As Strategic Meetings Management has emerged and evolved, potential users have had the chance to learn more about it and form some opinions. As with any subject, those opinions are sometimes based on fact, but sometimes based on misunderstanding or outdated understanding. This post tackles and busts five common myths about SMM programs.
It’s Too Complex to Implement
It’s easy to look at an SMM program and imagine that it’s going to be an absolute nightmare to implement. There are lots of moving parts such as payment solutions, sourcing processes, the creation of policies, internal marketing, developing central meeting registration, and so on.
The applicable wisdom here is ancient, from the Chinese proverb that states, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” That’s how you keep SMM implementation simple: by defining a path, dividing the project into phases, and then taking one step at a time.
The first step is to take stock of where your organization is now with regard to meetings, and determine what the opportunity is. Once you have figured out your goals and strategy, it’s possible to lay out a clear path for getting from here to there, one relatively simple step at a time.
An enterprise-wide implementation may seem even more daunting, as does an initiative with multiple goals. But the same basic principle applies here. In these situations, it’s helpful to break the project into phases. That way, you can narrow your focus to what’s happening in the current phase, and you can set interim measurements and do course-corrections as needed. Your phases may represent related sections along the SMM path, or you may choose to define the phases by business unit or geographic area.
The bottom line is, don’t try to tackle every aspect of the SMM program implementation simultaneously. Step-by-step is the way to keep it as simple as possible.
SMM Is Just Too Expensive
Like any significant initiative, some expenditure is required to make an SMM program happen. That brings up another bit of idiomatic
wisdom, “It takes money to make money.” But in reality, that’s old thinking. In the past, a good-sized upfront investment may have been needed to launch an SMM initiative, but these days you can get the job done with minimal initial investment.
To begin with, there’s a lot more knowledge and experience out there, case studies and best practices that can serve as guides. There are more resources. Even the technology platform doesn’t have to break the bank, especially when you factor in the savings it will bring and the benefits of business automation.
Then there’s the notion set forth in the previous section. You can and should take one step at a time. In the case of technology, your organization’s priorities may allow you to implement some high- priority technology modules first, celebrate some initial wins, and then take another bite. For example, you could focus first on sourcing and attendee registration and wait until the next phase to get into managing enterprise activities, reporting, and surveying. That simplifies the process and limits upfront costs.
In any case, rather than worrying about whether you can afford an SMM program, you should really be considering whether you can afford not to implement one. Remember, within the first two years you can reasonably stand to achieve 10 to 15 percent savings.
For every million dollars you’ve been spending on meetings every year, that’s a savings of $100,000 or $150,000. Can you afford to pass up savings with that many digits?
Only Big Organizations Can Benefit
It’s true that big organizations were the earliest adopters of centralized management of meetings and travel. Corporate travel management started to emerge in the late 1970s, long before anyone ever put together the initials “SMM.” Travel departments were seeking the next big thing for managing and controlling costs. They created policies and started getting strategic about their sourcing and payment solutions.
So it isn’t really surprising that this myth emerged, that this is really just a thing for the biggest organizations. The fact is, SMM principles — from strategic sourcing to payment reconciliation processes to centralized registration to data consolidation — can be put in place at organizations of all sizes. As a matter of fact, smaller and less diverse organizations may be able to achieve success more quickly, not in spite of their size but because of it. They have a nimbleness that bigger companies may not have.
To be fair, smaller organizations may not have as many resources or as much expertise on staff. But that isn’t really a big deal because you can easily connect with resources and research to fill in the gap. Organizations such as the Global Business Travel Association, the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, or Meeting Professionals International can help point you in the right direction. So can experts in the business, such as Cvent.
Smaller companies can take advantage of a phased approach and the opportunity to acquire technological solutions in bite-size pieces. You don’t have to be a behemoth to play on this playground, and in fact, smaller organizations may actually find implementation easier because they have fewer complexities, a smaller group of stakeholders, and often less politics.
You Need an Executive Mandate
You’ve no doubt heard the advice that a big initiative can only work if you have support from the very top of the organization. Not just support, in fact, but a mandate. Employees, the thought maintains, are really only going to take a new policy and set of processes seriously if someone in the C-suite says this is the way it’s going to be.
Sure, support from the top can be helpful, but with SMM, it’s not a make-or-break requirement. In fact, some organizations have found that a mandate from the C-suite is counterproductive.
How can that be? Consider that the people who are going to make this happen on the front line are professionals. Even if they aren’t full-time meeting professionals, they’re still team members whose regular work includes meeting and event planning. They want their meetings to succeed, they’re detail-oriented, they’re proud of the work they do.
These people on the front lines . . . you absolutely need their buy-in, and you need them to see what’s in it for them and their work product. They’re the ones who should want this change, or even demand it, because it’s going to make their life easier and their work better, as well as reduce their pain points. But like a lot of people, they may give the side-eye to a declaration that the executives upstairs know what’s best for their work. A mandate from on high may actually work against your front-line buy-in.
Technology Is All You Need
Make no mistake, you need technology to facilitate your SMM program. It’s really the central component of the initiative. But it isn’t the silver bullet. In the early days of SMM, people relied solely on technology to drive the program, but the thinking is more nuanced these days.
Think of it more like this. Technology is the framework that enables all of the SMM processes, but it doesn’t write the policies, define what meetings are, decide on the processes, or identify the data to be tracked. All of that is up to the stakeholders. The technology, then, enables those policies to become active and actionable. It facilitates capture, reporting, and warehousing of data. It is the framework for putting it all into place and ensuring compliance. Technology is at the center of your SMM initiative, but it isn’t the initiative itself.
Excerpted from Strategic Meetings Management for Dummies © 2019 a custom published product produced with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.