"The New Business Model"

by Jennifer W. Brown CMP, SMMC
as seen in Corporate & Incentive Travel, October 2010

The Shift To Strategic Meetings Management Impacts
‘How Business Is Done’

The slow economic recovery, meeting budgets (and planners) under scrutiny, increased expectations by senior management for improved meeting and event productivity and ROI have impacted “how business is done”.

Meeting and procurement managers are recognizing that a new business model is required to maximize overall meeting value, reduce costs/risk data management that drives strategic decisions.

This shift in thinking is validated by industry statistics that are rather compelling:

  • More than 50 percent of CEOs feel their organizations are not getting maximum ROI from their meetings and events.
  • More than 40 percent of CFOs are not satisfied with their companies’ travel/meetings spend management.
  • 49 percent of planners feel pressure to enhance meeting results, measurable metrics and ROI.

The Shift To SMM

Today, meeting planners need more than meeting management and logistical know-how. Thus, “the shift” is to Strategic Meetings Management. SMM is a disciplined approach to enterprise-wide meeting management and drives a multitude of organizational benefits, including:

  • Increased team productivity/focus on core competencies.
  • Meeting consolidation/leveraged spend/cost savings.
  • Risk mitigation (financial, legal).
  • Preferred Supplier Program.
  • Data management/financial reports.

A point of caution. We all want to squeeze more dollars to the bottom line, but often too much emphasis is placed on cost savings and not enough focus on performance-based outcomes, meeting architecture, design and the meeting attendee experiences/outcomes.

The Requirements

Whether you are sitting on the sidelines thinking about launching a SMM plan, wanting to demonstrate more meeting value, cost savings and risk reduction to senior management, or have implemented SMM but want to conduct an SMM “audit” to maximize performance, here’s what is required:

  • Reassess senior management meeting and event vision, goals and objectives.
  • Identify enterprise-wide meeting and event planners, administrators and stakeholders (and their meeting activity/processes/goals/skill sets).
  • Meeting needs assessment/meeting approval process/master meeting and event calendar.
  • Sourcing/value-based negotiations process.
  • Custom hotel contract process (addresses all hotel contract components, value-added concessions, hotel fees and surcharges and performance clauses).
  • Meeting and event planning processes, procedures, attendee communications/learning, onsite meeting management.
  • Preferred Supplier Program (services, pricing, evaluation, agreements, SMM outcomes).
  • Hotel/supplier deposit and payment process/reconciliation.
  • Meeting budgets/variance (by meeting).
  • Transparent metrics to define and measure success (standard and custom financial reports, including cost savings/risk reduction report, by meeting and enterprise-wide spend).
  • SMM implementation/compliance/training/collaboration/stakeholder feedback.
  • Post-meeting evaluation/learner outcomes/meeting value (ROI/ROE).
  • Robust technology that drives SMM (24/7 access to current/past meeting activity/management, financial reports).

A Plan For Success

There are many components and variables to consider when defining and executing a successful SMM plan, including:

  • Buy-in from senior management.
    This is essential to get your big-picture goals and vision defined. Do your homework. Start by building your business acumen, learn how your organization works (specific products and services provided, how they get to the marketplace, what drives profitability, key departmental functions). Review your company’s website, annual report, mission and vision statements and any strategic initiatives.
  • SMM compliance.
    In a decentralized environment, those involved in meeting and event planning often resist new planning processes and procedures, primarily because they don’t want Big Brother telling them what to do (losing autonomy) and also being fearful of losing their “perks.” The reality of SMM is the need for visibility of meetings, enterprise wide; managing data that leverages negotiations and drives strategic decisions; with widespread support to move forward. When conducting your needs assessment, include full- and part-time meeting planners, procurement, travel, department heads, legal and admins (anyone with their hands or fingerprints on meetings) into the process as a partner. Get their feedback on their role in the meeting and event planning process and specific recommendations on how to improve overall communications, productivity and outcomes. Cooperation early on can minimize turf wars… look at “stakeholder management” as a critical part of your job description.
  • SMM technology.
    SMM technology will drive increased team productivity, streamlined sourcing/hotel contracts and 24/7 access to “business intelligence” that manages enterprise-wide meeting consolidation/leverage spend and a multitude of management and financial reports. Evaluate current technology resources and what additional technology capabilities are required to drive all facets of your SMM plan.

Although there are plenty of white papers, webinars, workshops and articles on SMM, there is no “one size fits all” solution. Every organization must conduct its own needs assessment, create an SMM action plan and get senior management’s buy-in.

Your SMM business plan requires an ongoing evaluation and “audit process.” Never be satisfied. Participating as a driver of these all-important SMM initiatives will have a big impact on your organization and career. Don’t just seek “best” practices but “next” practices. Remember, the bar only goes up! C&IT

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