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Three years ago, Deloitte's U.K. meetings and events program was in disarray. At that time, when procurement senior manager Yvette Rudge joined the firm, "nobody knew what our event spend was," she said. "We didn't know who our supplier base was. We didn't really even understand our stakeholder sets." Today, Deloitte U.K. still doesn't have all the answers, but after consolidating to one venue agency, identifying suppliers and channeling event spending to a smaller set of venues, the firm has a better handle on the program and saved about £1 million (US$1.5 million).
"It's not fixed," Rudge told delegates here this month at the Business Travel Market conference, "but we are in a much clearer, better and more visible position to understand what we spend, who we spend it with and how to get better control over it."
A top challenge is Deloitte's decentralized structure. In each country, the firm is owned and operated separately, and purchases goods and services separately, from all other countries. In the United Kingdom, Deloitte has about 12,000 employees spread over four business units, each owned and managed by controlling partners who "make decisions themselves," Rudge explained. "You can't tell them what to do. That is the difficulty in driving change."
Nevertheless, Rudge embarked on a project aimed at better controlling Deloitte's U.K. event spend, and the first step was collecting data. "It's the same problem all of you have or have had," she told attendees. "Where do I start? Where can I get this data? There is not one right way. There are so many ways, so take any opportunity you can."
One of Deloitte's first steps was reducing to one the number of venue agencies with which it contracts. That "venue finding agency" only finds venues for Deloitte, Rudge explained. It does not handle production, audiovisual services or any other event needs. Currently, the financial model for the agency is a fixed fee, though "it changes almost on a yearly basis." Having a single agency, Rudge added, aids in compiling relevant spend data.
The task also required Deloitte to "interrogate our financial system to tell us how much we spent on a certain kind of supplier," Rudge told The Transnational. "Whether it is a venue group or if it's an event management company, we have some link. The invoice comes in and it's coded in a certain way [in the general ledger]."
Another "tedious and painful" approach was "Google searching the top 200 event-related suppliers" and checking the results against internal systems "to see if they are in there as someone that we paid," she said. "It really worked.
"When I first joined Deloitte three years ago, I asked how much we were spending on events and I was told X," Rudge continued. "I spent a few months looking at this data and went back and said, 'Actually, I think it's about five or six times that.' Helping people understand things that they may not understand gives you real credibility."
At that time, Rudge estimated that Deloitte U.K.'s events spend "was at a bare minimum £12 million," accounting for just venues--"not on production, not AV, not staging or flowers, not food and beverage, not on registration," which she said could add another 10 percent to 40 percent.
From there, Deloitte U.K. about a year ago "went to the venue market" to see which venue groups and hotel chains could meet its needs for both "residential" (requiring overnight lodging) and "non-residential" events (which don't require overnight lodging).
Savings was achieved by concentrating volume at preferred venues "so that the rate that they are prepared to give you is lower," Rudge said. Sourcing with a supplier outside the preferred list should occur only when no appropriate facilities on that list are available.
Penning A Policy
Rudge said that Deloitte U.K. does not have a written events policy, primarily because the firm's culture does not allow for hard and fast rules that everyone must obey. "Having said that, we have a travel policy," she said. "When I get this response, 'You can't tell people what to do,' we all think the same thing: Why do it for travel and not meetings? It's an ongoing battle."
In any case, Rudge is not concerned because the program is vastly improved from where it had been three years ago, noting that "it is only a matter of time before we will have a written events policy."
~ Reporting by Lauren Darson
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