A Procurement Perspective on Managing the Unmanaged with Cvent’s Strategic Meetings Management
With a workforce of 35,000+ employees in 70+ countries, Pearson’s travel costs for meetings and events were large and relatively unmanaged. An official relationship between the meeting planners and the TMC did not exist. When a meeting or event was advertised, attendees would book their travel directly with the TMC. In the case of Pearson’s Sales Kickoff of 4,000+ participants, it led to a complete breakdown of the travel booking system. The vast number of individuals looking to make simultaneous travel bookings made enough calls to completely overwhelm the travel team and the telephone system; leading to many hours of hold times and major dissatisfaction with the event accommodation portion of the registration process.
Additionally, Pearson uncovered that many executive assistants in the organization were creating smaller meetings without engaging the meeting planners. This limited Pearson’s ability to track how much it was spending annually on meetings and events. From the procurement perspective, Pearson was unable to gain the financial transparency necessary for them to regulate and manage spend in the organization.
To uncover its total meeting spend, Mitchell Stern, Procurement Category Director at Pearson, hired a consulting firm to dig through accounts payable, credit card receipts, and expense reports for meeting and event related charges and payments. After eight weeks of intense scrutiny, Stern was able to ascertain that there was $50M total spend on meetings and events in 2014 in North America alone. Additionally, Stern suspected that much of that spend was addressable with the proper management controls in place.
As Stern’s research progressed, he realized that without a consolidated platform, Pearson would be unable to create a process that could synchronize its leadership, planners, conference suppliers and the TMC. In turn, the company would be unable to implement improvements to its overall program.
In December 2014, Stern began laying the foundations for a strategic meetings management program (SMMP) pilot in the United States. It was agreed to launch a project by comparing the company’s five active event technologies to arrive at one enterprise-wide platform, create a policy to regulate meeting and event processes, and have it championed by senior leadership.
Once Pearson zeroed in on Cvent as the SMMP platform of choice, the next step was to secure buy-in from Pearson managers for this new initiative. Stern was able to communicate the value of a meeting and event policy in a manner that won approval from the Pearson executive and gained support of change and migration into overall strategy and multi-vertical co-ordination within Pearson.
Cvent assisted during the creation of Pearson’s meeting and event policy by providing guidance to best practices as well as by providing knowledge, visual collateral and metrics that supported the overall promotion of this initiative and creation of the meeting and event policy.
Under Cvent’s guidance, Pearson was able to arrive at an initial meeting and event policy that monitored and qualified meeting requests. Meetings requiring 10 or more room nights had to be booked in accordance with Pearson’s meeting and event policy. Any meetings under 25 attendees required the completion of a meetings request form with budget information in order to track spend and offer support. This policy laid the groundwork for a number of sub-policies that support the various business units within Pearson.
When someone wants to host a meeting or event at Pearson, they submit a meeting request form (MRF) to initiate the planning process. For smaller events, the budget and event must be pre-approved using a departmental approval process and tracked in Cvent before any action is taken on the sourcing or production side.
Once a meeting is approved, the event information is automatically sent to Pearson’s preferred site selection company, ConferenceDirect, for venue sourcing using Pearson’s instance of Cvent. This provides insights and status monitoring of all meetings and helps meeting planners keep informed about their event registrations.
In order to improve the overall attendee experience, Pearson integrates Cvent with its online booking tool (OBT) which enables attendees to make their travel booking as part of their registration. “It’s a slick branded experience, plus it enables immediate visibility to registration and travel details,” says Stern. “the stress on the TMC service team has been dramatically reduced. It is a win-win-win.”