers stay updated on travel policy changes and seasonal discounts on flight and hotel bookings. Cflow can be used by organizations to streamline travel planning and travel expense management. To explore how Cflow enriches the travel planning process, sign up for the free trial today.
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