Dec 14, 2007

By Request

P&B and Gus,

I don't know if you have heard about Concur, the Lab's new travel system. It is one of the biggest disasters rolled out by the LANS management team to date. People who travel a lot are owned $10-20K of travel reimbursements. I know several people who have complained and only get ignored. The other day at the first line manager meeting with Mikey, he was asked about Concur and told the poor guy who asked the question to talk to his supervisor as he doesn't want to deal with any problems. Nice. The guy is making over a million bucks for his post and does not want to hear or deal with any problems. He is ignoring issues brought to his attention.

Is there any way that we can get a top post (ala RIF) to discuss Concur. Maybe we can bring it to the attention of our lawmakers or other folks in Washington how LANS is keeping thousands and thousands of dollars in their pockets by not reimbursing the employees who go on travel.

Why doesn't POGO pick up on this kind of fraud and abuse?

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you are owed money and are not being paid, Small Claims Court would be a good place to start.

Of course, that would be "career-limiting" behavio.

Anonymous said...

This is measure to reduce spending. If you do not get reimbursed for you travel, you will take less trips.
Thus, less money will be spent.

Some manager will get a bonus for this.

Anonymous said...

Just like your TCP-1 pension, funds for your travel have been invested in high grade, AAA bonds with a return of 12% This is just standard proceedure for all pension plans, muni and state funds. What did you expect LANS to do, fully fund these pools? Do not be alarmed that the bid for these bonds have been down graded by Moodys to CCC. The Federal reserve has your best interests at heart, and the inability of LANS to find a buyer for these securities at more than 10 cents on the dollar is sure to pass as subprime housing bottoms here in the next week. Just relax and allow the gentle hand of market manipulation and crony capatalism to work in your best interest.

Anonymous said...

Yet another hidden tax in the era of "improved efficiency". It's amazing how much money you can "save" when you have technical staff taking out the trash, wasting time on concur, etc.

Anonymous said...

At least we don't collect our receipts in an envelope and turn them in every week. Can you imagine how expensive that would be? Plus, with Concur we get to take a laptop when we travel!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this opening.

We are up to six anti-Concur letters in the lab-sanctioned Readers' Forum so far. I hope you don't mind me cluttering up the blog by reposting them. I'm removing authorship but otherwise copying the letters intact.

"December 12, 2007

More on Concur

I have read several letters in the Readers’ Forum about "Concur" but have not seen a response from anyone responsible for this fiasco. I didn't appreciate the magnitude of the problem until I tried it myself for a two-day, one-night workshop in Albuquerque. This would have taken me three-to-five minutes on the old system. Working with an experience admin, trained on Concur, it took one whole hour total.

First, we started according to the instructions and got to the point that I should have been able to download my credit card bill for the hotel. Seven days after charging it, it wasn't in the system. So we saved the trip, and tried again the next day. This time, the bill appeared, but due to some download problem, the entire itinerary got erased. Undaunted, we started again, and got errors associated with the apportionment of tax for the hotel. After doing the opposite of what the instructions said, we got this fixed! I don't think that I would know how to resolve this issue if it comes up again next time.

And why, when selecting a country of origin for the trip, isn't the USA the default? What are the chances that someone is starting his/her trip in Afghanistan? This is just one example that goes to show how inconsiderate the whole system is.

Please have the manager in charge identify him/herself, take responsibility, and get the problem solved! How many more productive work hours (months, years) are going to be lost because of this system?"

Anonymous said...

"December 3, 2007

More on Concur

I am writing to follow up on the opinions offered by [writer 1] and [writer 2] about the Concur Domestic Travel System.

I am in total agreement with their sentiments. This is one of the worst pieces of software I have used [at] the Laboratory. It makes the P-Card reconciliation software look like a tight, coherent piece of code.

Has anyone at the associate director level or above tried using this software? This can't be saving money."

Anonymous said...

"November 27, 2007

Concur travel system

I agree with [writer 1], the new Concur travel system was rolled out before it is ready and is a huge step backwards from the previous system.

I was unable to navigate the Concur system for one of the most simple of more than 100 trips I've taken for the Lab. I had to ask for help from two different admins from two different groups to handle this simple trip. Even with trained experts running the system, the travel office still rejected my initial reimbursement claim (I was owed more money than I had claimed).

After four weeks in process, the travel office confused this trip with another and deleted both claims from the system. I still haven't been reimbursed almost five weeks later. I already have been forced to pay the bill - in effect requiring me to give the Lab an interest-free loan. As the Lab charged airline tickets to my credit card, this is not an insignificant amount of money.

The Concur system needs to be withdrawn and improved until it can actually show an efficiency advantage over the old travel system."

Anonymous said...

"December 5, 2007

Don't place blame just fix it

The Concur travel system could be an excellent tool, however, adequate staffing in the Travel Office may be necessary to handle the workload.

I have sat with many staff members, in one-on-one sessions, to talk them through travel reservations. I have had to answer many of their questions, soothe their feelings of doubt, and clarify points of misunderstanding. This process has been time consuming. However, once an employee has gone through a reservation, the individual has been able to make his or her own future reservations.

Unfortunately, expense reports offer a different set of challenges. Every day I get complaints, and I am forced to examine each one independently so that I learn triage faults and determine a solution for each independent issue.

Our latest horror story: A staff member had his Laboratory travel card suspended for non-payment because he had not received any of his expense reimbursements.

Our travelers must not be subjected to finance charges and potential bad credit ratings because they are attempting to follow policy. What is the benefit to the corporate card if the employee incurs penalties for late payments due to tardy reimbursements?

Why was the Travel Group reduced in size when a new system that was obviously not completely ready for rollout put into place? There are myriad questions, but I for one will still support this new system in any way that I can and I applaud the Travel Group for attempting to give good service even with the insurmountable odds they face on a daily basis.

Please just fix it."

Anonymous said...

"November 16, 2007

Concur software

I fully support the statement by [writer 1]. This is actually a common feeling around the Laboratory that Concur is one of the worst pieces of software we ever were forced to use. When I think about the wasted time by many people involved in using this extremely low quality software in the context of [a possible] coming reduction-in-force (RIF), I wonder how many positions could be saved by scrapping it as soon as possible, and how many are already lost due to using it."

Anonymous said...

"November 6, 2007

The new travel system - we really can't do better?

Like many other Laboratory employees, I have recently tried to submit my first travel expense report on Concur, the [Lab's] new travel system. My three-day trip was to Washington, D.C. (leave on Tuesday, return on Thursday).

In the great cosmic scheme of things, it was not a very expensive trip. However, the new travel system is impossible to figure out. A back-of-the-envelop calculation shows that I spent more money through my time and effort trying to learn this system than I spent on the trip itself! (And yes, I did follow the online instructions -- even as a computer geek, it is not possible to muddle your way through this system.)

I understand that Los Alamos National Security said it would switch over to Concur by the 2008 fiscal year as part of its bid [to manage the Laboratory]. But come on...we design nuclear weapons at this Laboratory and this is the best we can do for a travel system?

It would sure be nice for someone in management to admit they made a mistake and pull back the use of Concur until it is ready for prime time. At least the old system actually worked!"

Anonymous said...

Reading some of the comments here I can see how LANL staff have earned a reputation for passively accepting all manner of shabby treatment at the hands of their management.

Instead of bitching and complaining on this nice little anonymous blog, you should be helping the rest of the world to understand what is really going on at LANL, if you really wanted to change things there. If conditions really are as bad as you say, places like POGO would love to receive documentation of LANS malfeasance.

Who knows, if POGO got hold of material that actually documented some of LANS' more shady operations, such as the KSL kickback operation then perhaps LANS could actually be ousted.

This, of course, would require that LANL staff actually do something besides all this anonymous whining, and I think we all know what the likelihood is of that ever happening.

Anonymous said...

Here's an email that's been making its way around. Notice it's addressed to Doris Heim, the AD responsible for this debacle:

>>Date: Fri, 07 Dec 2007 08:06:07 -0700
>>To: dsheim@lanl.gov
>>Subject: Re: CONCUR travel expense system complaint
>>
>>Doris
>>
>> I wish I could state that the situation described below is
>> an isolated situation but I am finding the same issues across the
>> board. The bottom line is that significant programmatic
>> productivity has been lost because of the inordinate effort
>> required to use the new Concur system. We all understand that
>> there is a learning curve associated with imposing new systems and
>> we also understand the human dynamic that intrinsically resists
>> change, but this is much more than that. When hours are expended
>> by our staff members on what should be a relatively straight
>> forward process, we have a problem. There is no cost savings
>> associated with this system. The costs have been shifted to the
>> technical staff and it is now much more costly.
>>
>> If this were the early days of desktop computing, I would
>> understand why the software is so cumbersome and intractable. But
>> given today's standards this is an awful system that would not
>> pass Laboratory rudimentary standards for distribution, and we are
>> not a software house. In my opinion we need a different system
>> and in the interim we should revert to the old system that we
>> understand and was more generally tractable. CONCUR is one of
>> those good ideas that unfortunately failed.
>>
>> We would greatly appreciate resolution to this onerous
>> burden. I realize that the situation we have now was not your
>> intention, but we have a serious, costly problem and need your
>> help in finding a remedy.
>>
[name deleted]
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>At 05:24 PM 12/6/2007, [name deleted] wrote:
>>>The excessive slowness of the CONCUR travel expense reimbursement process
>>>has become a serious problem to program execution, and needs to be fixed
>>>immediately.
>>>
>>>Members of my team are having to take programmatic travel roughly every two
>>>weeks, but with CONCUR expense reimbursements taking 6 weeks or longer to be
>>>paid, many of my team members are out of pocket multiple thousands of
>>>dollars in travel costs for weeks at a time. This represents a serious
>>>financial hardship for my team members, some of whom cannot now afford to go
>>>on essential programmatic trips because they cannot sustain the unpaid Lab
>>>travel costs: the new travel system has therefore become an obstacle to
>>>project execution, which is intolerable.
>>>
>>>In addition to the intrinsic slowness of the reimbursement procedure, the
>>>difficulty of using "CONCUR expense" leads to multiple data entry errors,
>>>and so expense reports frequently have to be re-entered 2 or 3 times,
>>>further delaying reimbursement. With LANL Corporate credit card bills for
>>>travel expenses requiring payment every 30 days, and even short trips to
>>>west or east coast costing $2-3K, my team members are having to cover
>>>substantial Lab travel costs out of their own pockets for weeks at a time,
>>>which we were assured would not happen when the Corporate cards were issued.
>>>
>>>The difficulty of using "CONCUR expense" imposes an additional, unacceptable
>>>time and program cost on my team members and budget. Entering an expense
>>>claim for even a simple trip (operational travel with a single business
>>>destination) takes between 90 mins and 2 hours, because of the need to
>>>perform the convoluted data entry steps while following along with the
>>>online training: the system is so hard to use that I and my fellow team
>>>members have to enter their expenses this way after every trip. With my
>>>fully burdened time now costing ~$300/hour, this amounts to a substantial
>>>additional cost to my programs, when multiplied by the number of team
>>>members and trips. This is intolerable !
>>>
>>>The CONCUR expense system has become a major obstacle to program
>>>performance, has raised program costs, significantly reduced staff members
>>>available time to work on projects, and imposes an unfair, unacceptable
>>>level of financial hardship on Lab employees who must travel. This bad
>>>system should be taken offline immediately, and a timely travel
>>>reimbursement procedure (re)instituted before more damage is done to Lab
>>>programs by the CONCUR expense system.
>>>
>>>Regards
[name deleted]

Anonymous said...

Another email that's going around. This one really frosts me:


>>--- 20 Oct 2007 email to [travel office]
>>
>>Dear Mr. [travel],
>>
>>I appreciate your taking the time to respond.
>>
>>I take exception to your responses on several points (understanding
>>that you are an implementer of LANS policies and it is the policies
>>that I find inadequate).
>>
>>1. What do I say to my SPONSOR when he asks why I used HIS funding
>>to pay for a FUTURE trip to [deleted] that I have NO intention of making
>>and had NO reason whatsoever to make in the first place. The only
>>answer I have for him is that a travel coordinator in my group used
>>the wrong Z# when arranging someone else's travel and that I
>>decided to charge my PROGRAM so the $392.60 wouldn't come out of my
>>OWN pocket. That's hardly responsible stewardship of government funds.
>>
>>2. This evening I started to do what you suggested: I made up a
>>FAKE itinerary for a FAKE trip to [deleted] with the intention of
>>billing my program so I could get reimbursed. That feeling in my
>>gut that I was doing something ILLEGAL finally came to a head when
>>it came time to decide whether to charge the trip to my capital
>>code or my operating code - hard to make a choice when either would
>>be inappropriate - I couldn't do it and decided to write this email instead.
>>
>>3. I understand that the Lab occasionally has to eat a ticket in
>>order to maintain flexibility - this is a good money-saving
>>process. I think the system has worked very efficiently for many
>>years. What seems different to me now (please correct me if I'm
>>wrong) is that the unused tickets must now be used by individual
>>employees instead of the whole rest of the Lab. If each individual
>>who travels regularly now loses a ticket or two a year, we have a
>>MUCH BIGGER problem than the few tickets a month the lab was losing
>>until recently. Also, the extra time required to schedule travel
>>using unused tickets on specific airlines and the limited
>>flexibility of being forced to use a single airline in order to use
>>an unused ticket is going to lead to additional inefficiency.
>>
>>4. Does the Lab receive full credit for unused tickets? If I,
>>personally, purchase a non-refundable ticket with a commercial
>>carrier, I will typically pay a fee (perhaps $100) to change it
>>later. So in my specific case, do I have the full $392.60 credit on
>>United or something less than that?
>>
>>I sincerely appreciate your responding to me. I believe I have
>>valid concerns that need to be addressed, as parts of my situation
>>may be unusual, but other parts (needing to change or cancel travel
>>plans) happen all the time and will most certainly lead to
>>increased costs and reduced efficiency under the new system. Please
>>document and forward my concerns up the chain. I will be happy to
>>speak to anyone about these issues.

Anonymous said...

I suspect LANS is secretly pleased at this blog's existence. It provides a place where the less-than-courageous staff go to can vent, whine, bitch, and moan, all to no effect.

I mean, stop and think about it for a minute. With all of the high-level corruption being demonstrated by LANS, staff seem to be most worked up about a shitty on-line travel system. It sounds to me like the staff who choose to remain at LANL deserve what they get.

Anonymous said...

12/14/07 6:13 AM, the pisser is, the people who are carrying the most personal debt thanks to Concur are the ones who have to travel to drum up funding, particularly for threat reduction programs.

We should be taking very good care of these folks, not forcing them to take out Home Equity Loans to finance the Lab's disastrous Travel system.

Anonymous said...

12/14/07 8:17 AM, you just don't fucking get it.

"Efficiencies" like Concur are eating this Laboratory alive. Mid-level managers have stood up in meetings with the Director and described this insidious labwide problem.

The Director's response was:

"It's not my job to solve your problems. Go talk to your supervisor."

Anonymous said...

Anonymous asks: "Has anyone at the associate director level or above tried using this software?"

OF COURSE NOT. The ADs have minions t to do things like this for them. That is why they need a Chief of Staff!

Anonymous said...

Just wait until you loose your job, and are 20K in the hole (or worse) due to this debacle. Then how will you get your re-imbursment? And your pension plan just vaporised (why do you think there's been no financial statement about TCP-1??). And your house just lost 30% of its value (and heading further south). And official inflation (released today) is skyrocketing, and the Fed just cut 0.75%, and will cut more, so that inflation trend is just getting started, hope you don't have kids to feed. And we are still in Iraq. And Bush is still in office. Good times, good times!

Screwed said...

"Just wait until you loose your job, and are 20K in the hole (or worse) due to this debacle. Then how will you get your re-imbursment?"

Been there, done that. Your money will be direct deposited to your account a little over two months after you are terminated.

Just another way to keep you quiet a little while longer.

Anonymous said...

That LANS cares little about the massive problems caused for staff by Concur is very telling. The basic idea seems to be to keep those who help build up lab programs from going on any lab travel.

Less travel equals less programmatic funding equals less need for pesky staff. Problems solved using LANS-think!

And for this LANS executives receive a 20% bonus and the Concur team will probably end up on the lab's achievement reward list by next year.

Anonymous said...

Concur has been a nightmare at other companies for years. Whoever decided to bring it here didn't do their homework.

Anonymous said...

You guys don't have anything to complain about. Read this story: http://www.forbes.com/personalfinance/2007/12/08/savings-cities-edwards-pf-ii-in_kb_1208savings_inl.html

or here:

http://finance.yahoo.com/banking-budgeting/article/104028/Best-Cities-for-Savings

Anonymous said...

12/14/07 4:30 PM

Did you notice that the Forbes article's photo accompanying Los Alamos showed a road sign near Los Alamos, CA?

Anonymous said...

Did you also notice they got the photos of Riverside, CA and Houston, TX mixed up? The same thing with Dallas, TX and Los Angeles, CA. How many other things in the story are incorrect?

Anonymous said...

Anyone bother to read the 1-page TCP1 status letter that was recently emailed out by LANS? It looks like a template letter in which the blank parts were simply filled in with figures. The whole look and tone of this letter was very unprofessional. It covered the period from June 1 '06 to Dec 31 '06 and says that TCP1 has about $31 million in assets and 6335 future pensioners. No explanation was given for the low cash amount, but I'm assuming that the full asset transfer from UCRP was not reflected in that lowball $31 million figure.

Anonymous said...

There is a one-page summary for TCP1, TCP2, and the defined benefit pension plan, available on an HR website. What the difference is between TCP1 and the defined benefit pension plan, I don't really know (I'm in TCP2, so I don't pay much attention to it). The defined benefit plan claims 1.4 billion in assets.

Anonymous said...

"Concur has been a nightmare at other companies for years. Whoever decided to bring it here didn't do their homework."

Maybe they took a payoff?

Anonymous said...

That feeling in my
>>gut that I was doing something ILLEGAL finally came to a head when
>>it came time to decide whether to charge the trip to my capital
>>code or my operating code - hard to make a choice when either would
>>be inappropriate -

Are you fucking kidding me? It even crossed your mind to charge it to a capital code????? You are too stupid to work at LANL - leave (actually you are probably in the protected class)

Anonymous said...

"No explanation was given for the low cash amount, but I'm assuming that the full asset transfer from UCRP was not reflected in that lowball $31 million figure."

IIRC, the final asset transfer from UCRP did not take place until mid-April 2007.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 12/14/07 8:23 AM said...

" the pisser is, the people who are carrying the most personal debt thanks to Concur are the ones who have to travel to drum up funding, particularly for threat reduction programs."

This is yet another subtle method
of discouraging that unwanted WFO.

Anonymous said...

WFO program growth can be done using your own time and money. Does this make it easier for you feeble brained people to finally understand?

Concur is here to stay and LANS likes it just the way it is. Heck, we even paid extra to have some special "frustration inducing" features added to this software.

Me and my PADs, we always travel 1st class and never have to waste our precious time with this piece of crap. Suck it up.

-- Mikey

Anonymous said...

"I have sat with many staff members, in one-on-one sessions, to talk them through travel reservations..."

At $250 per hour? Who is the genius?

Anonymous said...

"... With all of the high-level corruption being demonstrated by LANS..."

Unsupported by facts