Software eases conference planning headaches

Federal meeting coordinators no longer need to reach for the aspirin when trying to put together all the details of travel planning. Thanks to the innovation of two Army majors, they can reach for a software remedy instead.

For federal planners, putting together an affordable conference for attendees scattered across the United States is a rigorous exercise in cost-benefit analysis. Travel coordinators must consider each potential site's per diem rates as well as the number of attendees, where attendees are departing from, the number of days the conference lasts, and the cost of flights.

But with Offsite, a software program developed by the Defense Logistics Agency's Office of Operations Research and Resource Analysis and the Army Training and Doctrine Command's Analysis Center, calculating the most cost-efficient sites for conferences, meetings or professional development training sessions can be done in a few steps.

Offsite can save travel planners 20 to 40 percent of the cost of putting together a conference, according to its developers, Maj. Randy Zimmerman, a DLA operations research analyst in Richmond, Va., and Maj. Jeffrey Huisingh, an instructor at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

"One benefit of the software is that it provides counter-intuitive solutions," Zimmerman said. While the software's city of choice might not seem like an inexpensive location, all of the other factors calculated make it the cheapest choice. "Before Offsite, most travel planning was done through eyeballing and guesstimating," he said.

For example, Offsite calculated that it would be less expensive to send 100 people from the East coast (50 from Washington D.C., 50 from Detroit Mich.) to Denver, Colo. than it would be to send 50 Denverites to either Detroit or D.C.

"We're not trying to pinpoint costs down to the dime," Huisingh said, but rather to "provide a comparison of costs from geographic locations around the country."

Offsite users simply enter the number of days the event will last, the cities attendees will be arriving from, and the number of people coming from each location. The software will then calculate three solutions. The first restricts conference sites to cities attendees are departing from. The second ranks 274 cities in the continental United States that have government-contracted air fares by cost. The third calculates the cost of a site specified by the user.

By taking into account GSA contracted city-pair air fares, per diems, meals, incidental expenses and the standard personal vehicle reimbursement rate, Offsite assumes all the burden of cost analysis previously reserved for travel coordinators.

Certain assumptions are made, including that no government quarters or meals will be available and that no one is sharing a room. In addition, the program assumes that people will drive to destinations that are 100 miles or less from their departure city; otherwise, attendees will fly. The model also assumes drivers will arrive the day the event begins while fliers will arrive the night before. Both are assumed to leave the day the event ends.

Based on feedback from Offsite users, Zimmerman and Huisingh are in the process of developing a second version of Offsite that will include an improved user interface, automated links to zip codes and better maps. "If version one of Offsite was equivalent to the first version of Microsoft Word, then we are trying to get closer to the Office 97 version," Zimmerman said.

According to Zimmerman, the new version of Offsite should be available by May 1999.

The DLA's Defense Supply Center has made Offsite available to all federal agencies via the Federal Travel Optimization Reinvention Lab's Web site. Registered Offsite users are automatically sent updated versions of the software that reflect changes in per diems, mileage reimbursements, hotel and air fare rates.

For their achievement, Government Executive recognized Zimmerman and Huisingh as Travel Managers of the Year in our November 1998 Federal Travel Guide.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.