Creating The Perfect Travel Request Approval Process
Unfortunately, a persistent problem facing many with such aspirations is that they often find themselves in situations where the trips become a tiresome burden with exponentially higher costs than expected.
Why is this, you wonder? Simply put, the chaotic, frustrating, and challenging task of working with outdated spreadsheet-based systems makes business travel nightmarish every step of the way.
This problem is especially true for the archaic travel approval process, which makes trips unmanageable and unfeasible. We are here to tell the readers they don’t need to be.
This article will explore the travel request approval process, the challenges organizations face using older processes, and how creating a clear, automated workflow can help overcome these challenges. By the end of this article, you will understand why creating an ideal travel request approval workflow is essential to succeed in today’s competitive business environment.
What is a travel request approval process?
A travel request approval process is a series of actions that an employee or traveler follows to acquire management consent to implement a trip.
This process typically begins with the employee filling out a travel request form outlining the trip’s details, including the destination, purpose, dates, and estimated expenses.
The employee then forwards the request to the assigned administrative authorities and stakeholders through outdated methods of communication, such as email, for review. The review process involves managers and admins checking compliance with travel policies, estimating trip feasibility, verifying budget availability, and obtaining approvals from the other relevant organizational stakeholders.
Based on such considerations, the request is either sanctioned or denied. Once approved, the employee can purchase flight tickets, reserve accommodations, and perform other necessary tasks to carry out the trip.
Why do you need a travel request approval workflow?
A travel request approval workflow is an excellent way to simplify the outdated, inefficient, and problematic process that most businesses continue to follow even today. A streamlined workflow ensures compliance with the corporate travel policy, improves planning efficiency, regulates costs, enhances communication, and increases security.
Moreover, implementing one further ensures that travel expenses are quickly approved, transparent, and well-planned.
Here are some of the real-world problems several businesses face which necessitate a systematic travel request approval workflow.
Limited control over expenses
Proper internal controls make it easier for businesses to track trip expenses, maintain compliance, and impose spending constraints. The main problem behind the manual travel request process is that it fails to establish such controls for employee expenses, causing widespread policy non-compliance and overspending.
The situation worsens when too many stakeholders are involved in the decision-making process. When this happens, it becomes a challenge to manage or keep track of the approved expenses, often resulting in travelers exceeding their allotted budgets.
On the other hand, a travel request approval workflow provides travelers with a framework that helps them stay compliant and within their budgetary limitations throughout the travel process.
The ideal workflow should enhance the business’s expense controls while leaving no room for misinformation or miscommunication. Even when the business trip involves multiple travelers, an excellent workflow allows consistent policy compliance and expense transparency between the travelers and their respective departmental heads, managers, and admins.
Key information doesn’t reach the right people
When using manual systems, employees regularly encounter numerous roadblocks between them and acquiring the necessary travel permissions. This situation is especially true when requests are sent to an unnecessarily large number of stakeholders regardless of their role or relevance in the travel request process.
There are bound to be information gaps, miscommunication, errors, and delays when this occurs. And critical information sometimes does not reach crucial decision-makers on time, considerably slowing down the process.
Moreover, manual systems make it nearly impossible for travelers to make quick, time-sensitive decisions that could drive down trip costs.
Instead, an automated travel request workflow system can guarantee that critical travel proposals and information is sent only to those with the utmost relevance to the nature of the proposal.
This way, essential stakeholders are routinely kept informed and updated on the decision-making process. Such a level of transparency dramatically improves communication and reduces the risk of misunderstandings.
By assigning priority levels to requests, you also ensure that administrators get instantly notified and attend to critical requests without delays.
Manual processes are inefficient
Implementing and managing business trips through manual processes is a tedious task with several redundancies that causes delays and human error.
Here, the time it takes for the itinerary, travel costs, trip expenses, and relevant justifications to be approved generally takes several days or weeks to get accepted. By this time, trip costs may dramatically escalate.
On the other hand, an automated travel request approval workflow can significantly reduce the time to process such requests from days to mere minutes. Additionally, since the requests only reach the relevant stakeholders, there will be no misinformation and confusion, ensuring enhanced compliance.
An added advantage to an automated travel request system is mobile functionality that allows requests to be sent directly to the mobile device of the relevant authority, along with automated expense reports.
How to create the ideal travel request approval workflow
Let us walk through the steps you must take to create the perfect travel request approval workflow.
1. Understand what you want to achieve
A good practice before you design a travel request approval workflow is first to analyze your current processes and the challenges you face with them. This analysis helps you identify problematic errors, redundancies, inefficiencies, and other significant issues in your workflow.
Once you identify these issues, you will better understand what components need to be cut, reworked, excluded, and improved. This way, you can eliminate any problems disrupting your travel implementation process and feasibility.
When you have ample information on what’s wrong, you can envision how your new travel request approval workflow should be and what it must help you achieve.
A noteworthy recommendation is to automate, rework, and improve your existing systems rather than a complete system rehaul. Enhancing and automating existing systems facilitates familiarity, resulting in lesser adoption resistance from your employees.
The ultimate goal should be to plan a workflow that dramatically improves time management, efficiency, transparency, and visibility when filling, submitting, and handling travel requests.
2. Consult all relevant business travel stakeholders
Manual processes generally require the proposal to be approved by administrators, managers, C-suites, finance teams, and the HR department before its implementation. Each of these departments has team members, further expanding the proposal’s organizational exposure.
The first step to creating a workflow perfect for your unique business requirements is identifying the stakeholders relevant to the travel-decision making process. A good practice is to restrict the number of administrators charged with viewing and scrutinizing the requests and their contents to the lowest number possible.
Modern automated systems provide stakeholders with excellent internal controls on expenses and approvals while increasing their overall visibility. In such a system, there is no need to involve more than a few stakeholders.
The number of administrators entirely depends on the organization’s size. Smaller organizations may need lesser administrators and decision-makers involved in the travel request approval process. On the other hand, larger organizations generally have more travelers than SMEs and a higher volume of requests and expenses that require administrative attention.
Factor in these considerations and decide the optimal number of stakeholders to review trip requests. Remember, the number should be manageable for the administrator or manager.
3. Map out the travel request approval workflow
The next stage is automating and mapping the proposals’ flow for your new travel request approval workflow. Ideally, this should involve requests to flow through stakeholders relevant to trip planning and with expertise in improving the trip’s productivity.
This map should specify each member’s role in the newly automated process.
4. Setup a single management tool for easy access
The first thing you should do for your new workflow is to restructure your processes to eliminate redundancies from the previous systems, including redundant communication channels or any other aspect that may confuse stakeholders.
Once you have centralized and organized your business travel approval process, you must increase the corporate travel policy’s visibility to reach all stakeholders. Doing so ensures that all employees are completely aware of the policies, procedures, rules, and limitations.
The goal of this stage is to ensure that there are no more delays or back-and-forth communications between travel and non-travel stakeholders. A centralized travel management tool such as Tripeur can help businesses effectively achieve this quickly.
5. Choose which line items to include
Carefully planning and detailing the workflow’s line items allows you to specify to your employees what travel details require mentioning and what is irrelevant. Such a practice guarantees uniformity between all travelers filling out and submitting requests. Everyone involved in trip planning provides managers and administrators with all the relevant details.
Typical line items to consider in your travel request approval workflow include the trip’s purpose, assignment details, location, duration, and list of participating team members. It is also good practice to detail a breakdown of the estimated costs, including airfare, accommodations, ground transport, meals, and the overall total.
How detailed you want these forms depend entirely on the level of granular supervision you wish to maintain.
Specifying that your employees upload receipts online after a transaction is also essential to automate expense reconciliation. This practice eliminates needing to maintain, carry, store, and submit physical receipts.
An automated system enables businesses to achieve this with ease. Such systems also allow companies to finetune the workflow by adding and removing fields to suit a business’s unique requirements.
6. Communicate the travel request approval process with your employees
For your new travel request approval process to work, it must first be communicated transparently to your stakeholders. Maintain a single uniform communication channel and make it the primary mode of inter-office communications.
By doing so, you guarantee that your new travel request approval process promptly reaches all relevant parties detailing what is expected of them at every stage of the refined process.
7. Implement a travel request approval workflow and continuously tweak it
Your first attempt at creating a travel request approval workflow may not yield the best results. This is normal, as it is an iterative process with plenty of room for improvement. Perfecting your new approval process requires periodic performance reviews to spot redundancies, missing items, and other erroneous processes to improve your workflow routinely.
Once you do this, place internal controls for stakeholders and clearly define their access levels. The goal here is to allow access to only the relevant stakeholders for every travel step of the travel process. Also, restrict access to information from stakeholders irrelevant to the approval process.
Once the controls are in place, test the approval process to identify and mitigate any lingering issues. Carefully test and monitor the new approval process for a predefined trial period till you iron out all the kinks. A good recommendation is to automate the system, which is an excellent way to increase your new system’s efficiency and speed tremendously.
In conclusion, you should be ready to create your travel request approval workflow to improve compliance, control costs, increase efficiency & accuracy, streamline communication, and enhance security. If you need clarification on how to do this, don’t worry.
You can consult a professional service provider that can do it for you at a fraction of what you would have to spend to implement one in-house.
Simplify and implement the travel request approval workflow with Tripeur
Think of Tripeur’s platform as the swiss army knife of corporate travel, where every tool you need for corporate travel management is available to you within one platform. Sometimes, no amount of workforce or capital can improve an outdated and broken travel approval system.
Instead, Tripeur and its expense module helps keeps the finance department in the loop by sending stakeholders automated expenditure alerts and reports through all stages of the travel booking experience. Our travel request approval process will ensure it keeps all relevant stakeholders informed and involved in the decision-making process, improving communication and reducing the risk of misunderstandings.
Better yet, our system supports e-receipts and automated reconciliation to help you create a seamless experience for travelers and other stakeholders. We provide you with all the tools necessary to develop a standardized process for examining if travel expenses align with its policies and regulatory requirements.
With such a granular level of control, you will only authorize travel requests that comply with your organizational policies.
Our user-friendly software can tremendously simplify and improve your travel proposals system, where every approval will be instantaneously sent to the mobile devices of the right stakeholders. We can help you perpetually fix your corporate travel inefficiencies and simplify and implement travel request approval workflow while significantly lowering costs.
Contact us to find out more.