RGU Business Travel Processes

I mentioned last year that we were planning to look at the University’s business travel processes and how these could be “e-enabled”. The Lean Kaizen event took place in December, and my thanks to the team for a great job. Here are some of their key findings and suggestions:

We currently process about 3,000 forms every year through the paper process. Some get lost, many are not correctly filled in or are incomplete. Visit reports are prepared but are often filed and never used to help future travellers. It can take up to 3 weeks to authorise travel in some instances. The team looked at flight bookings in particular and found that many of these were booked very close to the time of travel – 20% less than two weeks before travel. The team reckons that if a more efficient booking process allowed flights to be booked at least 4 weeks in advance we could save up to £30k per annum.

The team looked in depth at how a new electronic process might work and came up with 4 key objectives.

1)   It will be simple, paperless, and completed within 1 week. The electronic process will be smart enough to know where you are travelling, and particularly for local travel will present a much simpler form.

2)   It will provide useful information to management and travellers. For management, the system will provide information on current and future travellers by destination and analyse travel patterns. For travellers, the team have suggested some kind of internal “Trip Advisor” capability so that travellers can share information on different destinations.

3)   It will allow the University to keep in contact with travellers where required. We do have many staff travelling to a whole range of international destinations. Situations can change quickly and for some destinations we will want regular contact to ensure that staff are safe and well.

4)   It will assist the University to meet its strategic objectives. We want to make sure that the system helps to encourage staff to avoid travel where possible, and to use more sustainable travel in preference to high carbon modes of travel.

Next stage is to start the detailed work of putting together the electronic system. We would hope to have something up and running by the Summer and will keep you posted as this develops.

Members of the Lean Kaizen team were:

Professor David Gray (Images Research Institute), Amy Jones (Aberdeen Business School), Ally Flett & Claire Murray (Research and Enterprise Services), Debbie Teperek (Exec Support), Julie Deighton (International Office), Karen Henderson (Pharmacy and Life Sciences), Laurie Power, Petrena Morrison & Ros Shanks (School of Engineering). Renee Raper from HR facilitated the week.

On the Move


Modern video and voice communication technology is now very powerful and increasingly commonplace. For some time now, there have been predictions that the need to travel for business meetings etc will diminish greatly – and there is some evidence that this is happening. But we still travel – a lot.

Like many organisations, RGU has a staff travel policy and of course there is a form to fill in (which at the moment is paper based), and a process to follow. It’s an important process to ensure that staff travel in the most economic way, that absences are properly authorised, that an appropriate risk assessment is carried out for travel to international destinations and that staff have adequate guidance and information for their travel.

It is not, however, the most loved process in the University and it is generally felt that it could be streamlined and improved. A key goal of the new staff portal, which will launch in a few weeks, is to be able to “e-enable” our important administrative processes – and the travel process has been picked as our first one.

The worst thing that we could do would be simply to e-enable the existing process as it stands. This is an opportunity to look at the whole process from the ground up and redesign it. We are planning to do this with a “Kaizen Blitz”, as part of “Lean Kaizen” thinking. You can find more about the Lean Kaizen process here.

Essentially, it involves bringing a team together from across the University – people who travel, people who book travel, people who authorise travel, and people who can challenge existing ways – for about a week. Against a set of clear objectives, they will look at the current process, the issues, what we are trying to achieve and by the end of the week will have proposed a new way for us to manage business travel. Some of the key objectives will be:

  • Minimising the number of steps – challenge each stage and the approval routes
  • Easing the user experience – make travel booking a straight forward process
  • Ensure that risk assessment and other health and safety considerations are nonetheless robustly carried out and audit trail kept
  • Ensure that the process is likely to minimise cost of travel
  • Enhance the availability of information to travellers, and allow feedback to enhance the experience for future travellers to same destination
  • Ensure that the University can quickly identify and respond effectively to unforeseen events and emergencies

Once we have that, we can then start to configure the new online process on the Portal.

We’re just at the stage of identifying the Lean Kaizen team – watch this space.