How to...

Run a seamless SMMP

Having got your transient travel in order, the meetings programme often comes next. Follow these tips from the HBAA to help ensure a successful strategic meetings management programme (SMMP)

Run a seamless SMMP

Strategic meetings management programmes are increasingly being adopted by travel managers keen on replicating the benefits they’ve accrued from tightly managing their transient travel spend. However, meetings and event spend has very different characteristics and it can be an uphill struggle trying to automate what is seen as a highly emotive area that is built largely on personal relationships.

The Hotel Booking Agents Association (HBAA) published a White Paper on the subject and, having consulted all sides of the industry, included a list of recommendations and best practice for buyers, agents eRFP providers and hotel and venue suppliers to adhere to if SMMPs are to work more effectively.

The issues and challenges are many and varied. Corporates are stung by the cost of the tools and frustrated by the lack of post-sales support; agents don’t rate the tools’ breadth of inventory and say it takes far too long to fill in the RFP online; and hotels and venues share the same time-wasting issues and don’t see enough sales conversion to make it worth their while responding. Both agents and hotels and venues fear the erosion of personal relationships if all meetings are automated.

The White Paper includes two corporate case studies: IBM showing how full automation can work, and Linklaters which reflects a company wanting to retain a high-touch aspect to its meetings programme. Read on for a list of the HBAA's best practice guidelines.

RULE 1: Best practice for corporates
• Do your homework; know what your objectives are
• Involve the IT department from the outset
• Take a collaborative approach and ensure the events team work alongside procurement
• Anticipate the fear of change by creating a robust communications strategy
• Obtain executive support; without it you will almost certainly fail
• Work out how it's going to be funded
• Have in place a sophisticated SMMP first before rolling out an eRFP tool
• Engage with your agencies. If they have to do double entry, work with them to overcome it as it might be a deal breaker
• Accept that it will take two to three years to get where you want and start the first year by tracking the events taking place before tackling sourcing and risk control in Year 2
• If you're an SME, the inventory on an eRFP tool might not be rich enough
• Keep the eRFP brief broad and only narrow it down on the second send
• Use the eRFP tool only for the smaller bookings worth £2,500-£5,000, provided some of the choices are taken away
• Improve the qualification of the initial enquiry on the eRFP tool
• Introduce a cap on the timeline of held space so that venues don't have to hold space indefinitely

RULE 2: Best practice for agents
• Have patience with the venues until they get to grips with the eRFP tool
• Automate low-touch business so staff have time to focus on the high-touch

RULE 3: Best practice for the venues
• Hotels should ensure that they put their best deals online
• Hotels should react to feedback on why they lost a tender
• Hotels should respond far more rapidly
• Hotels should have a dedicated person at the venue to ensure the tool is working

RULE 4: Best practice for the RFP providers
• RFP tool providers should offer a light version to trial in order to reduce cost
• The technology providers should take a more consultative approach to help the corporate during the implementation stage as the procurement team is usually left to sell the benefits to the stakeholders
• They should work toward a universal tool that can be adopted by venues and agencies alike
• They should run more webinars and seminars to teach bookers how to use the RFP tool properly

RULE 5: In general
• For best results, there should be an evolving synergy between the RFP provider, agent and hotel or venue to create best practice

Source: The HBAA White Paper. To obtain a copy, log on to the public side of the website hbaa.org.uk, under the 'Procurement' tab.