Magazine article CMA - the Management Accounting Magazine

Travel Expert System

Magazine article CMA - the Management Accounting Magazine

Travel Expert System

Article excerpt

A pilot Travel Expert System is underway in the federal government. The system is designed to help travellers prepare travel requests and claims directly on their personal computers rather than prepare forms. The objectives of the system are to simplify the preparation of requests and claims, reduce paperwork, consistently apply travel provisions, and eliminate the sometimes adversarial relationship between the traveller and those who administer the travel rules.

How the system works

To initiate a travel request, the traveller simply makes a selection from the menu which appears on the computer screen. From then on, the system asks a series of questions about the trip, like, "What is your destination?" Most of the answers are provided by selecting items with a click of the mouse from menus on the screen, such as a list of cities, hotels, or car rental companies. The system draws the approved rates for meals, incidentals, car travel, hotels, and car rental from its databases and applies them to the advance request.

Each time the user provides an answer, the system checks it against the policy requirements. It also takes into account the differences between various travellers, for example senior managers and travellers who use a government travel card, and applies the policy accordingly. When a policy issue does arise, the user is notified by the system. The system never prohibits the user from making a non-standard selection. Instead, it requires an explanation which is later displayed to the person who will approve the request. The user's selections can also determine which person the request will be sent to for approval. From the answers provided about the trip, the system calculates the advance amount automatically, and builds the equivalent government travel authority and advance form. Tombstone data about the traveller is applied automatically by the system, as well as the financial codes.

The traveller then sends the request to the approving authority on the local area network. This person views a summary of the trip, and can view more detailed information as well. More significantly, the system displays the non-standard items selected by the traveller as well as the explanations to the approving authority. The approving authority then electronically approves the trip (or disapproves it, providing an explanation). The cashier can then access the request for any advances and issue travellers' cheques.

After the trip, the claim can be prepared on the system without re-entering the information that was entered during the request stage. …

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