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Unmanaged Travel vs. Managed Travel 101

Understanding the key differences between unmanaged and managed travel can help organizations objectively and accurately determine opportunities for process improvements tobenefit their bottom line. The table below compares an unmanaged travel program to a managed one, broken down by nine phases: starting with (1) Policy and Procedure Development and ending with (9) Reviewing and Refining the overall program.

As you review the nine phases that compare unmanaged travel vs. managed travel, think about how you would rate your company’s program on a scale from 0 – 10.

Phase 1: Policy & Procedure Development: Unmanaged

Either non-existent or unclear travel policy.

Undefined policies and procedures leave travelers without direction or clarity on expectations and often:

Phase 1: Policy & Procedure Development: Managed

Provides travelers with flexibility, choice, business travel perks and benefits without harm to your company’s bottom line or goals.

A Travel Management Company (TMC) will assess and put into place a well-communicated and comprehensive travel policy that:

Phase 2: Authorization: Unmanaged

Authorizations are not required or are given at last minute due to urgency.

Unclear or non-existent rules surrounding authorization process prior to booking gives:

Phase 2: Authorization: Managed

Authorization in a managed process is efficient, straightforward and fully automated.

TMCs use automated systems that:

Phase 3: Trip Arrangements: Unmanaged

Trip Itinerary goes un-scrutinized for value.

The shortcomings with an unmanaged trip itinerary are many, including:

Phase 3: Trip Arrangements: Managed

Trip arrangements are based on unbiased, comprehensive and customized corporate online booking tools with designated agent support.

A TMC’s system gives travelers options not available outside the TMC industry, such as:

Phase 4: Policy Enforcement: Unmanaged

Unclear or overlooked policy compliance protocols and procedures make it hard to measure real value.

Without an enforceable travel policy, these common issues can arise:

Phase 4: Policy Enforcement: Managed

Enforcement of policy compliance, when properly instrumented, can be handled almost entirely through automation.

Policy enforcement in a managed process will automatically double check the following for travel compliance:

Phase 5: Payment Management: Unmanaged

Compromised data security and inaccurate expense reporting.

Common payment management issues in an unmanaged travel policy include:

Phase 5: Payment Management: Managed

An automated payment system confirms trip details for improved reporting and tracking purposes.

Benefits of a managed payment process include:

Phase 6: Travel Support & Risk Mitigation: Unmanaged

Poorly defined travel support and risk mitigation leaves the traveler unprotected and the organization liable.

When rogue travelers rely on third party suppliers, rather than a TMC, travel support suffers in the following ways:

Common risk mitigation issues include:

Phase 6: Travel Support & Risk Mitigation: Managed

Automating or actively managing this step will insure that additional expenses are kept to an absolute minimum and travelers are kept safe.

Consistent and comprehensive travel support by a TMC include benefits, such as:

Risk mitigation by third party professionals, typically include the following benefits:

Phase 7: Expense Management: Unmanaged

Not having guidelines for expense submission puts traveler and employer at odds when reconciling traveling expenses.

Undefined rules regarding expense submission lead to:

Phase 7: Expense Management: Managed

Automated expense management facilitates quicker approvals so travelers are reimbursed through payroll fast and effectively.

In an automated expense management system, the following occurs:

Phase 8: Reporting: Unmanaged

Without policy guidance, financial reporting cannot 100% guarantee what was spent and how the results compare to industry peers/competitors.

An unmanaged process is likely to experience efficiency problems related to:

Phase 8: Reporting: Managed

Reporting is seamlessly accomplished in the managed process.

Automation and control drives success in a managed reporting process by:

Phase 9: Reviewing & Refining: Unmanaged

Only evaluated and improved policies and procedures can guarantee maximum value and efficiency.

An absent review and refinement step for the overall travel program often leads to these common problems:

Phase 9: Reviewing & Refining: Managed

Review and refinement with suppliers, a TMC and other third party vendors, should include a recurring program audit.

In order to allow your program to evolve, the following should be considered during the review process:

After examining the above table and the diagrams below, where does your company stand in regard to corporate travel? Do you fall into the Unmanaged T&E category? Would you like to see your business travel grow from an unmanaged process to a managed one?


As you can see from the chart in this blog post, there is a lot more to your T&E process than simply a transactional purchase and travel. A lack of clarity, consistency, training and oversight of the T&E process in your travel program can leave your organization with lost savings, decreased productivity and diminished support and control of each trip. The effort to transition from unmanaged to managed travel is worth it because companies that use a managed T&E process can realize a 20% annual savings.

To learn more about the nine phases of the Managed T&E Process, download our free guide:

The Essential T&E Management Process Guide – Transform T&E from Costly Chaos to a Cost-Saving Managed Process.

(UPDATE THIS LINK TO DIRECT TO THE PROGRAM MANAGEMENT LANDING PAGE ON DT’s NEW WEBSITE?)In this valuable guide, you will gain a deeper understanding of the nine phases of a managed T&E program; while learning how to measure and evaluate the potential positive impact managed travel can have on your organization.

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