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Travel & Expense

Tip #5 for Cutting T&E Waste and Abuse

on September 23, 2013

Our fifth in a series of tips for cutting T&E waste is focused on lodging and meal outliers.

Hotel and meal prices can vary widely by city and country. I know that I find hotel prices to scale up in Washington, DC when Congress is in session and hotels and dining are always high in London, Paris, and New York. The key to cutting waste and abuse around hotels and meals is to understand what is normal for your travelers and to identify when the expenses for certain travelers are wildly out of balance with the rest of your travelers.

The first objective is to benchmark your travelers so you know what is usual for lodging and meals by city. This requires cataloging all hotel stays by night and understanding the itemized expenses so you can separate lodging and related taxes from other expenses at hotels including meals and Internet. Meals should also be cataloged and it is important to identify the number of participants for each meal.

The second objective is to take specific expenditures by traveler and compare them with the norms indicated by the overall traveler data. This can then be segmented by traveler role or position in the organization so that you can compare traveler expenses to the company as a whole as well as within roles or positions.

The result of this analysis is a view into the relative behaviors of your travelers. You will be able to see which travelers have higher spending patterns than your norm and can take steps to understand why. Some of this information will be included in the data. Sales resources entertaining clients will likely have a higher average meal spend per participant. But if that same sales resource’s meal spend is just as high for meals he eats alone, there may be an issue to be addressed. Similarly, if another traveler’s lodging expenses are consistently higher than her peers, you may want to ask why.

Analyzing hotels and meals in this way can also allow you to reuse the same data to analyze for behaviors related to anti-bribery and corruption for companies doing business in global markets and for compliance monitoring such as the requirement for aggregate spend analysis in the pharmaceutical, medical device, and life sciences businesses.