Fast Track: Build a multinational travel program from scratch

Mihai Dino is Director of Global Travel at UiPath, a process automation software company founded in Bucharest in 2005 and now headquartered in New York.

When Mihai Dino became the first global travel manager for robotic process automation software company UiPath in 2018, there was no global travel software to manage. This is the blueprint of how he started with a clean sheet and ended up implementing a comprehensive travel strategy for 4,000 employees in over 30 countries.

At first
Founded in Bucharest, Romania, in 2005, UiPath employed Dinu when it had fewer than 600 employees, overwhelmingly in Romania, India and the United States. All of that was about to change. “When I joined, the leadership team told me they needed to set up a travel program because they knew hyper-growth was coming,” he says.

At the time Dinu joined, UiPath was only using SAP Concur as a calculation tool and maintained a travel agency in Bucharest, where most of the employees were based. There were what Dinu calls “limited” local agreements with a small number of suppliers.

travel management company
Dinu’s first hanging fruit was the addition of Concur’s reservation tool, though he soon made an important modification (see below).

“The next step was to find a travel management company with a global footprint,” says Dino. “It was important to do this very quickly because we were growing so fast. Normally, implementation takes 18 months. We can’t do that. We had to finish the global implementation within Almost a year.”

After applying for the proposal process, UiPath appointed American Express Global Business Travel. The US was executed in three months, with EMEA for another three months after that, followed by the more segmented Asia Pacific market.

Dino attributes its rapid spread to a combination of factors. High on the list was working closely with the Amex GBT and SAP Concur implementation teams, along with his own experience in TMC. “I think my operational background helped me burn through some phases of the implementation process,” he says. Another key factor was securing the care of the company’s key stakeholders which anticipated and minimized any internal barriers.

UiPath has designated other healthcare companies in Japan and China because they are unusual markets where global distribution systems differ from those used elsewhere. Apart from these anomalies, it was considered necessary to designate a single global provider to give it a single point of contact for TMC and unified data.

“It was very important to get structured data from TMC so that we could think about the next step after that, which is to build the travel supplier base,” he says. “In a scenario where many medical services companies provide data, these goals have been difficult to achieve.”

Online booking tool
Once Dinu introduced Concur’s booking tool, he faced what he calls the “never-ending story I found a cheaper price on Booking.com.” My answer to that was to integrate Booking.com into the booking tool. Amex GBT entered into an agreement with Booking.com , so we can either integrate their content through GDS or go the other way and embed the content directly. We went for the first option. When the end user books the flight [on SAP Concur]There is a message telling them that this is Booking.com content.”

In addition to making travelers happier, Dinu discovered an additional benefit of merging. “We use this information to measure performance so that if search results show a price on Booking.com that is better than our discounted rate, we can have a conversation with the property to say we need to lower the negotiated price. It’s a good integration even for real-time benchmarking.”

Report
Dinu does not rely solely on TMC reservation data. It also looks at expense reporting data for travel booked outside of the designated TMC and booking tool, in some cases through incompatible behavior but in others due to approved exceptions such as booking accommodations via a conference registration site.

Another important source of reports is corporate cards issued to travelers.

Supplier Relations
Enhanced data provided deals that Dinu couldn’t achieve when he joined the company. On an early tour of New York hotels, “I went with my laptop knocking on their doors and saying ‘Hey, I’m Mihai from UiPath; we’d be interested in getting discounted rates at your hotel.’ I was trying to explain to them that we were growing too fast, but people don’t know about us. “.


We try to apply our technology in our operations. Being an automation company, that’s our origin”


With no figures to prove expected spending, Dinu initially made little progress in achieving negotiated rates or even his preferred payment method. “We used to do staff onboarding sessions in hotels near our office,” he says. “We needed 20 rooms for a week and wanted to pay by bill. They said we have to pay by credit card.”

Once Dinu could prove reliable data, all of these issues evaporated and he is now the source for negotiated hotel rates through the RFP process.

UiPath also has agreements with the three largest airlines in the United States and with major airlines in Europe. Best of all, it has made a global agreement with two companies, one of which is Turkish Airlines, that gives discounts to UiPath regardless of which country the flight is booked in.

interior technology
“Being an automation company, this is our origin. We are trying to implement our own technology,” says Dino. UiPath developers have built an application programming interface (API) to transfer data from the Amex GBT reporting tool to the data warehouse, where it is combined with data sources Others such as Expense Tool to feed a dashboard dedicated to Seniors Travel Expenditure.

“It speeds up the process and helps the leadership team make decisions,” says Dino. “In companies that operate very quickly, you need to find alternative solutions that help you work faster and be more accurate, so automation can be an advantage in securing the currency of your operations.”

UiPath developers have also built a bot that handles registration processes for employees registered to access the company’s Uber For Business account. “Everything had to be managed manually in the past,” says Dino. The bot is trained to delete disabled user accounts such as former employees.

Another achievement is the creation of Slackbot (a bulk automated assistance and direct messaging bot based on Slack’s internal communications platform) to answer employee questions about policy. Again, in addition to saving the time of the small travel team (Dinu has two assistants: one in Romania and one in Asia Pacific), the process provides quick answers regardless of the traveler’s timezone.

There are more local travel technologies that come from UiPath. “We try to automate everything that makes our lives easier and enhances the traveler experience,” says Dino.

Duty to “attention”
“It is important to shift from a duty of care to a duty of care,” Dino says, which means that the employee’s welfare should not only be in compliance with legal protections, but must be genuinely cared for.

“There are statistics that show that over the next decade nearly 50 percent of the workforce will suffer from mental illness,” says Dino.

“We have to maintain close contact with our travelers to make sure they are well taken care of. We are big users of Slack. This is a very fast way to connect with our travelers and they know where they can get.”

UiPath also tries to take care of its travelers through politics. The use of the gym, for example, is an expense allowed during the flight, as is the entrance to the lounge for flights in excess of the minimum number of hours.

In addition, “we pay special attention to our employees who have medical conditions,” says Dino. “They are allowed to travel in business class and premium economy. It is important to ensure that all of our employees are able to travel.”

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