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The General Services Administration (GSA) along with other government agencies, contractors, vendors, and the Travel Management Center (TMC) providers are already preparing for Electronic Travel Service 2 (ETS2), the next generation of the EGov Travel Service. The current ETS contract, administered by GSA, will be expiring on November 11, 2013.
E-Gov Travel is a Government-wide initiative that is mandated by the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) for all federal travelers and is one of 24 E-Gov initiatives outlined in the President’s Management Agenda (PMA). The E-Gov Travel vision is to deliver a unified, simplified service that delivers a cost-effective travel experience, supports excellent management and results in superior customer satisfaction. The E-Gov Travel goals are defined as follows: develop a government-wide, web based, world-class travel management service; establish a cost model that reduces or eliminates capital investment and minimizes total cost per transaction for the government; and create a policy environment based on the use of best travel management policies.
Recent studies have shown that approximately 70% of travel system users are new or infrequent travelers that travel less than three times per year. Therefore, the system must be intuitive and easy to use. Otherwise the traveler is having to learn the system each time they have a need to travel on official business. Many travelers encounter problems when creating the travel authorization, making reservations, and using online help. We routinely hear that commercial systems are much easier to use than the government travel systems. However, government travel is more complex with the addition of the Federal Travel Regulations, agencies internal policies, required justifications for certain types of travel, funding sources, approval requirements, reporting requirements, etc.
Communication is the key to identify agency travel needs and develop requirements for the next ETS2 contract. Many agencies customized the current ETS travel systems by funding enhancements to meet their agency’s mission. These enhancements further complicate the concept of “one system fits all”. In order to be better prepared for the next contract solicitation, agencies are collaborating their needs and identifying problem areas to ensure that the requirements for the next ETS2 systems are clearly defined and existing functionality is not lost with a new system(s).
In order to make a more intuitive and easy to use system, some of the areas that need to be addressed are, but not limited to, the following: easier navigation through document preparation to ensure that the user knows what steps have been completed and what areas still need to be completed, the terminology needs to be consistent and easy to understand throughout the application, page-based help and help links, timely email alerts on actions needing to be taken in the system, up-to-date training materials, clarification on error messages so travelers know how to correct the issue, timely table updates by the vendor such as per diem rates, mileage rates, FedRooms rates, timely agency table update requests, auto fill of certain fields to avoid duplicate entry or excessive clicking from drop down menus, forward and back buttons to allow travelers to move within the application, ability to copy expenses through a date range for reoccurring expenses throughout a trip, constructive voucher functionality for comparison when traveler deviates from official business for personal reasons, dynamic routing capability for the building of the accounting string (most travelers don’t know their funding source), and other functionality to stay current with technology evolution. As you can see there is a variety of areas that can be improved upon with the next ETS2 applications.
In addition to developing requirements for the ETS2 contract solicitation, agencies also place task orders on the contract. These task orders further define requirements that are agency specific. It is very important for agency personnel to know the master contract requirements as well as their task order requirements. If the requirement is not addressed in either of these contracting vehicles, then the vendor may ask for additional funding to provide the service to the agency.
The EGov Travel Service has come a long way since its inception in 2003. Collaboration, communication, and policy and system training are a few of the important components of the success of this initiative. All parties involved must form meaningful relationships with each other for continued success, share best practices, and application enhancements government-wide.
With the evolution of technology, who knows what the next generation of ETS2 has in store for the government traveler. Travelers, travel planners, budget reviews, and approving officials can prepare and submit travel documents electronically from several different media (computer, laptop, PDA, blackberry, other electronic devices) from anywhere in the world at anytime. All government travel data will be consolidated into one reporting tool for consistent and accurate reporting. Only time will tell where we will be in the next 10 years of federal travel management.
“The contents of this message are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the Government or my agency.