“SIBUR Holding”: “No technological upgrade can replace a travel manager”

We would like to thank our colleagues from SIBUR for their appreciation of the work of ABT-ACTE Russia – Polina Izyumova, Head of Protocol and Branding Department, who was the winner of the “Travel Manager of the Year” nomination of Buying Business Travel Awards Russia & CIS, and Marina Medvedeva, Shared Services and Process Director, SIBUR management team member. We are proud you have been members of the Association for several years already! Your achievement deserves to be spoken about!


Fragment of an interview published on BBT Russia website:

- What, in your opinion, should be the decisive criterion of a travel manager`s work nowadays? What should you focus on in the first turn? Care about an employee on a business trip? Technologies? Assignment of responsibilities in the company? Cost optimization?

M. V. Medvedeva: there is no single answer to this question, it is always a combination of factors. We have been deeply engaged in the problem of business travel and building the single process since 2012-2013. There were attempts to assess the effect – back in 2008, when I only started my career in SIBUR. My colleagues made an analysis of how to spend the company`s business travel budget in the most efficient way. A presentation was made and suggestions announced. However, there was no person who could put it all into practice, we probably even lacked knowledge and severe competition in the business travel service market. And in 2012 the apple was ripe. At that time we also started our contacts with ABT-ACTE Russia, got interested in the educational events of the association, started thinking about corporate membership. Many issues discussed by experts at their sessions at the time, were burning issues for us.

The starting point was probably the questions we asked ourselves: “Does our huge holding with such a large amount of travel have a single approach, rules for all the companies of the holding? Is the corporate budget used with maximum efficiency?” And then all these questions led to a snowball of related tasks: to work out a standard algorithm, to develop a system that would be convenient for the staff, to learn to use the company`s money efficiently, and specifically by means of early trip planning practice. Because the earlier you book your trip, the more cost efficient it is. As for the prices, there was work with providers (airlines, hotels, transportation companies) aimed at agreeing on corporate rates, preferences, discounts, bonuses. And then went deeper understanding of what was behind the provider`s front line offer.

This symbiosis also includes care about the staff: they should have comfortable travel conditions and accommodation. Here the safety issue arises as well, this is why we choose only reliable providers. And technologies, of course - it is impossible to do without them with such travel volumes like in Sibur. We have more than 20 thousand employees, more than 30 thousand business trips and about 200 corporate events are held per year.

We have a wide presence geography - from Vienna to Shanghai, let alone our travel geography. This is why it is very important for us to have a mobile solution that would let us quickly choose what we need in the online mode. In addition, within the framework of what is foreseen for your position. The company follows single transparent standards that were introduced together with the system of grades.

In addition, Sibur employees may use corporate discounts and preferences for their personal purposes, for example, when they plan a family vacation. And if a business trip falls on the weekend or follows or precedes it, there is an opportunity to stay in the city where you are on business - the return ticket is reimbursed.

P. E. Izyumova: As for technologies, I would like to add that we even use our own event application. Printed materials are in the past, everything is in smartphones. Look: here you can read about event participants, learn what each of them is up to, see the description of the event venue. The application you see was specially developed for Interplastika 2017 exhibition, a milestone event for us. We even held a live broadcast of the video from the venue for our application users.

The element of personal communication in the process of business trip booking gradually disappears. It appears that you do not need to contact a manager. All you have to do is to log in the system and book a trip or adjust something.

But it does not mean that only automatic solutions work. Our employees keep a close eye on all the processes - control details, help, especially newcomers, to make head or tail of the business travel process. Despite the technological upgrade of all the systems, you cannot do without the human component. Even if you introduce an algorithm into the system, there are still nuances it is unable to cope with.

I am convinced that technologies will never replace a travel manager, but his role will change, it is changing already. And it is an important thing to understand. What shall we do? Be flexible, because if we are rigid, people will not stay in the business.

This fact is also much spoken about at ABT-ACTE Russia educational events. It is great that our colleagues have the “Travel Management” educational course that offers you a chance to learn profession basics for a short time, to listen to the representatives of different companies, learn from their experience.

- You mentioned corporate membership of your company in the association. You are going to continue this cooperation, aren't you?

- M. V. Medvedeva: Of course we are. Experts know what is going on in the industry, what suggestions are made, what difficulties all the travel market participants come across. It is a great platform to exchange opinions and to acquire new knowledge. I would like to notice that the association holds events not only in Russia, it also takes corporate buyers to industry specific exhibitions abroad.

We have chosen corporate, and not personal membership because we understand that an employee deals with it today and tomorrow he or she may be busy doing something else. It is not good to choose your only one favourite competence and to carry it like The Holy Grail and limit the development of a new branch, because you are unique, you are the only one who knows everything.

Due to corporate membership our team benefits from balanced participation in all ABT-ACTE Russia educational events, exchange of opinions. Thus new information is received in a structured way. It is all the more important for large corporations, because such participation implies certain positioning - we represent not ourselves personally, but the company, Sibur, in the first place.

P. E. Izyumova: At one of the events of the association I spoke about the events that were arranged to celebrate the 20th anniversary of our holding. At that time even Sibur museum was opened where you could see the miniatures of all the four regions our companies are located at. And what no one could ever guess, the fourth miniature had been brought from Nizhniy Novgorod the night before. We gathered all the important information about the main growth milestones of the company for 20 years. It was tremendous work! Just imagine: four huge stands, each one devoted to five years of our holding development. It is unbelievable, but it took us only three months to have everything ready.

Of course, I am always glad there are my peers in the association. They are nice, they are always looking for topics, questions on the agenda. They are full of ideas! For example, the first personal growth training is planned for the beginning of April. And we have already chosen colleagues who will certainly attend it. By the word, the association often surprises us with new formats.

Now about presentations. I still remember Leroy Merlin case study, presented at the final educational session. Aleksandra Perekalskaya held a real travel management game. It was amazing! She went all out, arranged everything and held the game training. And she shared her experience with us.

M. V. Medvedeva: Moreover, the association now visits different cities of Russia and draws attention to the regions. Not long ago I read in Vedomosti that event organizers still preferred foreign destinations, which is not quite true. Besides, the service level of Russian venues meets high requirements already. Sochi, Kaliningrad, Anapa, Nizhniy Novgorod, Tobolsk... Besides, if some ten years ago you could go to, say, Perm or Voronezh and not find a decent hotel there, the situation is completely different nowadays. Hilton has been very active in the regions. Look, its hotels are almost everywhere - in Krasnoyarsk, Voronezh, Perm... There are good offers of hotel chains, moreover, of the good European level, with good business facilities.

It is our preconception that foreign destinations are definitely good, and ours are definitely bad. This point of view is disputable and should be definitely changed.

I know that the association has planned its educational events in Novosibirsk, Tyumen, Kazan, Kaliningrad, Saint Petersburg, Ekaterinburg for this year. And we think we should definitely attend them!

You can read the full version of the interview on www.buyingbusinesstravel.com.ru