In the beginning of this series, back in Part 1, I explained how our perception of small, simple meetings has changed over the years. I also proposed adding another 's' to the description, and referring to these gatherings as "small, simple, self-service" meetings — because such are the needs of the people planning them.
Here in Part 2, I'd like to further discuss the people who typically book these meetings, and just why traditional corporate and procurement sourcing methodologies are less effective than they are for larger, more complex events. This is tied in to the fact that compliance and adoption in this category remain on ongoing challenge for strategic meetings management program leaders.
First and foremost, you have to consider the people using the technology. In the consulting and benchmarking phase of my career, I realized that no matter how thorough corporate program leads and procurement professionals were in their approach to selecting technology supplier partners — whether using a request for proposal, request for information or request for quotation — the majority of them were not soliciting information or feedback from the targeted end users. Most of them did engage with their primary stakeholders, but very few engaged with the targeted end users.
The ensuing result is almost inevitably a lot of time-consuming communication, activities, campaigns involving gamification, and expense to push adoption and/or compliance of the newly acquired technology platform. If only procurement had spent more time on the front end of the sourcing process by researching, interviewing and engaging with the targeted users for the technology platform, they would have saved precious time, money and effort post-sourcing — because the end users and their feedback would have been part of the supplier selection process. If their own technology pain points and needs had been addressed during the sourcing process, it would have almost guaranteed adoption and compliance upon implementation!
It sounds logical and simple, right? So why is it that still today, most companies that are sourcing new technology or service partners still do not research and engage their target audiences before they design their sourcing strategies?
One of the most common examples of this shortsightedness occurs when corporations source a technology solution for small, simple, self-service meetings. Strategic meetings management category leaders tend to lump this area of meetings into their SMM programs, not realizing that SMM was designed principally for meeting professionals and procurement.
As I discussed in Part 1, most of the users booking SSS meetings are not meeting planners. They are executive assistants, department assistants, group or team managers and so forth. They generally don’t use eRFPs to book space for their SSS needs, and the standard SMMP venues are generally not the places that they would target to book for their gatherings. What good is a database with more than 100,000 venues if it doesn't contain the types of venues people book for these meetings?
These SSS meetings usually have a very short turnaround time required by the meeting owners. After checking internal office space availability, the end users typically look for restaurants with private dining room space, shared workspaces like Convene or WeWork, or unique venues. They do also source for hotel venue space — but as those costs, complexities and lengthy agreements become more of a challenging issue for SSS bookers, the other, more user-friendly venues start to look more appealing. Forcing bookers to use a more complex and user-unfriendly process to book their SSS meetings will almost always lead to noncompliance and poor adoption.
It’s time for sourcing strategists and procurement professionals to do better front-end research of their target user audience and to consider using more specialized suppliers that better suit those end users. That's how they can optimize adoption and compliance for their programs.
Those concerned about any loss of data due to having more than one preferred supplier partner in their meetings program should know that it's possible to source the best-suited suppliers for the program ecosystem and simply continue to aggregate and report data using open application programming interfaces, or APIs.
Open APIs allow tech suppliers to share data and provide service and functionality without denigrating the quality of a platform a client may already be invested in. This means that instead of following a “one-throat-to-choke” strategy, where you depend on one supplier for the majority of your meetings data, you can buy a combination of what’s best for your travel and meetings ecosystem. You don't have to pursue a bundled system to realize value. In the next installment, I'll discuss open APIs in more detail — and just how that approach can help you build a technology stack best suited to your program's needs.
Kevin Iwamoto, chief strategy officer of Bizly, is a regular contributor to the Northstar Meetings Group. You can read his Industry Insights blog on Meetings & Conventions, follow him on Twitter @KevinIwamoto and visit his Amazon author page.