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The National Business Travel Association's hotel committee here last week said it would release a request for proposals scorecard to filter responses from hotels based on what is deemed most important to an individual corporation. Similar to other tools already available, the NBTA scorecard will allow travel buyers to prioritize fields within NBTA's electronic RFP and, based on the answers, eliminate hotels from contention
To be unveiled formally within two months, the scorecard "allows the organization the opportunity to apply a weight to all questions with the possibility of a few 'deal breakers,' " said hotel committee member and PricewaterhouseCoopers travel procurement leader Kim McGlinn, speaking during NBTA's annual conference. "It is critical for suppliers to answer all responses, as they will not be aware of which items are being considered by each buyer. If they choose to leave a response blank, they could be negatively impacting their results." For example, if last room availability, security and free breakfast are of major concern, questions related to those items would top the list, McGlinn explained.
"Once you have all of the data loaded, you can go through and look at all of the deal-breaker questions and anyone that doesn't meet your requirements will be eliminated," McGlinn said.
The NBTA hotel RFP is a favored industry document for many travel buyers and hoteliers, but with almost 800 questions to answer, narrowing down the replies can be crucial. Hotel committee chair Laurie Kazimer said every year the committee and the procurement subcommittee attempt to modify the document, but cutting certain questions may eliminate those that are important to some. Overall, the hotel committee managed to eliminate 19 questions from the 2009 RFP, but added six new environmental questions.
"Today, we don't have a shorter form, but we do have a solution that will help you to make the RFP [process] shorter based upon the criteria that is important to you," McGlinn told conference attendees.
Kazimer told The Transnationalthat the hotel RFP scorecard would be made available just in time for the negotiating phase of the typical hotel sourcing cycle this fall.
The tool is a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with predetermined formulae that rank each field on a scale of zero to nine, all of which can be manipulated by the individual user. It is akin to a tool introduced by the hotel committee at the 2006 NBTA convention in Chicago--in that it is Excel-based and enables travel managers to filter RFP responses based on their needs--but adds numeric scores for hotels.
Similarly, the Hotel Sourcing Alliance in 2007 introduced a scorecard rating method for travel managers. It's "more than just a scorecard," according to Hotel Sourcing Alliance president and CEO Fernando Avila, as it helps both corporations and hotels keep track of how many hotel rooms were booked (preferred and nonpreferred) and look at what amenities were used in order to generate an overall score. The product also allows travel managers to perform the same hotel ranking functions as the NBTA scorecard. Avila said.
The hotel committee acknowledged use of other third-party tools in the market, but insisted that its scorecard can be a helpful addition. Hotel Sourcing Alliance offers its products to both hotels and corporations for $550 and $4,000, respectively, whereas the NBTA scorecard will be offered for free to NBTA's travel manager members.
"There are RFP tools out there that have scoring components, and our understanding is our tool could be used as an enhancement to the ones that we are familiar with, because it allows you to drill down deeper to get the exact criteria that is specific to your organization," said McGlinn.
Travel managers who were given the first glimpse of the tool in a hotel RFP think tank education session during the NBTA conference were silenced by the apparent complexity, fearing it might increase their already jam-packed workload.
"Even with cutting and pasting, it just seems very labor-intensive, and it is already such a laborious job," said AT Kearney Inc. global procurement financial analyst Brenda Kelly. Since some companies already have a third-party tool in place, Kelly continued, additional scorecards can complicate matters. She suggested that the NBTA tool be integrated with existing programs to drive efficiency.
Most travel managers make the decision to accept a particular bid using empirical data, Kazimer explained, and the new scorecard would highlight that or, at the very least, provide corroboration with another third-party solution to speed the selection process.
"It may not be the right fit for some travel managers, but it is a fair and equitable option available to them," McGlinn added. "I think it was a little overwhelming--there is a lot involved in the scorecard, and it was difficult to show it in that large of a forum."
The committee assured hotel executives that they would not have to perform any additional tasks. Hotels would fill out RFPs as usual and, once it is sent back to travel buyers, the automated system would rank each RFP and top-scoring hotel properties would be asked to begin the bidding process. The committee plans to conduct webinars and other information sessions before the scorecard is officially launched.
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