Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio October
BY ELLIOTT MASIE
SHARING INFORMATION VIA EXTRANETS
Awash in e-mail? Link key players through a secure digital
These days, most people in business have a rudimentary
understanding of the Internet, and they know an intranet is a
similar network that is accessible only by members of a corporation
or organization. Less known, however, is the term "extranet."
These networks are unique digital pipelines between customers
and suppliers, and they are perfectly suited for the meetings
industry. An extranet is a private version of the Internet,
allowing cooperating organizations (often buyers and sellers) to
use a browser to view shared information and to carry out
transactions and planning.
Let's look at how an extranet could be used by an association
planning a 12,000-person annual meeting. An extranet could be
created by the association, and user access rights and accounts
would be assigned to each key player in the planning process, from
A/V to transportation, giving them specific abilities to view or
alter documents or databases.
The extranet can be used instead of point-to-point e-mail as a
common place to access key information. For instance, the
association could post either the total registration counts for the
event or the specific names of the attendees who are signed up.
Hotels could post their reservation counts in a similar fashion,
providing every key person with up-to-date, shared information. It
is even possible to set up automatic query programs within
extranets, so information can be accessed by users directly from
reservations and membership systems.
Extranets can be used for the project-management aspects of
meeting planning as well, with shared schedules, deadlines and
checkpoints available to all players in the process. Room layouts
and stage settings can be posted and even edited online within an
extranet. And changes to the event schedule or résumé could be made
in real time using the shared documents online.
FAMILY TREE The extranet, a natural outgrowth of intranets,
addresses the needs of organizations that must extend their
technological boundaries to accommodate the players involved in
planning a large meeting.
Often, the technology already is available in an organization.
If your group has a Web site, your Webmaster can create a
password-protected section and issue restricted access. That is the
basis of an extranet. Organizations also can go to an Internet
service provider and set up an extranet for as little as $29 a
month. Either way, the extranet should be run on one of the popular
Web server software packages, like Microsoft's Internet Information
Server or Lotus' Domino.
Changes in network architecture for example, Virtual Private
Networks, which use the Internet to link remote networks will make
the security and ease of extranets even more reliable in the
future. Ultimately, extranet connectivity will be assumed for every
commercial relationship. It will be used for all stages of
contracting, billing and payment and will be built into the
agreement for services. Watch for meetings industry-specific
extranet services and products to emerge soon.
My company is planning a 2,500-person meeting for November. We
are using an extranet to link our meeting planners, suppliers,
convention service coordinators and even our key speakers. Rather
than sending tons of e-mail to everyone concerned, the extranet
gives us a single point of collaboration. It takes a bit of
training and support to get our suppliers on board, but it is well
worth it. Our goal is to have an up-to-the-minute, shared set of
information, so everyone truly is "working off the same page."
ELLIOTT MASIE is president of the Saratoga Springs, N.Y.-based
Masie Center (www.masie.com), an international think
tank focused on learning and technology.
Back to Current Issue indexM&C
| Events Calendar
| Incentive News
| Meetings Market
| CVB Links
| Reader Survey
| Hot Dates
| Contact M&C