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Lesley's Column

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3rd January 2017

Change management – getting it right!

Changing suppliers, be it airline, TMC, booking tool or others, needs careful preparation and strong communication. Travel is rarely a high priority at board level – except when things go wrong or a change from a ‘favourite’ supplier is on the cards.

All too easily, logical business processes can be replaced by emotion, so it’s vital that any potential change receives full backing from senior management before the sourcing process starts.
Providing that the correct senior level support is agreed in advance, changing a supplier in one’s home country shouldn’t present any abnormal difficulties. Even so, stakeholders should be advised of the process in advance and kept up to date with benefits of any changes made, including feedback a few weeks after implementation.
Any change involving overseas countries can be much more complex, especially when those countries are not used to being told what to do by head office. Understanding the cultural issues is vital and the process needs to be taken much more slowly.
Time invested in understanding local practices at the beginning of the process will pay dividends during implementation. Visit each key country if possible; don’t rely on conference calls as you can’t see the body language. Understand local needs, laws and approval processes. This is especially important if the travel function there has a different reporting line.
Often forgotten is the payment process. A deal may be global but payment probably isn’t. Ensure that the local finance team can work with a new arrangement and that the responsibility for raising any new paperwork is clearly understood.
I recently had a case where no-one had thought to advise the finance team of the change from weekly to monthly consolidated invoicing. Finance couldn’t cope with the month-end peak and failed to pay the TMC on time. They ended up owing half a million dollars to the blameless TMC and almost caused them to lose their IATA licence.
Go slowly, don’t cut corners and the change process will bring tangible company benefits and will also be personally rewarding.