DOD Launches Travel System Prototype
By Bob Gerenser, Defense Travel Management Office
In June 2017, the Department of Defense formed the Cross Functional Team for Travel (CFT-T) to conduct a review of existing travel policy, evaluate technical solutions to deliver an enhanced/modernized travel capability, and develop an acquisition strategy to procure a technical solution. With the establishment of the CFT-T, the pace of modernization was fast-tracked with increased visibility, collaboration, and resources at the highest levels of the Department.
Just one year later, in August 2018, the CFT-T acquisition strategy resulted in the Department awarding an Other Transaction Agreement to SAP Concur to develop a Defense Travel Modernization (DTM) prototype using its commercial Software as a Service (SaaS) to book travel, manage travel related expenses, and initiate travel-related financial transactions. Then just seven months later, on March 18, 2019, the Defense Travel Modernization Prototype went live with its first travelers as the DTM team began rolling out the prototype system to the Defense Human Resources Activity and its 1,300 travelers. The work of CFT-T created the momentum to rapidly field this new travel capability for DOD.
From the start, stakeholders could sense this initiative was different from previous modernization excursions. First, it was fully aligned with the National Defense Strategy and its goal to reform the Department’s enterprise-wide business operations and free up funds to redirect to increasing the lethality of the warfighter.
Second, the CFT-T articulated a clear set of goals for modernization:
• Reduce process and workflow complexity
• Maintain and enhance audit readiness
• Improve customer satisfaction
• Reduce cost
• Align to commercial/industry best practices
Third, DOD leadership did not want to build a customized travel solution. The mandate was to procure a “travel-as-a-service capability,” leveraging leading commercial off the shelf technology. That capability would include both the technology and the Travel Management Company services to support it, and reduce the overall cost of travel by empowering DOD travelers and authorizing officials to make travel decisions that benefit their organizations. Fourth, the use of the Department’s Other Transaction Authority streamlined the procurement process and compressed the acquisition timeline to quickly get this new capability in front of real travelers.
There is also a big difference in the way DOD is implementing the DTM prototype, compared to the legacy Defense Travel System. The team is developing and deploying the prototype using Agile project management processes. The foundation of Agile is to quickly deploy the minimal capability required to get it in front of real users to capture their feedback. User feedback is critical to Agile. For this first iteration of the prototype, the team deployed a Minimal Viable Product—the MVP—so travelers can accomplish the most basic business travel. The team will collect and analyze user feedback and use it to iterate and improve on the SAP Concur configuration. Throughout this Agile implementation the team is looking to streamline and optimize the processes, mechanisms, and approaches to DOD travel and deliver an improved travel experience for our civilian employees and military Service members. They will work to continuously simplify travel policy to facilitate the COTS/SaaS solution and avoid costly customization.
The prototype is currently integrated with the Defense Agencies Initiative (DAI), the financial accounting system used by most Defense Agencies, Field Activities, and other “Fourth Estate” organizations not within the military departments. After the team has time to capture sufficient user feedback from Defense Human Resources Activity, they will continue the rollout across the Fourth Estate. The Agile process extends to financial integration as well. The team will continue to iterate and improve on the DAI integration and take those lessons learned to integrate with other DOD financial systems to expand the rollout.
The DTM prototype generated significant buzz at February’s GovTravels symposium as the DTM team delivered both an effective and entertaining live demonstration of the prototype. The demonstration generated plenty of “oohs and aahs,” as well as chuckles from an overflow crowd of over 300 conference attendees.
This is just the beginning. In addition to expanding functionality beyond basic business travel, the team is excited to eventually deliver the full range of capability provided by today’s leading travel technology available with the prototype SAP Concur system. That technology includes enhanced capabilities like mobile applications, business intelligence, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to automatically audit 100 percent of expense reports for fraud and compliance, and a traveler risk management and safety communication solution.
The prototype is scheduled to last up to 24 months. Once DOD deems the prototype successful, a production decision can be made to rollout the new travel-as-a-service capability across the Department, eventually sun setting the legacy Defense Travel System.
For more information about Defense Travel Modernization and other DOD travel programs and initiatives, please visit the Defense Travel Management Office website at www.defensetravel.dod.mil.