Concepts for strategic meetings management have been around since the mid-1990s.1 In 2004, the Groups and Meetings Committee of the Global Business Travel Association — then known as the National Business Travel Association — outlined a framework for strategic meetings management programs. The group released a series of papers to guide companies through SMM development, implementation and maturity.
The GBTA Groups and Meetings Committee now defines the concept as follows: “strategic meetings management (SMM) is a disciplined approach to managing enterprise-wide meeting and event activities, processes, suppliers and data in order to achieve measurable business objectives aligned with the organizations’ strategic goals/vision, and deliver value in the form of quantitative savings, risk mitigation and service quality.”
What is important to note in the definition is that SMM is not just a set of rules, but rather a holistic approach to thinking about meetings.
SMM program flexibility
While the definition itself is straightforward, in practice many SMM models have emerged. That is because there are a number of factors that influence the development of an SMM program. Internal factors, such as company goals, configuration and culture, play a crucial role in the structure of an SMM program, as do external factors, such as industry and geography. What has resulted is a continuum of programs that range from fully mature global models to hybrid ones that encompass a few key components.
Unfortunately, many companies perceive the lack of a unique model or standard as making the SMM model complex. In fact, the opposite is true. That there are so many potential configurations underscores the flexibility of SMM programs. Putting a program in place does not have to be an onerous or daunting task. Many of today's most effective programs started small and grew, building on their successes.
Multitude of benefits
The benefits of SMM to a company are numerous, which is why there continues to be robust interest. Cost savings are typically the biggest driver as new programs often report early saving ranges from 10 percent to 25 percent2 of original spending. Additional benefits, such as transparency into spend, risk mitigation and improved regulatory compliance, for many companies are just as important, if not more so, than cost savings. As programs mature, experts emphasize that savings simply become expected and no longer may serve as effective parts of metrics reports to senior management. Instead, duty of care, risk management, customer satisfaction and, increasingly and especially among those that extend SMM to marketing events, brand management are valuable benefits of SMM.
Compliance, whether to regulations, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or corporate policies, also is an increasingly important aspect of SMM deliverables for many organizations. For others, the brand and customer service delivery consistency that a strategic approach can provide are critical.
All these benefits ultimately contribute to a principal outcome of a successful SMM: attendee satisfaction and improved return on event (ROE). By providing meeting planners with tools and technology that make them more efficient, they are able to spend less time on the logistics of meetings management and more on meeting content, attendee experience and achievement of meeting goals.
1 Bondurant Consulting, “The Evolution of Strategic meetings management in Small and Medium Businesses,” 2011, p. 4
2 Bondurant Consulting, “The Evolution of Strategic meetings management in Small and Medium Businesses,” and CWT Travel Management Institute, “Meetings and Events: Where Savings Meet Success,” 2010, p9