Insight: Things You Should Know When Digitising Your Travel Risk Management Programme

Published On: June 23, 2023Categories: Higher Education, Risk Assessment, SaaS

Digital transformation is a hot topic in higher education. As universities face mounting costs and greater competition, they are having to seek new opportunities in terms of attracting students and revenues. Admissions officers are traveling further afield, and courses offer more foreign trips or placements to increase appeal. Meanwhile, academics are itching to get back out there having had foreign travel cancelled during the pandemic.

Health and safety departments are having to adapt to these new dynamics. Many now see digitisation as the best solution to deal with the mounting workload, particularly when it comes to travel risk management.

The technology exists to streamline risk assessment processes, so they can be produced at scale and still allow for the flexibility needed to address the unique types of trips university personnel embark on.

The benefits of a digital travel risk management platform are clear:

  • Greater oversight through easy to access risk assessments all stored in one place.

  • A streamlined process and minimisation of reporting repetition to improve engagement, efficiencies and waste less time on bureaucracy.

  • Legal peace of mind knowing there is a clear and integrated approval process that is logged.

  • Demonstrable duty of care via easily shared destination risk information and provision of activity-based safety guidance to travellers.

  • Efficient incident response thanks to itinerary tracking, notification of updates, contingency and emergency information all stored securely.

  • Ability to gather traveller feedback to continually learn and improve regarding risks and corresponding behaviours in the field.

  • Greater insights and data analytics to understand the effectiveness of your processes.

However, universities are complex organisations with multiple priorities, legacy systems, long procurement cycles, intricate sign-off processes involving a myriad of stakeholders and, as it is often the case, a resistance to all things new. Change is not easy.

We have spoken to many university Heads of Health and Safety to better understand the challenges they are facing. Based on these conversations we have outlined the key hurdles to digitisation and how to overcome them during the digital adoption process.

Procurement: Complex Structure

“A university is a collection of schools and departments, with only a common heating system, holding it all together.” This is how one Head of Health and Safety, described the complex and often competing entities in a university.

Universities are not run like big businesses with a clear, corporate management structure. Universities are typically made of separate schools or departments which often operate in silos and with great autonomy. Processes and working practises are often divergent.

Any travel risk assessment programme also needs to be able to deal with a multitude of stakeholders ranging from the traveller to external risk advisors, insurers, heads of department, the school management committee, and the executive board, all of whom may be involved in the sign-off process for risk assessments.

Furthermore, university budgets add another layer of complexity as financial systems and revenue streams can differ from school to school. To take a digitisation project forward, an agreement must be reached regarding the alignment of budgets and a continued monetary commitment.

A travel risk management process must be applied equally across all areas of an academic institution. Any digitisation programme will need partners in every school and department, as well as the support of IT, communications and business improvement teams.

Getting universal agreement from key stakeholders on what information and functionality to request from suppliers in the procurement process can be arduous, but will make the difference between a successful and failed digital transformation programme.

Tips for success:

  • Be clear what you want the new travel risk management programme to do. It is unlikely that everything you want will be offered by the solution so focus on the priorities. Do not be distracted by shiny features that sound great in concept, but will prove difficult to implement; for example: active travel tracking via apps is often viewed as an easy solution during disruption and incident management. However, these apps also involve a great deal of user resentment with regards to privacy invasion, always needing to be updated, need for expensive data roaming tariffs and often the human element of just forgetting to activate the app.

  • Convince others by explaining how digitisation will positively impact them in their day-to-day activities. Focus on how the new digital system will streamline working processes, reduce workload and bring together all relevant information in one platform.

  • Pay attention to lessons learnt from past procurement processes both the successful and not so successful ones. Consult your colleagues from other institutions to learn from their experiences.

Set Up and Onboarding

You have successfully gone through procurement and now it should be plain sailing, right? Actually, product rollout is where the hard work really begins as change management is often the most challenging part.

To begin with the technical set up involves decisions about platform customisations, user lists, user groups and special access privileges. Critical to any digitisation process is identifying your system administrators who will be responsible for setting up and maintaining the platform. This task by itself is not an easy feat. In an extreme case, one university told us that this is an uphill struggle because they simply do not have a list of all the staff and their roles across all the schools. So, in some cases, you may need to start here.

Then you need to turn to the human aspect of onboarding users. Communication is key to success, and you need to answer the following questions:

  • Why the change is being made and how it will benefit the individual user?

  • What is the individual user’s role in the new system?

  • How does the individual engage in the roll out process?

From there the users need to be trained how to use the new system, which can be done in person or, especially in the case of large institutions, online.

Tips for success:

  • When picking a provider, choose one that can show a history of implementing their solution on a large scale.

  • Always look for digital solutions that are designed with the user experience at their heart, built to be intuitive and with a comprehensive help suite.

  • Single sign on (SSO) functionality can help massively when managing large numbers of users.

  • Make sure the provider prioritises data protection and has a cyber security certification such as ISO 27001. Data protection is now a legal non-negotiable consideration and user data throughout this whole process must be managed securely.

  • With the provider’s help, put in place a communication strategy and training plan to prepare your users for the change and achieve maximum buy-in. Be respectful of the users’ time as this is not their main function in the business and prolonged training may turn them off.

Resistance versus Adoption

In every organisation there will always be people who struggle to adopt to new technologies or outright resist any change. Our research reveals that this is a common issue facing any digitisation initiative in the education sector.

Academic freedom is at the heart of higher education institutions. Tutors and lecturers are not used to working in a corporate-style environment with a senior manager telling them how to do their day-to-day work. Bureaucracy is often treated as someone else’s problem.

So, hope for easy adoption, but prepare for some friction.

Tips for success:

  • Identify influencers and executive sponsors for the rollout project who can help you push the change message.

  • Allocate time to spend with the most intransigent individuals and be prepared to show some flexibility. Help your people understand when a decision has been made and what they can and cannot control moving forward.

  • Highlight your digital transformation successes to as many people as possible either via word of mouth or via formal communication channels (staff newsletters or an email from the Chancellor). At the same time, also hold those accountable who fail to adopt to the new process.

  • Look for a provider who has a client success role in their business so you can rely on them to help you with those difficult cases.

At RiskPal, we are working with educational institutions, media organisations and NGOs to develop their internal travel risk management infrastructure, digitise their risk assessment systems and become ISO 31030 compliant.

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