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Having spent most of the past year assessing and implementing a totally new vision for travel management at Oracle Corporation, Ralph Colunga counts among his team's successes a revamped corporate card program, an updated global policy statement, new global emergency procedures and a formal supplier partnership program including new vendor agreements.
But these achievements exemplify only the beginning of what Colunga called phase one of a transformation stemming from his initial assessment and structural reorganization. With each incremental improvement in efficiency, savings are inevitable as Oracle this year expects to spend about $550 million on travel and entertainment, including $240 million on air travel.
As a veteran travel manager and procurement professional, Colunga is big on seeking efficiency through proper, comprehensive organization. The philosophy jibes nicely with Oracle's guiding principles of simplification, standardization and automation.
"We have applied those guiding principles as we look at how to define a best-in-class global travel program that balances employee needs and corporate goals," said Colunga, Oracle's senior director of travel, meetings, sourcing, data and card solutions, in an interview today with The Transnational.
Moving away from the previous structure of four independent, regional travel management operations, Colunga last December established the five global silos reflected in his title: travel, meetings, sourcing, data and card. "Regional travel operations tend to become more focused on what's good for the region rather than the big picture," said Colunga.
With eight management personnel including four global (previously regional) travel operations managers, the travel silo sets travel strategy, runs processes and partners with the sourcing team. Travel's major goal over the next 18 months or so is to consolidate or standardize Oracle's 73 worldwide Carlson Wagonlit Travel locations (and 18 non-CWT locations), 55 distinct travel booking "workflows," seven global distribution systems and three online booking tools, Colunga said.
He is aiming to use a single GDS as much as possible, standardize on a "primary" workflow for bookings and reduce from 91 business travel call centers to between 12 and 16. In addition to committing to CWT around the world, Oracle has named Sabre's GetThere its preferred global corporate booking tool.
"We're still in implementation phase one, and our target goal in travel was to reach a point of arrival within two years," said Colunga. "We're already about five months into that, so the clock is ticking. But we have made tremendous progress."
The sourcing group's four members are attempting to move Oracle to what Colunga called the supplier's "customer of choice. We want our suppliers to want to work with us, and we do that by not over-committing, treating them fairly and having honest dialogue."
With multiple supplier tiers including a top tier that requires quarterly reviews of both the supplier's and the customer's performance, Oracle's supplier partnership program treats travel not as a commodity, but as a "service commodity," Colunga said. "We are trying to take the approach that service is nothing more than controlling people's expectations."
The first travel vendor to participate in a global supplier partnership agreement with Oracle was a hotel firm, which worked closely with Oracle for many months to establish terms and conditions as part of the creation of a strategic partnership. The hotel company has enjoyed a high double-digit increase in business from Oracle since last year, Colunga said.
In meetings management, Oracle has taken a subject-matter expert approach, shifting away from the previous environment that employed 30 meeting planners. Instead, three meetings personnel with in-depth knowledge of food and beverage, contracting and audio-visual needs manage outsourced planners. "We thought it was important to have, for example, someone who knows menu planning," said Colunga. "We have hired someone with in-depth knowledge from the chef's point of view, down to what the per-ounce cost of food should be." Colunga's team also is developing plans to offer automated event registration services.
Oracle's card program also employs an outsourced model in that its single manager works with five dedicated account representatives from the company's payment vendor. "Those individuals report up to the global corporate card programs manager and they have daily calls on what's transpiring in the regions," said Colunga.
Data also has a single manager, who is working with a third party to consolidate disparate information streams from the TMC, payment system and suppliers. "If you can't track it, you can't trend it, and if you can't trend it, you can't trim it," Colunga quipped.
Ultimately, he sees the reorganization as promoting visibility with senior management. The global team is designed "to better understand and institute greater controls and transparency into how travel is managed, and its cost to the corporation," Colunga said. Other goals include the production of "comprehensive, meaningful" travel management data reporting and a "global pricing model"--all within a framework that "embraces procurement disciplines related to supplier rationalization and quality, compliance management, service-level agreements and defined metrics."
Colunga reports to a procurement vice president.
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