Gathering STBV data: It’s all about quality

04 July 2017

We’ve written recently about the importance of tracking your short-term business visitors (STBVs). But when it comes to the practicalities, that’s easier said than done. At our recent Business Traveller event, we spent a lot of time discussing how gathering data works in practice, and heard from companies that were at a range of stages in implementing STBV risk managed approaches.

Any approach that’s going to be useful and worthwhile needs good quality data, and that’s a big challenge with STBVs. As one participant at our event pointed out, one of the first things you need to decide is when to collect the information. Before people travel? Or afterwards? Or while they’re there? Each has pros and cons attached. If you ask employees to explain what they’re doing before they travel, for example, that allows you to head off any immigration or visa problems. But on the other hand, plans can quickly change. What if a trip is cancelled or amended? Will your employees take the time to tell you?

Retrospective gathering of data avoids the problem of cancelled trips affecting the quality of your data, but as well as being unhelpful in the event of an emergency or security scare, this approach takes away your ability to pre-empt problems and manage travel costs. Is each trip strictly necessary? It’s too late to make that judgment once a trip is over.

The increased focus by tax authorities on permanent establishment rules means it’s also important to know what people are doing when they travel, but again this is fraught with problems. Some information may be commercially sensitive or confidential; and even if it’s not, supplying the data can be time-consuming for busy employees.

The good news is that there is a growing arsenal of tools and technology that help you gather STBV data efficiently. The trick is to make sure that whatever method you use, it works for employees and not just for the organisation. For instance, we’re working with software that predicts the likely activities of groups of employees on a business trip – this significantly reduces the number of questions they have to answer about their activities before they travel.

If you need good quality data, you need to think about how it’s gathered. In the case of STBV data, you’re relying heavily on your employees so it’s important that providing the information isn’t onerous to them, and encourages them to be as accurate as possible. It's also a good idea if employees gain something from telling you what you need to know; for instance, they would care because they get the visa to allow their travel, and you get the data to help you identify tax exposures.

We have put together a package of sophisticated tools and solutions that brings together all of a business’s mobility, immigration and tax data – which allows employers to understand where their employees are and what they’re doing, monitor the cost and frequency of travel, identify risks and meet the dizzying array of regulations and reporting requirements. These take away much of the strain of monitoring business travel but they also make the movement of people highly visible – and that brings huge opportunities to actively and efficiently manage short-term mobility. Just think what you could do...

Rick Shaw 
Office: +44 207 804 8346 
Email: richard.w.shaw@pwc.com

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