Let’s start with the basics: Your organization is looking to save money and meetings and conventions are a prime target.
A Strategic Meetings Management (SMM) program usually involves special software, so you can get a total view of your meetings, how they are doing for key metrics compared to the previous year(s) and discover ways to increase their economic efficiency. With such a program in place, companies and associations can generate savings of 15 percent to 25. Therefore, if your in-house meetings management programs run on a program like Excel, it may make sense to upgrade. Here are your choices:
Level 1: Enterprise Resources Programs (ERP)
ERP systems used by big companies and large government organizations are complex (and expensive) software applications that allow an organization to ensure that all its buyers make their purchases in the same way. SAP is probably the most widely known brand, but now there’s Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, Lawson and many others also have a significant claim to the market.
In a study done by the Event Marketing Institute, 60 percent of meeting planners said the ability to integrate their meetings management programs with the larger software systems at their organizations was either important or very important to them. In reality, especially when it comes to the users of ERP systems, this is often easier said than done.
Level 2: Speciality software designed just to manage meeting programs
Managing corporate and other large scale meetings programs themselves is being called the next frontier in the never ending quest of companies to control spending. As of now, just a few companies are leading the way for delivering on that promise.
An early adopter of a Strategic Meetings Management program is Chubb Insurance. They started a SMM program in 2005 and chose StarCite (which was acquired by Laynon and recently merged with Cvent) as the technology provider to help implement its solution.
Part of the reason Cvent merged with Laynon, was to take advantage of their deep experience and contacts in this area. The merger means less in the way of choices (meetings tech guru Corbin Ball liken it to the “…equivalent of Microsoft merging with Apple”) but could result in a stronger product. Check out Cvent’s solution at http://www.cvent.com/en/strategic-meetings-management/
Level 3: Software as a Service solution for a particular need combined with home grown systems
While tools to search for venues (like this website MeetingSource.com) can be used to send RFPs and RFIs are something that meeting planners have been comfortable with for years, Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings that handle other parts of meetings programs like registration are still the entry point for a lot of meeting planners trying to figure out a way to get everything in one place. Such ‘stove-pip’ solutions are are offered by Eventbrite, Eventbee and Acteva, as well as many others
If none of these processes fit with your organization, you can let other companies help you achieve SMM success.
There are dozens of travel management companies and meeting planning firms that would be happy to show you the ropes. Some of the larger meeting procurement companies include Experient, HelmsBriscoe and ConferenceDirect.
“These companies specialize in contracting space and have a unique set of skills and huge buying clout. They use procurement tools, such as Cvent and they have internal databases as well. In many cases, especially for planners without much procurement experience, they can do the job faster, cheaper and with a greater degree of legal protection,” according to Certified Meeting Professional Corbin Ball, the consultant, speaker and thought leader focusing on events and meetings technology referenced earlier.