Operational Excellence Aims to Reduce Travel Costs for Campus Workers, Athletes

Persia Salehi/Staff

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Analysis: Travel Expenses

Lead Academics and Administration reporter Katie Nelson and Alisha Azevedo talk about what is going on with the travel expenses on campus.

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UC Berkeley spent $36 million on domestic and international travel costs last year for campus community members such as faculty, staff and athletes, but a campus-led project is hoping to reduce such costs in the future.

About 60 percent of costs were for domestic travel, while international travel comprised 40 percent of costs, according to Claire Holmes, associate vice chancellor for public affairs and university communications.

To cut costs, UC Berkeley's Operational Excellence procurement initiative team is seeking to update campus travel software, encourage video conferencing and book trips farther in advance.

Estimated savings, according to Operational Excellence and consulting firm Bain & Company's diagnostic report last April, for travel and entertainment originally totaled between $1.5 million and $3.8 million - roughly 2 to 5 percent of the total $75 million the campus hopes to save through the initiative. But after collecting data, the initiative team has estimated lower savings of $1 million to $3.3 million.

Campus travelers must follow the university's travel policy, which places U.S. General Services Administration caps, based on location, on how much travelers can spend per day for international travel, according to the UC Business and Finance Bulletin.

The policy also reimburses lodging for domestic travel, which "must be reasonable for the locality of travel," according to the bulletin.

Though departments are required to review the costs of reimbursements for the travel of their members, there is currently no cap on domestic travel, so the initiative team has suggested the addition of caps to such travel.

The team also recommended using web conferencing for trips less than 24 hours in duration - which are currently about 6 percent of travel - as well as requiring travel arrangements to be made 30 days in advance for lower rates.

Procurement Initiative Manager Heidi Hoffman said she has heard that Skype is being used more often to interview job candidates and that conference call frequency has increased.

The team also suggested updating the campus's current Carlson-Wagonlit travel system - an optional travel-planning program that is only used by 27 percent of campus travelers - to a new system called Connexxus.

"Connexxus was designed with faculty in mind where there are no forms or waiting periods like there were with Carlson-Wagonlit," said Jon Bain-Chekal, finance project manager in the campus Controller's Office.

Bain-Chekal added that the range of transaction fees for each trip booked within the system is lower than it was with the original system - down from between $26 and $32 to $7.50 per transaction. He said the drop in costs would increase usage and efficiency.

Connexxus is being tested in two departments - University Relations and the Engineering Research Support Organization - and will begin expanding to others in February before becoming available campuswide in the fall, according to Bain-Chekal.


Contact Alisha Azevedo and Katie Nelson at [email protected]

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