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Sourcing and Procurement

Mobile Travel Policy. Do you have one?

It is more than fair to say that majority of professionals use their mobile devices both in and outside of the office. It helps them to stay productive. But when it comes to business travel, people use their devices even more frequently. For instance, booking travel arrangements, surfing for hotel reviews, expense reporting, or using airport maps of unknown airports. But is this covered in the relevant business travel policies?

Very few companies claim to have a comprehensive mobile travel policy. Majority of companies have some sort of policy governing the use of mobile devices for official purposes, but this tends to be written more from an IT perspective and not covering the specifics on how mobile devices should be used within the travel procurement process. Hardly anyone would argue that business travel is a great fit for mobile services, hence it is clearly time to act, where travel managers should start overhauling business travel policy to reflect the changing market.

Actually, with a good fit, travel department can easily find itself pioneering the mobile policy for entire enterprise. Cooperation with other departments such as IT or security is critical, as travel-specific mobile policy should be aligned to avoid confusion among its users.

There are obviously many doubts and many reasons why companies have not written mobile travel policies as yet. A lot of questions remain unanswered. Who pays for the apps and devices? Will the security be assured? Is it acceptable for suppliers to market directly to travelers? How to prevent employees from using travel apps in a way that violate travel policy? Travel managers will certainly try to answer as many of such questions as possible prior to formalizing mobile travel policy.

Alternatively, key suppliers such as Travel Management Companies (TMCs) may have existing solutions enabling quick deployment and providing sufficient level of security. However, very critical factor is to involve IT department from the beginning and clarify who owns the device and who pays for apps. Moreover, entire mobile space should be looked at strategically to avoid the narrow vision of which of the available apps and travel-related technologies have potential to enhance the travel program.

Historically, travel procurement managers started with implementation of mobile solutions with very limited risk of policy violations. To name a few, it includes approvals, itinerary apps and alerts pushed to traveler’s mobile devices. Hotel, rail and car bookings were the next, but doubts and issues persisted with air bookings. The main problem was the small smartphone screen disabling to display available fares in the same way as full-blown online booking tools.

Another key issue was the existence of direct offers from the app providers incentivizing the bookings of auxiliary items such as seating or upgrades. But despite this, the key technology providers in this area are currently saying that they found a way how to offer mobile users the ability to research and buy air tickets in the policy-compliant way.

However, it is safe to say that technology development of corporate travel apps has been slower to keep up with consumer counterparts. Practically speaking, a popular and user-friendly air booking app designed for end customers significantly increases pressure on travel managers and their relationship with TMCs. Business travelers are able to benchmark fares provided by authorized TMC with the ones available in the market in the matter of seconds.

Corporations missing mobile element in their travel policies should act. Mobile world is developing the light speed way and may quickly go out of control. Sophisticated solutions are currently available in the market and the development is not stopping. Travelers’ experience should be the key when composing the mobile travel policy. The aim should be to make travelers’ life easier. Travelers should be able to perform all steps of the travel process using their mobile devices in a policy-compliant way.