Posted: 20 Feb. 2020 3 min. read

Is business travel compliance still fighting for a seat at the (data) table?

While eating goose on Christmas day, my aunt informed me that goose fat has other uses. Roasting potatoes is the most obvious alternative use case but did you know it is sometimes used to protect swimmers in cold water?

I asked “Wouldn’t the potatoes taste odd if they were roasted in fat that had already been used on someone’s skin?” and then immediately realised the flaws in my thought process as someone politely challenged me “that’s probably not the sequence to use it in!”

Competing use cases for resources and the relative prioritisation can bring about different outcomes.

Business travel data is one of those resources in large organisations and its use case in ensuring regulatory compliance (for tax, immigration and social security) needs to be thought through.

In over 4 years’ worth of working in the business travel compliance space, a new client’s first question to me is always “How do we keep track of where our employees are travelling to and from?” The answer is almost invariably “What is the best source of travel data your organisation has?”

At this point most clients go silent and rummage through their organisation’s network directories to get hold of the procurement team’s Travel Management Company (TMC) relationship manager. The TMC relationship manager would often provide a spreadsheet with historic travel data in it, but without a full understanding of the ultimate use case for the data provided.

This sometimes presents a challenge. To simplify tech-speak, travel data used by procurement teams is often aggregated to analyse monetary spend, while travel data used for business travel compliance is often disaggregated to identify daily physical whereabouts. Data granularity for each use case is quite different, which means that shoe-horning the same dataset for each purpose might lead to sub-optimal results in at least one of them.

If one used goose fat from a swimmer’s body to roast potatoes, then I suspect the potatoes would end up absorbing a rather unpalatable flavour! Similarly, if one used goose fat from the potato baking tray to coat a swimmer’s body, then salt from the roasting process may well create discomfort for the swimmer.

The analogy here is that certain data formats might give you accurate monetary spending analysis but may omit interim locations visited by employees on multi-leg journeys. Other data formats might give you better accuracy on time spent in each location but can sometimes lead to double counting of ticket fares between locations. The sequence in which the use cases for data are presented can affect the overall outcome of the analysis.

The business travel compliance space is often forced to be the secondary use case for pre-existing data to avoid requesting data again. If you want to avoid the problems associated with this then it is worth asking the following questions.

  • How prominent is regulatory compliance when you tender for, negotiate with and engage with your Travel Management Company?
  • Is data reporting and transmission for this use case something you would stipulate in an RfP for a new Travel Management Company?
  • Or would you prefer to navigate the issue perhaps by doing something more bold – tracking employees using GPS data from corporate mobile devices?

If business travel compliance is on your 2020 agenda then consider discussing the data required to support this use, rather than relying on repurposing existing travel data sets. It can improve efficiency and drive more focussed business travel compliance.

If you’d like to know more on how to work with your TMC to ensure more accurate and useful data - or to debate the value of goose fat! - please feel free to contact me at If you would like to know more about the issues arising from business travel and the services that Deloitte can provide, please click here.

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