Data speaks volumes: know your numbers
It's a fact: real data and financial information should be the foundation for your business case.
The numbers will resonate with decision makers and others at your organisation. While a strategic meetings management (SMM) programme will immediately lead to more transparency into the costs of running meetings, this actually may be the most difficult steps in the process. One of the main drivers for implementing a SMM programme in the first place is because the need for transparency into meeting spend is so vital. Your senior executives want that transparency, even if they haven't completely embraced the idea. So, it may very likely take some thorough research to build your case, but the information gleamed will be illuminating to your team.
So where do you start looking? Well, you're also not a researcher or financial analyst, so don't go it alone. Partner with essential internal (and external) contacts, and utilise these relationships to gain access to financial data you may not have at your fingertips. Potential partners, and the best places to search include: card services, accounts payable, national accounts and hotel partners.
By digging through this data to estimate your meeting spend, you'll create a strong base for your business case. If you're a global organisation, and the prospect of gathering all of this information seems overwhelming, choose a starting point. UK, for example. Don't conquer the world just yet.
- Form key internal and external partnerships
- Gather your supporting data
- Start with smaller samples if it appears overwhelming
Address the elephant in the room: why SMM is critical for your organisation
Okay, hopefully by now you have your supporting data, and the numbers speak directly to the need for your organisation to address the problems around meeting spend. But a simple summary won't cut it. You'll need to cite specific examples within the organisation to highlight your case. These instances should resonate with decision makers and bring to light additional problems that could be solved with an SMM programme.
Make sure to clearly define the problem (what's broken), point out systematic symptoms and causes for major concern. How are we doing things today? How successful are we? What are our challenges and obstacles that are barriers to our success? This will serve as a nice introduction to the solution.
This is the time for your 'sales pitch'. Carefully outline why SMM is critical to your organisational success. But, be sure to point out the risks involved with implementing one and the risk of doing nothing at all by continuing with the status quo. This shows you've done your homework, and by clearly articulating both sides of the issue, your pitch will be stronger. What will be the positive impact of such a move? What are the costs, benefits and ROI?
Transparency is key when it comes to data and financial information. ©kemalbas/iStock
- Start with a problem statement (what is the issue?)
- Cite a situation that will spark discussion
- Articulate the risks with the solution and the risks by sticking with the status quo
- Be prepared to answer the difficult questions
Analyse this and that: resources and justification
You presented an outline of the solution based on some higher level, but essential and effective, generalities with specific examples. Next step? Get more granular. Begin by compiling data from all possible sources. Take a walk throughout your office and collect some more specific data, including: procurement, finance, PO Systems, credit card data and vendors. After assembling this data, you will find gaps. Since there is no crystal ball available or time travel machine invented yet, you'll have to build in some assumptions.
This is where your internal partnerships will pay off. Get the blessing from your peers, the internal experts in finance and procurement. This is vitally important. For assumptions based on industry benchmarks, these credible sources will support your case. When it comes to risk assessment, compliance and/or audit resources can be a great help.
Again, offer your own counter-argument to initiating a SMM programme by addressing the questions and risks involved in a do-nothing scenario. Offer reasons for not recommending each alternative. This analysis will solidify your proposal and support the need to put greater control on spend, how the meeting's process is handled internally and the need to bring in outside consultants to examine current processes. Finally, discuss how a technology solution can fit the current culture, or enhance it by introducing new processes that will lead to the greater success of your meetings programme.
- Compile data from all possible sources
- Get finance's blessing on all assumptions used in financial modelling
- Offer alternative analysis
- Make sure the new technology is a cultural fit
Layout the resources needed for implementation
Your vision is set and the next step in the process is focusing on human capital and the staffing needed to support your proposal. Depending on the size of your organisation, this could mean increasing or decreasing head count. Look at all scenarios and present them, including in-sourced model vs. a hybrid/outsourced model. Be sure to include a responsibility assignment matrix or RACI chart in your models. Essentially, this chart should define current roles and responsibilities and add clarity to new, changing roles within the organisation. Create new job descriptions.
Present all of the technology and consulting costs. The technology will improve your programme but it isn't a magic bullet! It also won't solve all of your problems but will empower you to make vast improvements. Reiterate the way SMM technology will help you manage workflow more efficiently, making employees more productive and compliant.
Cost around change management must also be accounted for. Don't forget to include internal and external full-time equivalent (FTE) costs, roll-out communications and training for socialisation and funding model(s) to answer how the programme will be funded. Lay it all out on the table. Effective communication can make or break the success of this initiative.
Define what really constitutes savings and cost avoidance when it comes to meetings and events at your organisation. This is a crucial phase of your case-building efforts. Address the challenges associated with SMM implementation, including realistic timelines and all costs associated with it. This should include time lost while on-boarding the SMM technology programme, including training employees on the system. Break down your ROI over three years, showing cost reduction for the long-term and the lasting positive effects of the solution. Set the right expectations.
- Lay out the staffing resources needed
- Weigh the costs of technology and consulting
- Include the costs associated with change management
- Explicitly lay out meeting and event financial justification
When it comes to presenting your case, be clear, concise and comprehensive on the optimum recommendation. Be sure to include all possible options and clearly define the problem before presenting your solution. Be completely transparent with defendable points and articulated risks. Show all sides of the situation clearly, defining all positives and possible negatives and risks. It's all in the storytelling.
Make sure the key stakeholders are present and focused. Don't let them become distracted (laptops closed, mobile devices turned off). Be direct and keep things at a high level by avoiding the weeds and getting bogged down in minutiae. Describe the positive organisational impact of the project and provide a high-level project description and strategic plan including the below.
- Goals and objectives
- Major project milestones and target dates
- Performance metrics
- Project constraints
- Set realistic expectations within the organisation
Build your case forward-looking. And one size does not fit all. Not all plans are the same, and your business plan or case may need to be reinvented depending upon your audience. Procurement professionals may need a different pitch than meetings executives. International executives face different challenges than those in the UK. Look one way in the presentation to the c-suite and adapt for other audiences. You need buy-in from all levels. This is an ongoing education or 'pitch' within your organisation until you get buy-in. Redesign for the audience you may see to renew traction with them. Keep your energy and drive to complete the 'sell'.
What is the output?
- Business case document or deck
- Appendices (supporting evidence)
- Create an executive summary last
- One page max to include problem statement and summary of audit results (data/evidence)
- Recommendation(s) - clearly states how the project will solve the business need and include a high-level cost/benefit summary