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Travel Expenses an Ongoing Challenge in Public Sector

Joshua Hoffman
May 4, 2015

Business process management technologies allow organizations to integrate processes and data across applications, user groups and departments. As BPM solutions evolve into application development platforms, they give business leaders a code-free way to customize process integration to meet operational needs. This flexibility is making BPM a powerful strategic enabler in any situation where organizations face procedural challenges and need to find new ways to improve efficiency. Recent travel expensing challenges in government are a clear example of an area where advanced BPM tools can deliver value.

Looking at the travel cost problem in government

A few years ago, a government agency sent employees to a junket in Los Vegas and those individuals participated in a variety of parties, unusual team-building exercises and other activities that were extremely expensive and deemed a wildly inappropriate use of tax-payer money. President Obama responded by creating new policies that mandate government employees get approval for all conferences they plan to attend. This policy has had many unintended consequences, a recent Washington Post report explained, and the issue of government travel costs has become extremely complicated.

According to the news source, a recent Government Accountability Office study found that the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory used more than 9,000 work hours, leading to $824,000 in costs over just five months last year to prepare and review requests to attend conferences. The Los Alamos National Laboratory spent $1.6 million in one fiscal year handling similar requests.

"BPM is a powerful strategic enabler when facing procedural challenges."

The report explained that these costs aren't the only problem. Many agencies find themselves struggling so much to process conference attendance requests in a timely manner that plenty of employees have given up on trying. This has led to government experts declining speaking invitations, neglecting opportunities to network with peers and missing out on chances to present key research. In response, there are concerns that the government's reputation as a thought leader is declining and that top talent will be less willing to work in government because they may not be able to showcase their accomplishments at conferences.

Of course, some government organizations have tried to build custom management applications to help them process conference requests, but the development costs have been substantial, adding another wrinkle of complexity.

Using BPM to streamline travel requests, expensing and similar processes

Cloud-based BPM tools offer flexible, customizable process automation and optimization functionality. A good BPM solution may not solve all of the travel cost challenges facing the public sector, but they can give organizations the ability to process applications more efficiently, allowing workers to apply to go conferences more freely. This efficiency would reduce the costs, in terms of work hours, that go into work-related travel.