When consulting firm Accenture last year changed its travel
policy to tighten compliance and require more economy- and less premium-class
travel, managing director of global travel and events Mary Bastrentaz prepared
for an outcry. But despite this "pretty big cultural change," she
said, Bastrentaz and her team were surprised by a supportive response as "noncompliance
dropped dramatically and we saved millions of dollars."
As it turned out, a seemingly minor thing went a long way,
Bastrentaz explained. The travel department had created a mini-report that made
it more plain to travelers what they were spending. "My Travel Summary, as
little as it seems, is a big contributor," she said.
The 'Guilt Factor'
Launched about a month before the policy change in late
2011, My Travel Summary appears on the personal Accenture portal home page of
every traveling employee. A dashboard details the employee's year-to-date
airfare spending, number of tickets booked outside policy, average number of
days booked in advance, missed savings, miles flown and travel-related carbon
Accenture made other technology and process changes to
enforce the revised policy, which eliminated international first-class travel,
required all employees below senior manager to fly economy and allowed business
class only for senior managers and executives on flights of more than eight
"We stop the booking if not compliant," Bastrentaz
said. Accenture's GetThere booking tool, owned by Sabre, advises travelers when
any potential booking options violate policy and forces those insistent on
making such bookings to check a box acknowledging they are aware of their
noncompliance. "That booking goes to an escalation process,"
Bastrentaz explained. "A leader in every market has to approve exceptions,
and each leader has guidelines on what they can approve."
By spring 2012, about four months into the new policy, the
travel team expected significant noncompliance figures but found no big jump. "I
think it's because of the guilt factor in My Travel Summary," she said.
The personal travel dashboards have been so successful that
plans are in place to show each traveler how their own data compares to three
other types of travelers, including by business unit and/or location.
"Many are talking about gamification," Bastrentaz
said. "This gives us the platform to show them others like you. We can
easily add recognition to reward those who make good travel-buying decisions."
She noted that other company departments already use recognition badges on the
"So many messages about cost reduction come from the
top," Bastrentaz added. "But to really change the mindset to more of
a cost-conscious awareness, there has to be a grassroots type of culture."
The capability to capture and consolidate such data and push
it monthly to each traveler emerged from Accenture's travel agency, Carlson
Wagonlit Travel. Technology transformation began nearly four years ago.
The multi-year journey transformed the company's fragmented
global travel structure into a streamlined, centrally managed program that now
allows travelers to "book anywhere, anytime." By consolidating to a
single global agency from two, to one global distribution system from four and
to one booking tool from seven, Accenture evolved its country-specific program,
which had been organized into 15 geographies, to a truly global operation.
Led by Chicago-based Bastrentaz, the travel team stretches
to 54 countries and manages not only travel contracts and operations, but also
meetings and events, corporate housing, logistics for expat relocations,
expense components related to travel and more. U.K.-based global operations
director Margaret McGrath worked with suppliers, the travel agency and
travelers to execute policy changes.
Organization: Global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing firm Accenture, with 257,000 employees, operations in more than 200 cities and $27.9 billion in sales for the 12 months ending Aug. 31
Volume: Nearly 100,000 travelers and about $1.2 billion in global travel, including $234 million in U.S.-booked air travel and another $350 million in air travel elsewhere
Challenge: Centrally manage and streamline a global travel program and revised policy to eliminate first-class and reduce business-class travel purchases
Approach: Rely on a single travel management company, global distribution system and online booking system, and implement technology notifications and pre-trip approvals to improve compliance
Solution: Deploy personal travel dashboards to summarize prior travel purchasing decisions, policy compliance and missed savings
One of the latest components of the technology vision was
put in place in recent weeks: a global or universal profile built by Carlson
Wagonlit Travel. The profile can be used to book travel while traveling, take
advantage of the local discounts, unique policies and travel management
support. This followed release of a Travel Arranger tool that allowed Accenture
administrative assistants from locations in India, Eastern Europe, Argentina or
the United States to support any traveler around the world. Until now, CWT and
Accenture created workarounds to assist such travelers. But the fixes weren't
seamless and corrupted data, she said.
Global profiles, Bastrentaz said, are expected to "improve
cost savings even more," as negotiated discounts always are applied and
manual rework is reduced. The global profiles could help airlines save time and
expense too, she added, as they won't have to file discounts in every market
for company employees to access them.
sister publication Business Travel News
in October named Bastrentaz its 2012 Multinational Travel Manager of the Year for her vision of the universal profile and tenacity to convince CWT
to fund the technology development. The tool now is available to other global
Timely reporting of travel trends long has been part of
Accenture's travel program. But with moves to a single travel management
company, GDS, booking tool and payment system, Accenture has relied on CWT to
consolidate all travel information and provide within two days at the end of
each month 94 percent of spending data. Relying on suppliers and internal
resources, the travel team provides senior management with reports on the
highest-spending travelers and travel trends from the prior month.
As the company since 2008 has added nearly 100,000 employees
and incurred greater travel costs, senior management frequently asked how to
"My rally cry with executives is that there really are
only three ways to do it," Bastrentaz said. "Negotiate better deals,
drive better compliance or stop traveling."
Accenture long has negotiated global contracts—backfilled
with local discounts—with airlines, hotels, car rental companies and other
major travel suppliers.
To address meeting costs, approvals and payment, Accenture's
travel and expense information technology developers in the past year built a
global meetings management platform using SharePoint, a Microsoft collaboration
solution. The tool manages the meeting-approval process and in the United States
integrates with American Express meeting cards.
Because both cost and work-life balance concerns have grown
during the past five years, Accenture installed a variety of videoconferencing
options, including more than 125 high-definition suites, 220 other systems and
100,000-plus webcam-enabled laptops. Bastrentaz said the cost of such systems
has dropped to a point where she even has in her home office a high-definition
system that allows her to connect to any other Accenture system.
Increasing the use of telepresence "certainly is about
cost reduction. Our travel was growing significantly, to more than about $1.2
billion in pure travel costs," Bastrentaz said. "But it's also about
engagement. It's about work-life balance. We needed to think differently about
how we work, collaborate and meet."
Beyond information technology, human resources and travel,
Bastrentaz said the best promoters of travel alternatives are senior leaders
and "technology champions, or those executives who use Skype at home"
or iPads to chat with their families.
A communications campaign at Accenture touted: "Travel
is so 20th century." Besides good communication, Bastrentaz recently told
delegates at an Association of Corporate Travel Executives event that "it's
really about getting leadership sponsoring and leading by example. We've had a
number of global broadcasts. Our CEO and global leadership team are very much
behind this. A recent employee webcast combined all types of virtual
technology—telepresence, Microsoft RoundTable, other things beaming in, Twitter
feeds going across the bottom of screens" and a facilitator who served
almost like a DJ to monitor it all. "It
was fabulous," she said. "If leadership is behind it, it does trickle
With leadership behind Accenture's most recent policy
change, Bastrentaz said the technology and focus on personal behavior helped to
deliver policy compliance and expected savings. "I really see the
technology transforming the travel experience, automating things, eliminating
anything that's non-value," she said.
Past And Future
Bastrentaz has worked on Accenture's travel program for more
than 17 years. She guided its evolution to online booking and has focused on
traveler safety and security, the traveler experience, environmental concerns,
demand management, meetings and events integration, travel alternatives and
More than ever before, Bastrentaz today finds herself
collaborating with managers and departments across her company as travel
touches so many. "I call myself the adaptive travel manager, because we
must adapt to so many things today," she said. As others in the company
set strategies for environmental awareness, facilities and the workplace,
Bastrentaz said "travel has to have a seat at the table as we deliver the services,"
or must interpret the impact a strategy might have on travel and supplier
relationships. "More than ever," she said, "I have to adapt our
program to each of their strategies and company needs."
This report originally
appeared in the November 2012 issue of Travel