All Aboard for Savings

GlaxoSmithKline's use of "visual guilt" helps drive more cost savings to the bottom line in the area of travel and entertainment expenses


Driving greater adoption and savings was a prime motivator for GlaxoSmithKline's recent T&E initiatives, according to Janan Johnson. "Our adoption rate on the travel side was flat," says Johnson of the T&E tools that the company was using up until last year. As a result, the company was looking for new tools to help bring its T&E spend under control. GlaxoSmithKline had been in discussions with Rearden Commerce about the solution provider's Web-based applications for managing employee business services, and the pharmaceutical company made the decision to move forward with a pilot in early 2006.

Rearden offers a platform for managing an array of services, ranging from air, hotel and dining to car service, package shipping and teleconferences, among others. GlaxoSmithKline's initial test of the Rearden solution involved a group of 20 U.S.-based "power users" split into two teams. One team used the company's then-current system for travel booking, while the other group used Rearden's travel tool. During the weeks-long pilot, Johnson's team observed the two sets of users to learn how they used the tools and their responses. At the end of the travel pilot, the team interviewed the users and conducted a heuristic study to understand the usability of the two different interfaces. In the end, the results in terms of adoption, compliance and savings tilted sufficiently in favor of the Rearden group that GlaxoSmithKline elected to move ahead with implementing the provider's solution.

However, even as the company began to roll out the travel module, GlaxoSmithKline also decided to initiate a separate pilot for the package shipping, chauffer/car service and dining components as well. For these other categories, Johnson's team set up a separate pilot that involved bringing onboard the staff within facilities management who deal with chauffeur services and the facilities staff that owned pack and ship, too. The package ship component was a little bit challenging for GlaxoSmithKline because the company has certain products that it cannot ship via the regular carriers because of regulatory issues. But Johnson's team was able to segregate out various opportunities — contracts, documentation and other business paper — that allowed them to run a large enough pilot to get a sense of how effective the tool was at gaining compliance and driving cost savings.

The car service group was more conservative, Johnson says, because they manage internal chauffeurs that work for the company, so the group wanted to ensure that internal resources were used first before users went to outside firms. Nevertheless, once the group began using the tool in earnest, within a matter of three weeks more than 900 users were booking their car service through the tool. In fact, once the company went fully live with the Rearden solution last fall, only a couple hundred users remained to be brought onboard in the U.S. side of the business. Johnson attributes this rapid adoption rate to the fact that these users had already begun using Rearden for booking travel, so they were familiar with the interface and open to the idea of using it for other services. Johnson's team also did training for users, including through Web seminars, to familiarize them with the online booking tools. And they ensured that a core group of power users was available to provide assistance for "newbies" throughout the company's locations.

"Visual Guilt" Complex

GlaxoSmithKline followed the U.S. pilot and rollout with a pilot in its U.K. operations. By that time, the company felt comfortable enough with the successes it had seen in the United States to limit the U.K. pilot to just 30 days. Since the rollouts on both sides of the Atlantic, Johnson says that adoption rates have climbed steadily among the combined 15,000 U.S. and U.K. users. In June, for instance, the company saw about 8,000 bookings by its U.S. users, with an adoption rate of 35 percent. That figure might not seem overly high, but GlaxoSmithKline sets a very high bar for transactions that it classifies in the "adoption" bucket — the booking process must be "zero touch," that is, completed entirely online, with no calls to the company's travel agency. At the same time, GlaxoSmithKline has a large number of international travelers who require visa, security, health management or other cross-border support, which frequently requires agency intervention.

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