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Navigating travel change management in your TMC partnership

Einstein famously said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results”; a statement which underscores the importance of adapting in times of change and challenging our habits when seeking improvement. The same can be applied to travel management.

In the realm of corporate travel, change is a certainty. From advancements in technology and content distribution, shifts in consumer preferences, diversifying product and service experiences, to emerging risk management, data security and ESG considerations, combined with macro and micro-economic impacts, these considerations continuously shift an organisation’s travel management needs.

A travel programme and travel management company (TMC) partnership that aligned with your company’s strategy a few years ago, may not deliver on your objectives today. To ensure alignment with your business’s changing objectives, regularly reviewing your travel programme needs and travel management provider is a pertinent move toward future-proofing your ongoing investment in business travel.

If it’s time to review the performance of your travel programme and travel partner, the AKDAR model (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement) provides 5 simple steps to streamline and simplify the process of TMC change management. This blog explores how.

Step 1. Awareness: Acknowledging the opportunity for improvement

Let’s face it, there are a lot of people who don’t like change. However, the cost of inaction almost always outweighs the investment required to make positive change. As a Travel Programme Manager or key stakeholder, the ongoing performance of your travel programme and demonstrable ROI of your travel budget needs regular review and attention.

Awareness of the opportunity for travel programme improvement may be the result of a variety of catalysts, including:

  • An acquisition of your TMC partner and its implications on your choice, control and experience of your travel programme’s services, technology and support team.
  • The inability of your TMC to invest in new technologies and services to support your changing travel needs, or maximise new market opportunities and requirements.
  • The financial stability of your current TMC.
  • Negative feedback from employees and travel programme stakeholders relating to your TMC’s solutions causing reduced employee satisfaction, safety, productivity and travel programme compliance.
  • Slow and out-dated legacy travel technology.
  • New business system integration requirements.
  • Business growth into markets your current TMC is unable to service.

The reasons are vast and varied, and the associated impacts on travel programme stakeholders will be felt differently across your team.

Business leaders, travel programme stakeholders, and travelling employees can all be a powerful source of information and feedback on how your travel programme is performing and how it could be improved. Ensure regular stakeholder feedback is gathered and reviewed to ensure opportunities for improvement are actively identified, recorded and considered.

Action Plan:

Announce project: Ensure relevant stakeholders are aware of the change management project early, and extend opportunities to provide feedback relevant to what you are trying to achieve through change.

Explain opportunity: Educate relevant stakeholders on the opportunities for improvement that TMC change presents, making it relevant to their role and responsibilities.

Gather feedback: Provide channels for questions and feedback.

Step 2. Desire: Create support for change

Creating a business-wide desire to change your TMC partnership is a vital step in the change management process. Business travel impacts a wide range of stakeholders across your business, from executive leaders to finance and risk departments, to HR and IT teams, and the wide array of travelling employees. It is important  to ensure that all travel programme stakeholders have the right information they need, relevant to their role, to make an informed decision that supports the need for TMC change, and an acute understanding of how such change will benefit the business, its employees, and the individual.

Bringing a new TMC to manage your programme, will bring fresh ideas and energy to drive your company travel programme to a new level.

Key questions to address in this stage include:

  • What are the current challenges, risks and associated impacts of your business travel programme and TMC partner, and how does that impact your business and its employees?
  • What are the business risks if change is not made?
  • What will a change to the travel policy and programme mean for individuals and businesses?

Gathering both quantitative and qualitative data serves as a powerful tool to illustrate the contrast between maintaining the status quo and the measurable benefits of change for different stakeholder groups. It underscores the significance of translating these benefits into tangible outcomes, such as heightened efficiency, enhanced user experience, and cost savings. It prompts reflection: Have you thoroughly weighed the business costs linked to poor service and subsequent dips in employee productivity? Or the implications of a less-than-optimal user experience, leading to programme leakage, dissatisfied travellers and diminished employee satisfaction? Equally crucial is evaluating the impact of your supplier relationships in effectively managing travel costs.

Case studies are a great way to share successful outcomes where change has been implemented. More importantly, they are factual rather than hypothetical, so they provide context and comfort in what can be achieved.

Action Plan:

Gauge reaction: Gather and monitor employee feedback on the concept of change.

Choose advocates: Select your TMC change management advocates to help you drive the project forward.

Address concerns: Respond to feedback and concerns, answer questions, provide further channels for feedback and ongoing engagement throughout the stages of TMC change.

Now, let’s delve into a real-world case study that illustrates the impact of recognising the need for TMC change. The success story of one of Australia’s largest ASX-listed companies, and their partnership with Corporate Travel Management (CTM) illustrates how a vision for change can lead to successful outcomes.

Case Study: Travel change management in action

The Company: A global tech retailer listed on the New York Stock Exchange servicing 43 markets with a $17m global travel spend at the time of implementation.

Objectives: The company wanted a new travel partner that could support their travel programme with fully integrated travel technology products, provide a highly customised point-of-sale service and retain ownership of their traveller profiles and data. They required the new travel programme to be launched within 8 weeks in the US and 12 weeks globally (43 markets total).

Solution: To meet the customer’s priorities, CTM worked collaboratively to build a bespoke delivery model for global implementation: the customer’s staff would provide booking services while CTM would act as the fulfillment and technology partner.

CTM first established a global infrastructure, appointing a global implementation director who served as the customer’s single touch point. Five regional implementation managers in NORAM, EMEA, ASIA, ANZ, LATAM were then appointed and took full ownership of local actions and deadlines. Global resources were channelled into the initial US implementation to enable a rapid launch of all other markets soon thereafter.

CTM’s dedicated implementation director performed a full gap analysis on technology integration with the customer and third-party suppliers, outputting a framework for implementation. Serving as a blueprint for reconfiguring existing API integrations in some markets and developing brand-new integrations in others, the framework guided the customer steering group’s regular programme reviews, ensuring it was fit for purpose as travel needs evolved.

Weekly implementation meetings provided a forum for stakeholders to discuss progress, address challenges, and plan next steps, and a dedicated cloud platform underpinned project management efficiency and on-time delivery of this complex body of work.

Outcome: By utilising CTM’s innovative solution, it addressed all the challenges the customer was facing. The customer was able to benefit from a high touch, fully integrated and globally consolidated travel programme they had envisioned with the following outcomes:

  • 8-week implementation in the US
  • 12-week implementation in 42 other markets
  • 580 employees trained in Europe alone
  • 43 markets set up with local currency invoicing
  • 100% integration with out-of-hours support, profile management and data platform providers
  • Significant user experience improvement and increased compliance and efficiency

Step 3. Knowledge: Build a how-to guide for TMC change

Now that stakeholders have the awareness and the desire for change, next comes the knowledge required to ensure a seamless transition and implementation. This knowledge can be delivered via training, internal communication and documentation. Your TMC partner can develop a comprehensive change management plan, including all deliverables and key milestones, stakeholder engagement schedule, training schedule and any other key areas unique to the project.

A well-crafted travel change management plan will ensure visibility and transparency of information and help make the process of change inclusive; engaging stakeholders every step of the way.

Action Plan:

Provide training: Work in collaboration with your TMC partner to craft the necessary training deliverables by key milestone dates.

Fill skills gaps: What skills are missing from your change management task force? Ensure you have a cohesive and collaborative group with the expertise required to ensure a seamless transition.

Provide resources: A comprehensive travel change management plan, key milestone dates, training and engagement schedules will need to be delivered to the travel stakeholder group to ensure all stakeholders deliver tasks by defined deadlines.

Step 4. Ability: Gather the skills and subject matter experts to drive change

It will also be important during this time that opportunities are provided to the business to express any concerns or questions they may have. This could be conducted by way of regular meetings at key milestones.

In circumstances where change is being rolled out with travel technology solutions, or new enhanced features are being implemented, scheduled interactive training sessions and user testing is a great way to put users in the driving seat so they can visualise and understand the benefits of new technology and ask practical questions during implementation.

Action Plan:

Run sessions: Schedule regular training sessions where technology is involved to increase user adoption and also obtain feedback, which might lead to technology improvements or policy refinement.

Set goals: Ensure you set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals. Reporting on the positive measurable outcomes of the change management project will be important for demonstrating return on investment.

Adjust: Process constructive feedback and refine the travel management strategy where applicable. Making adjustments along the way can help to ensure your strategic outcomes can be achieved.

Step 5. Reinforcement: Build your cheer squad for change

With the changes rolled out, it will be vital to ensure its success through monitoring areas such as travel booking behaviour, traveller experience and adherence to the travel policy. It may be beneficial for businesses to create a measurement system to track and monitor programme adoption. Consider the use of internal post-trip traveller surveys, technology user feedback, and analysis of travel booking trends and benchmarking through your Strategic Account Management reviews.

The continued visibility and pro-active communication of your new travel programme’s performance across all travel stakeholder groups will be key to maintaining policy compliance, refining booking behaviours, and maximising supplier contract negotiations for long-term programme performance.

Action Plan:

Monitor change: Regular reporting will be important to monitor improvements to booking behaviour and policy compliance.

Reward engagement: Consider implementing a simple reward and recognition programme to encourage ongoing adoption of your new travel programme and policies.

Communicate openly: Encourage an open dialogue with not only the travel stakeholder group but also with the travellers. This could be conducted via surveys, round table group discussions, and internal feedback loops.

Navigating change for success

Change is not a one-time event — it’s an ongoing process. Importantly, the fundamentals of the ADKAR model need not be limited to reviewing your travel management partnerships but also to support the ongoing evolution of your travel programme – keeping pace with your growing business and adapting to an ever-changing travel landscape..

Sustaining positive outcomes requires vigilant monitoring and reinforcement. Establishing measurement systems, conducting regular reviews, and fostering continuous support from key stakeholders will support the success and longevity of the changes implemented.

As the corporate travel landscape continues to evolve, embracing change becomes not just a necessity but a strategic advantage. Let the journey through change management be a catalyst for innovation, efficiency, and lasting success in your corporate travel programme. The future awaits those who navigate change with purpose and adaptability.


Are you ready to partner with a future-focused TMC that delivers personalised service?

Contact CTM today!