France’s number one provider of environmental solutions, the VEOLIA group of companies has 250,000 employees around the world divided into four divisions: Waste Management, Energy Services, Water and Transportation. VEOLIA is the world leader in environmental services with sales of 24.7 billion euros and net earnings of 13.5% in 2004.
Veolia has undergone deep changes over the past few years. The Odyssey project was born in this context to streamline the Company’s travel expenses based on an on-line Self-Booking Tool. VEOLIA’s management became aware of the challenges and importance of potential savings related to reducing business travel expenses. To illustrate the challenges involved in this standardisation, consider that VEOLIA has 2,500 entities around the world and no less than 1,500 in France. VEOLIA’s corporate travel budget in France (Company’s head office) is an expense item that represents 30 to 35 million euros.The objective with the KDS solution is to manage 75% of this budget on-line by the end of 2006. To implement the Odyssey project successfully, VEOLIA’s management has assigned it to Abdelaziz Bougja, a multi-disciplinary project manager. A certified public accountant with substantial experience in the aerospace industry, he occupies a cross-functional position in the Corporate Human Resources Department.
Mr. Bougja, Odyssey project manager, describes his vision: “the Human Resources Department is responsible for implementing an online business travel management solution. Transportation is a powerful vehicle for social progress. The goal is to consolidate procurement by defining a precise scope and implementing a rigorous system. The first step involves doing an exhaustive inventory of existing practices and tools. This is essential so the project has a solid foundation and also to facilitate the subsequent implementation of the online self-booking tool.”
KDS was chosen based on a tender call during which VEOLIA examined the main solutions available in the market in an international environment. VEOLIA decided to place its confidence in KDS for several reasons: KDS’ ability to implement its KDS Corporate online business travel management solution internationally and enterprise-wide and the fact that KDS is a community-based business just like VEOLIA. Another important point for VEOLIA: KDS’ ability to be a proactive source of proposals and its long experience in managing change among a broad group of comparably sized international clients. Finally, VEOLIA used the occasion of implementing the online SBT solution to change its travel management company (TMC). The synergy between Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT), the new TMC, and KDS was a key selection criterion. The key to success on such a project is to work the TMC and on-line reservation tool together. CWT and KDS are quite familiar with each other and have worked together for several years serving major European and global corporations.
IMPLEMENTING THE SOLUTION
- 1st phase: deploy initially in France, resulting in investment consolidation and a qualitative leap forward. This initial deployment successfully reduced French in-house travel management companies and the online KDS solution contributed to restoring the profitability of the management fee account, which was one of VEOLIA’s major objectives.
- 2nd phase: manage change. Through rigorous training and communication plans. For example, the KDS Corporate solution was renamed the “Odyssey” project in-house. Simple communication tools were used, including distributing an attractive and compact user guide and “gimmicks.” Investments were made so the Odyssey project would be a success.
- 3rd phase: boost the tool’s adoption rate because the No. 1 success criterion is a high adoption rate for the tool.
The project’s success is characterised in particular by an increase in the number of participants during the project launch. How has VEOLIA proceeded? In France, VEOLIA has proceeded cautiously. According to Mr. Bougja, there is a very important cultural issue involved here. Whereas in the Anglo-Saxon culture the tool’s adoption is often mandated, adopting the tool in the Latin culture involves a more informative and educational approach.
For example, French people needed to be reassured when the project was launched. Several training programmes were established and a step-by-step approach was used to accommodate the fear of doing it improperly. In addition, a helpdesk was set up at CWT, making sure that CWT efficiently promoted the tool amongst VEOLIA employees.
THE PROJECT’S REAL SUCCESS: A HIGH ADOPTION RATE
In short, the elements to remember in measuring the success of such a project include: being patient, proceeding step-by-step and not skipping any steps; and monitoring the adoption rate and setting reasonable objectives. The adoption rate at VEOLIA, two years in operation is nearly 60%. The final objective is 75%. Why not 100%? The increase in the adoption rate eliminates intermediaries, and beyond a certain point there are types of travel that an online self-booking tool cannot handle efficiently (e.g.; multi-segment travel, VIP travel and certain group travel).
WHY AN ASP SOLUTION?
Such a solution creates a substantial workload at the beginning of the project because the data for every corporate traveller has to be loaded. But the ASP approach proves beneficial in the long-term as it requires no maintenance (the supplier does it for you). Indeed, once the data is loaded, the configuration is obvious. The key to success is performance, i.e. to provide data rapidly and efficiently. “An existing high-quality network facilitates the technological success,” indicates Raymond Philippon, VEOLIA’s CIO.
- This type of project requires a part-time project manager with an integrator/assembler background (telecoms/IT/business).
- The ASP mode lets one break down expenses. In exchange, this implies accepting that corporate data is hosted outside the company.
- The solution’s total integration in the corporate portal went very smoothly along with its synchronisation with the email system. In summary, the technical IT aspects only represented 10% of the overall project difficulties. These aspects primarily involved system assembly and integration issues (database, telecoms, etc.).
SUCCESS IS UNDERWAY
To configure the solution correctly requires that the company, TMC and tool vendor share a common business travel management logic. For VEOLIA, the initial implementation was completed in three months. After having begun implementing the solution in France, VEOLIA Environnement and KDS are now working on expanding the project’s scope: deployment in the UK began and other countries where VEOLIA has operations should follow.
Tools of tomorrow
“Self-booking tools are the tools of tomorrow, due in large part to the end of commissions. Consequently, reorganisation of the corporate travel budget is inevitable. The secret to controlling business travel costs is to negotiate, consolidate and manage.”
Abdelaziz Bougja, Odyssey project manager at Veolia.
“The first step involves doing an exhaustive inventory of existing practices and tools. This is essential so the project has a solid foundation and also to facilitate the subsequent implementation of the online self-booking tool.” Abdelaziz Bougja, Odyssey project manager at Veolia.