I've attended many industry conferences and seminars, and I have come to the conclusion, based on numerous conversations with enterprise and midsize SMMP buyers and supplier partners, that when it comes to small-meetings management and data tracking, no one has developed a mousetrap that is working well, or for that matter, has been widely adopted by their stakeholders.
Small-meeting solutions have been available from many of the legacy tech providers in the industry for years, but what I'm hearing is that the current crop of products available for SMMP owners from their technology partners is not optimal, and the adoption of the product is poor to zero.
I've also heard that the existing small-meeting products are not simple nor intuitive to use, generating a lot of pushback from the most common bookers of small meetings, administrative assistants. Typical feedback includes comments such as, "I don't have a lot of time to turn around a request from my executive to organize a small meeting, plus I can get it booked and done much quicker by calling or emailing the hotel or venue vs. logging into yet another platform and remembering my sign-in and passcode."
That being said, where's the innovation needed to get better small-meetings adoption and tracking of related data? Well, as it turns out I've come across two new small-meetings technology solutions solely focused on resolving the current challenges of adoption and data aggregation that you should check out. The added bonus for both is that you not only can source venues, you actually can book them to close out the transaction, eliminating the back-and-forth negotiations, and one lets you do so without using a RFP to source and close it out.
The first of this new crop of tech solutions is Groupize. I won't go into the details here, but you owe it to yourself to check out their site at Groupize.com. At a high level, they have developed a solution that's integrated (an integration with Concur is in the works), and it's simple and intuitive to use. In my conversations with Groupize representatives, they made it very clear that they are 100 percent focused on small meetings, period. They have engaged a very experienced group of meetings/events tech execs who are now putting their energies into addressing this specific area of the industry that frankly just doesn't get a lot of love and attention, despite the fact that virtually every corporation has significant daily activities that fall into the small-meetings wheelhouse. Sadly, very little to none of that small-meetings data is being captured and reported to SMMP owners, because the stakeholders aren't using a current small-meetings product set being offered by their SMMP technology partners. [Click here for recent coverage by M&C on Groupize.]
The other product I want to mention is called Bizly. I had an opportunity to meet and get to know their CEO, Ron Shah, after he posted a really great OpEd last December called: "It's Time to Kill the RFP." After reading Ron's column, I found I was in total agreement with his articulate case for simplification and elimination of using RFPs for small meetings. Ron's technology solution originated from personal frustration when his New York office meeting room got flooded, and he personally experienced a painful process of trying to source and book an alternate small-meeting site for his business.
While Groupize still uses e-mail and RFPs as the primary connection between buyer and supplier, Bizly addresses the adoption problem with a different logic. As Ron Shah put it, "Corporate loves dashboards, but do the administrators use these new tools? Bizly solves this challenge with omni-channel ordering. Now administrators can instant-book, chat or even call venues directly and still stay compliant." That attention to change management might just be the key difference in actually getting client compliance for small meetings and actually getting data about this spend category!
Do some research and check out both companies if you are serious about capturing the long-elusive category of small meetings spend and easy sourcing. No matter what you currently are using, technology adoption is the key here. If you are struggling with small-meeting tech-solution adoption, and your stakeholders are not using and booking through your current tech solution, you should consider breaking this spend vertical out of your existing SMMP and managing it separately. I know that goes against the grain of the standard procurement "one throat to choke" sourcing philosophy, but here's the bottom line: You can stay status quo and continue to miss out on this valuable data, or you can contract with a simpler solution partner, one that your stakeholders will adopt and use, and start tracking this long missing data set to better manage your SMMP.
If you're worried about data aggregation for your SMMP and your small meetings, this is where your meetings management company or third-party supplier partner can help you put that together for monthly reporting. In addition, you should also consider data aggregation specialists like Meetings Analytics, which will gladly accept all data feeds from your suppliers and provide monthly and regular reporting of your data in the formats you prefer.
Either way, don't miss out on this critical component of your SMMP spend. New technology is available and affordably priced. Do some research and start gathering your small-meetings spend data!
Kevin Iwamoto is senior consultant at GoldSpring Consulting. You can follow him on Twitter @KevinIwamoto. His book, Your Personal Brand: Your Power Tool to Build Career Integrity, is available from Amazon (including a Kindle version), as well as from CreateSpace.