Who is Pressing Your Button?
The most important moment in any travel event, is when someone presses the "complete booking" button. At this time (unless what you have bought is a full fare, top of the range ticket) you are committed, in the sense that any change or cancellation will cost money. Perhaps, even, all of the money you paid. Chances are, this could be at at least £50 and probably, more like £500.
It is rather important, then, that the person doing the button pressing has at least, taken into account all the features mentioned in my last post. This person can be one of two people, either a travel agent or one of your own officers.
Self booking tools are useful, for very simple and easy bookings. That said, any firm pays its staff to land multi-million pound contracts, to manage multi-million pound contracts and to make sure multi-million pound contracts work. On balance, therefore, they do not pay their staff to spend time working out the best way of getting from Pittsburgh to Istanbul. A good business travel agent, by the way is paid about 20-25k per annum. Your staff are, at a guess, being paid a lot more, so why have them spend your money doing something that is much more cost-effective to have an agent arrange - and an agent who will apply their skill and understanding of travel, rather than someone who is applying the skill of, say, a mechanical engineer?
What about the travel agent? Anyone who considers a TMC (or indeed any agent) will probably meet the salesmen of that TMC, possibly a senior manager or even a Director. Whereas this is very nice and although one is sure that any TMC's senior managers and salesman are perfectly competent, they are not, however the people who will be making your bookings on a daily basis. Those that are making your bookings (that is, de facto spending your money) are really the people you should know and more importantly, relate to. I know many prospective clients visit the intended agent's office and see the agents at work but that is a long way from having a one-to-one with the people making bookings on a daily basis, with your money. I have often seen such visits and they have rarely been more than "Here is our office.." with the odd nod of a head from a working agent.
Here again, that carefully constructed travel policy, with all the checks and balances incorporated within it, can work against you. A traditional (dare I say, more old-fashioned) style of agent tends to take a more holistic view of any travel request and knows from experience alone what an event should cost. They are more likely to be aware of any proposed travel event that simply does not make sense (either from a financial or an operational point of view) and would highlight that and may well request further authorisation from a budget-holder. This is a better arrangement than within a large TMC who may simply check that any request matches a set of criteria and if it does, spend your money on the premise that policy is matched = okay to issue the travel tickets.
No matter how much technology is incorporated into planning and mapping travel events; no matter how much complex or simple reporting is offered, unless a seasoned eye is cast over any or all arrangements, much of that money spent on technology and other systems is of dubious value. The important point, here, is not that any travel policy is implemented or "followed" - it is that the whole spirit of your policy is policed. Unless you are confident that the person pressing the button to spend your money is policing arrangements BEFORE your money is spent, then it is high time to review "who is pressing the button".