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Nearly a decade after first dedicating resources to the
development of strategic meetings management educational programs and tools,
the Global Business Travel Association recently introduced a guide to assist
buyers in developing requests for information and proposals for vendors that
provide SMM services.
Developed by the association's GBTA Foundation research and
development arm, the guide builds on previous GBTA products—notably its
Strategic Meetings Management Maturity Model. It is designed to apply to
relationships with any supplier that could be involved in a SMM program, be
that a single provider for all SMM services or individual travel and meetings
management companies, technology firms and payment vendors.
Unlike the electronic template that GBTA offers for hotel
RFPs, for example, the SMM guide is not a fill-in-the-blanks form ready to be
shipped to suppliers (although it might evolve into such a document); rather,
it is designed to allow buyers to create their own. It also is not designed for
typical single-event meeting planning.
Instead, the 27-page guide, which is free to members and
available on GBTA's website, recommends questions to ask the third parties that
buyers may include during development of a strategic meetings management
program, including those that could assist in such areas as meetings policy
development, data analysis, attendee registration, sourcing and expense
First, though, GBTA recommends meetings professionals use
its Strategic Meetings Management Maturity Model, an online tool made available
in 2011 that measures and analyzes corporate SMM program development and
implementation by asking users about corporate policy, sourcing and technology
implementation, then recommending further steps.
The RFP guide is "a natural next step," said GBTA
Foundation vice president of research Joe Bates, noting that "50 percent
or more" of GBTA's travel manager members have responsibility for meetings
management. "Once we enabled companies to understand where they fall on
the model and help them get started in creating a program, if they hadn't
already started, we needed to provide them with a document that could help them
in finding a vendor that could institute a program for them, if they needed it."
The guide includes nine categories for which buyers issuing
an RFI or RFP should provide information about their programs and ask vendors
about their offerings: an overview of the buyer's organization and
requirements, meeting registration, meeting approval, sourcing, planning and
execution, payment and expense reconciliation, data analysis and reporting,
technology and administration.
"We were trying to make this apply to anyone who might
touch the SMM market," Bates said. "We took two perspectives: What's
the need from the buyer side and what's the need from the supplier side? The
buyers said, 'We don't have examples.' We couldn't find examples of RFPs put
out by anyone. On the supplier side, they were telling us, 'Buyers are coming
to us and they have no idea where to start. They don't even understand what SMM
is.' That's why we have a page in this guide that says, 'If you haven't taken
the maturity model, do that first.'
"We started out wanting to create actual questions that
you could use and provide to potential suppliers, just as we've done with the
hotel RFP," Bates continued. "As we got into this process, we
realized that nobody really had a set of questions or best practices already in
place, and we felt that, at this point in time, it was much better to provide
what we called a guide as opposed to an actual RFP template." He suggested
the foundation could develop such a document in the future, "as people's
maturity in this area increases and as suppliers get more experience as well."
According to the association, the guide was developed by a
GBTA task force that included buyers from such companies as Accenture, Cisco
Systems, GlaxoSmithKline, Hewlett-Packard and Key Bank, as well as suppliers
including American Express Meetings and Events, BCD Meetings & Incentives,
Maritz Travel's Experient and Active Network's StarCite. Development began in
October 2011 and included several task force meetings, focus groups and online
"Ideally," Bates said, "we would want to
update this type of document every two to three years."
originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of Travel Procurement.
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