Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio May
By Mike Kabo
MERGING MEETINGS AND TRAVEL
How to take the upper hand and create one big, happy
As the new millennium unfolds, corporations of
all sizes continue to look for ways to cut costs. The trend to
“rightsize” and the pressure on internal support services to do
more with less has not gone away. Corporate meeting professionals
can take advantage of this environment by championing the merger of
internal meetings and travel functions.
Synergies abound. Both require skills in planning, executing,
negotiating and forging supplier relationships. Most important,
both can influence spending patterns in what is generally the
third-highest controllable cost within a company.
Following are strategies for overcoming some of the major
challenges of consolidating meetings and travel.
Return on investment. Success depends on a
thorough analysis of your organization’s meetings and travel spend.
Identify major city pairs, air and hotel costs, and hotels used by
both groups. Once you have the facts, estimate the savings that can
be generated if the two groups act in concert.
In your ROI analysis, include any potential financial benefit
from reduced staff, travel, administrative costs and freelancers.
Look for duplicate processes that can be consolidated. Can the
merger provide justification for automation tools that will help
drive costs down even further?
Turf. One of the biggest stumbling blocks in
any corporate merger is the turf battle. Although each situation
should be viewed from the perspective of the individual strengths,
skills and experience of the team members, we all know this is not
how things work. Often, he who comes up with a plan first wins.
Traditionally, the idea to merge comes from the travel
department, which bases its position on cost reductions and
savings. Meeting planners might find themselves in a defensive
position, trying to make a case for service vs. savings. At the end
of the day, the business case with real savings will prevail.
Of course, the driving force behind the merger can come from the
planner. Be the one who goes to the CFO with the idea and solid
evidence that supports the merger, and you will end up running the
Cross-training. The ideal is to have
professionals in the merged group who can handle both meetings and
travel. In order to get the most out of the combined staffs, factor
in adequate resources and patience for cross-training. Without this
process, you will end up with two departments under one banner.
Negotiations with suppliers. Often, when travel
suppliers are approached about consolidating travel and meetings
into a unified pricing plan, they balk. Like you, sales and
marketing managers at airlines, hotels and travel agencies have
their own turf and budget battles. Insist that your total
expenditure be taken into account. Negotiate from this position
only. Without the combined volume, the ROI for a merged meetings
and travel department might not be significant.
Marketing. Do not forget the travelers. Unless
your customers know the value a combined department brings them,
they will not use it to its fullest. The department’s ability to
reduce bureaucracy, speed decisions, lower costs, provide more
services and offer one-stop shopping should be marketed from the
top down within the organization.
Policy. Without a comprehensive corporate
policy that reinforces the benefits of a merged department, you are
doomed to fail. As with all meetings and travel policies, senior
management support a memo from the chairman or CFO is the key to
making your new department a success.Mike Kabo is director of global travel
services for El Segundo, Calif.-based Computer Sciences
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