by Kevin Iwamoto | March 8, 2018

Early in 2017, without much fanfare, the Global Business Travel Association released an updated version of the global standard and well-known Strategic Meetings Management Program Wheel. As a longtime evangelist for the SMM discipline, I find the changes are a welcome sign that SMM is maturing and becoming more inclusive of other factors in meetings management, especially with regard to expanding into event management.

So, what has changed? In case you have yet to see the new SMMP diagram, here it is below:


What has been included now into the SMMP roadmap for consolidation and enterprise management are the categories of Event Objectives and Participant Experience. These two new elements are targeting the enterprise-events vertical by design for maximum inclusion of all corporate meetings and events.  

Which leads me to ask: How should marketing be involved in all this? SMM leaders have always wanted to include their marketing counterparts in their corporate SMMP, but very few have been successful in that endeavor.

Inclusion of corporate events has proven to be difficult to sell to these SMM proponents’ marketing counterparts, because the initial value proposition for SMM was designed with procurement stakeholders in mind, using cost savings and cost avoidance as the primary incentive drivers, along with process and supplier consolidation. Many early SMMP adopters were quickly rebuffed by their marketing counterparts, as marketing events are more focused on experiential quantification and ties into sales and lead generation, rather than cost savings. SMMP focused on getting buy-in from the chief procurement officer and/or chief finance officer. In the original design, there was no consideration for the chief marketing officer’s needs, so SMMP was mostly rejected by corporate marketing stakeholders and, most importantly, event planners.

Adding further complexity into the situation, marketing had almost zero interaction and operational synergies with finance/procurement/administration or wherever the SMM category leader was positioned internally within their company. In very rare cases, like with Cisco Systems, did the SMMP leader report to the marketing group. Not surprisingly Cisco has one of the more successful and mature SMMPs, and it is no doubt due to the corporate-reporting situation that provides more unity in enterprise decision-making and support, because the SMMP is part of the Cisco marketing group.

To add further disincentives for inclusion, SMMP technology platforms were not designed to handle the specific marketing-data collection that marketing groups and executives rely on to track campaign information, lead generation, sales conversions, etc. Marketing-designed technologies often are not integrated with SMMP data, so that made it more challenging to justify any value‐added synergies between the SMMP leader and marketing stakeholders.

Fast forward to today, and it is gratifying to see that after much lobbying by many SMMP thought leaders (including yours truly), the diagram now includes marketing objectives and inclusions. In addition, marketing technologies and SMM technologies today can also be integrated to get full purview of corporate spend, activities, and sales and marketing lead generation, along with return on engagement and return on objective.

The biggest change is that Stakeholder Engagement now resides in the center of the diagram. This was long overdue. One of the most common challenges and deterrents for SMM success has been getting the right level and commitment from ALL the key stakeholders within a company to support and use SMMP globally. Without stakeholder engagement and support, you don’t and won’t have a relevant and well‐functioning SMMP, period.

For more information, check out the information on the GBTA website.

As a former NBTA (now GBTA) president (2001‐2003) who instigated the birth of SMMP by creating the meetings committee that developed it in 2004, I know that SMMP was always designed to be a work in progress. These new changes validate this strategy and most importantly keep SMMP relevant for today’s global marketplace needs and for the immediate future.

I want to extend my congratulations and appreciation to the GBTA Meetings Committee chaired by Julie Lehnis, global strategic meetings manager of Apple Inc., for keeping SMMP relevant with these important new changes.


Kevin Iwamoto is senior consultant at GoldSpring Consulting. You can follow him on Twitter @KevinIwamoto.