The Keys to Consolidation
To consolidate marketing spend, you have to implement a comprehensive strategy grounded in measurement, enabled by new tools
and processes, and driven by a focused alignment with business objectives. Though there are substantial technical challenges,
this is not an IT project.
There is consensus that a successful strategic meetings management program should include the following components:
» Stakeholder identification and inclusion
» Data gathering/benchmarking
» Strategy development
» Process and procedure development and/or standardization
» Supplier management
At a workshop on Procurement and Global Meeting Planning earlier this year, Shimon Avish, practice leader of advisory services
at American Express Travel, summarized his company's methodology this way:
» Technological infrastructure
» Preferred supplier program
» Standardized sourcing and planning processes
» Payment platform
» Change management
Clearly, one could devote a whole article to any of these points. For now, let's just take them as a sign of the breadth and
depth of the project.
Each of the above-mentioned components requires cooperation and collaboration among professionals from several departments,
and in many instances, outside expert facilitators. The words "cooperation" and "collaboration" may roll trippingly off the
tongue, but cross-functional initiatives are challenging in companies organized in silos. In a given company, the meeting
planning department may reside in marketing, finance, procurement, or a division referred to as "general operations" or "shared
services." The most successful consolidation programs are usually developed by meeting and procurement professionals who have
educated each other, understand and respect the fine points of each discipline, and work together as a team from the outset.
Get a Buy-in From Management
If we've learned anything over the past 10 years, it is that the success of any consolidation effort is directly proportional
to the involvement and support of senior management. If the initiative is not publicly endorsed, championed, promoted, and
mandated from the very top of the organization, its success will be limited. Consolidation entails major behavioral and organizational
change, and change of this magnitude requires time and patience—and consequences for noncompliance.
Some people will lose control over decisions they used to make. If you haven't experienced how people react in that sort of
situation, think of a mother lion defending her cubs from hyenas in one of those National Geographic television documentaries.
Ask employees to use the services of a centralized meeting department, and you may or may not get significant results. Have
the CFO mandate that hotel contracts will be signed and invoices related to meeting expenditures paid only if they go through
the centralized department, and you're likely to see change more quickly.