by Sarah J.F. Braley | July 01, 2004
Since the mid-’90s, software developers have been striving to standardize how meetings data is exchanged between planners and suppliers. Today, with 1,200 programs in existence and more on the way, the effort is beginning to have an impact.
     Results from the Convention Industry Council’s Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) initiative, where best practices in all facets of the planning process are being identified, now are being translated into computer language that is easy for technology developers to incorporate into programs.
     Seven APEX panels are filtering information on everything from meetings terminology to requests for proposal, résumés and work orders. As the panels finish their work, the Technology Advisory Council is codifying their forms.
     “We’re working on meeting event orders and housing right now,” said E.J. Siwek, president of Bethel, Conn.-based Flashpoint Technologies and chair of the technology council. “Any meeting form that uses fields such as ‘name’ and ‘address’ can be standardized.”
     The technology council is made up of representatives from industry firms such as hotel-systems developer Newmarket International, group-housing experts Passkey International, site selection and meetings management company PlanSoft Corp., and hotel companies that include Marriott International and Hyatt Corp. “These are people who are able to change their products, to make an impact with our results,” said Siwek.
     Meanwhile, a crowded technology market continues to grow. San Francisco-based Certain Software, which offers the Register123 product, released version 4.0 in June. Along with several new reporting upgrades, the new version offers a room-matching feature that lets planners and attendees set parameters for roommate selection.
     The Meeting Company in Franklin, Mass., a third-party planner, has launched a proprietary, web-based event-management software called PlanIT Platform to help its clients keep track of their meetings. “I didn’t want to build this; I wanted to buy something,” said Scott Young, president of the Meeting Company. “But nobody had what we needed.”
     According to Jeff Rasco, CMP, president of Wimberley, Texas-based Attendee Management Inc., the reality of standardization is that it can go only as far as forms such as RFPs and banquet event orders.
     “Standardization will happen up to a certain level. But meeting planning is still such an individualistic business,” said Rasco. “How I plan my meetings and communicate with my vendors and client, and the creativity I bring to the process, is why you hire me and not somebody else.”