When it comes to implementing a strategic meetings management program (SMMP), the biggest question baffling corporate meeting planners is not whether their organization needs one, but how and where to start.
In fact, in a Grass Roots’ Meetings Industry Survey conducted in 2017, 39% of respondents said they were already implementing an SMMP in their respective organizations. And if the results of the survey held true, 70% of organizations globally should already have an SMMP in place as of last year.
Here’s an interesting result from the survey: 15% of respondents said they would like to implement SMMP for their organization, but can’t. The research didn’t drill down this further. However, it’s a sound hypothesis to say that not knowing where and how to start is one of the major dilemmas meeting planners face that’s preventing them from fully adopting an SMMP.
The Opportunity Cost of Not Having an SMMP
Every day that meeting planners are not able to implement strategic meetings planning for their respective organizations is a wasted opportunity. In a previous post which discussed why an SMMP is the gold standard in meetings management, the main benefits of implementing an SMMP were laid out including:
- 10 - 25% cost savings
- 48% better compliance with meeting-related policies
- 63% better ROI monitoring
The benefits of having an SMMP are difficult not to recognize, and frankly, unwise to ignore.
To help event/meeting/marketing directors adopt a strategic meetings management program for their organizations, we created the following step-by-step framework, easily remembered by the mnemonic D.E.P.I.C.T. — quite appropriate as this outlines what needs to be done for a successful SMMP implementation.
Take note, the following steps are just the barebones and might need some tweaking depending on your specific needs, but they’re good enough to set things in motion.
D is for Data
This is arguably the most challenging step in implementing an SMMP. However, no SMMP can be implemented without a bedrock of data on which it could stand on. Since one of the core objectives of strategic meetings management is cost reduction, this step is especially important when it comes to collecting, organizing, and analyzing past meeting spend.
Data collection becomes more difficult if only one person is doing it. So, concurrent with this step is for meeting planners to form an SMMP implementation team. According to Corbin Ball & Co.: “The first step in implementing a formal SMMP is to create an implementation team. This should involve a range of stakeholders across the divisions in the enterprise. This can include meeting planners, travel managers, procurement, legal, technology, finance, security, training, risk management, and others. To the extent that meetings have many stakeholders, your implementation team should reflect this range of interests.”
Once a team is in place, here are a few tips on how to give data gathering a structure:
- Get in touch with corporate purchasing for reports on company-issued travel and expense cards
- Review financial reports on specific suppliers
- For organizations with a dedicated travel department, get reports on business travel spend
- Conduct an audit of meeting invoices
- Reach out to suppliers and hotels to request spend data
Crunching numbers is not every meeting planner’s forte. The process takes a lot of work and time. However, no SMMP initiative is going to take off without knowing where an organization stands in terms of its meeting spend and other important meeting KPIs.
E is for Executive Sponsorship
Rolling out an SMMP can be considered a major change. Therefore, getting the support of senior management is crucial to its success.
According to a whitepaper published by Emerald Group Publishing: “Top-down change is thought to be particularly appropriate when the change is strategically important and entails large departures from present organization forms and functions. The more radical the change, the more important it is that the most senior people in the organization favor and drive it.”
Armed with the data that will support the need for an SMMP adoption, the goal for meeting planners is to find an executive champion. Preferably, this is someone whose role is directly related to meetings, travel, and procurement. Meeting planners can get the buy-in of this executive first and enlist their help to convince the other C-executives to support SMMP adoption.
P is for Program Implementation Plan
After securing an executive champion and getting the green light from all C-executives, it’s time for meeting planners to roll up their sleeves and develop a fully realized SMMP implementation plan.
Next to data gathering, this is probably the second most laborious part of developing an SMMP, and arguably the most important. The program implementation plan will contain the implementing rules, regulations, systems, and processes. It will eventually dictate whether an SMMP initiative will thrive or not.
There’s no one-size-fits-all template for an SMMP implementation plan and policies. However, there are best practices that meeting planners can follow to guide them through the process. This includes:
- Identifying key stakeholders across different departments, regions, and office locations that should be involved in implementing, regulating, and monitoring the SMMP program
- Prioritizing goals during the early stages of the implementation
- Creating a well thought out timeline which includes key milestones during specific roll-out stages
- Streamline the shortlisting of suppliers by asking them to send an RFP
- Centralization of procurement and reconciliation and consolidation of expense reports
- Standardizing request and approval processes across the organization
- An overall plan to improve the experience of attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, and other key meeting participants
A last note on this. Take a look at the following SMMP maturity continuum:
Note that the rough implementation guide above is for organizations who would fall under Levels 1, 2, and 3. It’s a general guide to kick things off. However, as meeting planners become more exposed to the system, they will find that they constantly evolve their SMMP implementation to fit their current needs.
I is for Invest in Technology
Technology is one of the cornerstones of any successful strategic meetings management program. Thus, choosing the right platform is important.
What makes an SMMP software right?
There are a number of factors — features, cost, vendor reputation, and the list goes on and on.
However, for meeting planners implementing SMMP for the first time, here’s the keyword when choosing an SMMP technology:
Simple not in the sense that it’s watered down, but simple in such a way that there’s no steep learning curve before the software or platform can be implemented.
Also, simplified SMMP technology can be defined as a platform that has robust integration. From meeting requests and approval, supplier sourcing, budget monitoring, and scheduling — simplified SMMP technology integrates everything into one, easy-to-use software.
C is for Communication
An often overlooked component of an SMMP implementation plan, communication is crucial due to the fact that people could be resistant to change. Communication — especially communication to key internal stakeholders and important partner vendors/suppliers — should start once meeting planners are able to secure the go signal from upper management.
One key to a successful communications campaigns before, during, and after an SMMP rollout is to position the executive champion as the main advocate. This completes the top-down approach. Make sure that the benefits are highlighted, questions are entertained, and recommendations are considered. Doing so makes those who are affected feel that they are part of the process and that SMMP is not something that is being forced on them.
T is for Tracking and Monitoring
Finally, analyze, evaluate, and optimize the performance of your SMMP on a timely basis with the use of technology/reports/dashboards. Schedule regular sessions with local SMMP leadership teams and optimize the program based on their feedback.
It’s Not Rocket Science, But It’s Not a Walk in the Park Either
Designing a strategic meetings management program is not going to be an easy breezy initiative, especially if this is your maiden foray into SMMP. However, it shouldn’t scare you to inaction either. Following industry best practices, knowing your internal processes and unique needs, and partnering with a reliable partner/SMMP technology provider should push you in the right direction.