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All over the United States, Americans are discussing the issue of whether the government is spending too much money. Everyone can agree that there are definitely items in the budget that can be eliminated. There are also areas that need a major overhaul. But regardless of the debt situation that needs to be addressed in our country, government agencies are being affected with budget restraints now. With budgets on hold or declining, agencies must begin to do more with less. They try to implement the necessary cuts to stay within budget but also to ensure that the work continues to be completed without issues or delays.
One area where agencies seem to be able to cut down their budgets is on travel expenses. With technology advancing every day, a rising question appears: does an individual need to travel or not. Most travel occurs because of a need for training, to perform training, to attend a conference to discover new enhancements/ideas for improving productivity, or to make connections face to face with customers. Can these items be achieved without ever leaving the agency? With modern technology, some agencies have found ways to achieve their goals and to reduce their budgets for travel. Some examples of ways agencies have cut travel costs are by using the below mentioned technology.
- Webinars (WebEx, GoTo Meeting) – Using software that allow multiple users to login at the same time and view a presentation or training event from anywhere in the country can allow an agency to cut a huge amount of travel budget. The savings of not paying the airfare, lodging, rental car, etc. costs are much greater than the small charge of paying for the software to be used. People can interact over a phone line and a screen to achieve what the standard meetings accomplish. This is an excellent way of ensuring people have the ability to receive the required training needed without leaving the comfort of their own agency.
- Video Conferencing (Skype) – Video Conferencing is a resource where travelers can continue the face to face contact needed to form relationships with their customers. Most people work better by truly getting to know the people with whom they work. The traditional way of establishing good working relationships is by traveling to each other’s agency and having group meetings together. Video conferencing can replace this requirement. Individuals can now meet and see each other by sitting in their own conference rooms via a camera and a screen. Although video conferencing can eliminate a lot of travel for an agency, it does not mean that at some point an actual face to face meeting will not be needed. This is just giving an agency another alternative in achieving their goals.
- Virtual Conferences – Every year many government travelers attend conferences for one reason or the other. These conferences can vary on topics and cost the federal government lots of money in travel expenses. Just imagine how much money could potentially be saved if individuals no longer needed to travel to attend conferences, but could attend them from their own duty station. I attended a virtual conference myself earlier this year and it worked quite nicely. GSA held a virtual conference for those individuals involved in government charge cards. By obtaining a login ID and password, an individual could log into a website provided by GSA from anywhere they chose. All of the vendors that agencies would normally interact with at the “real” conference were represented on the virtual site. On the virtual conference, individuals were able to go into those vendors exhibits to review their information. Live people were logged and available to answer any questions that attendees had. Individuals could also go to any of the training sessions where the instructors were video conferencing so the participants could see the instructor and feel like they were actually there. Conferences can normally draw hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals to participate. Just think of the cost savings that can be generated by having individuals attend the virtual conference over a live conference.
No matter what the future holds for America, one thing is for certain, budgets are going to always be an issue agencies have to deal with. If travel expenses can be cut down because of the advancements in technology, why not take advantage of this technology? As budgets continue to get tighter and tighter over the next few years, the federal agencies will now have to decide whether, “To Travel or Not to Travel; that is the Question”.
By: Linda Ruppel
The contents of this message are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the
Government or my agency.