Is your strategic meetings management program mandated, and by mandated I mean are your meeting owners required to utilize the core components of a strategic meetings management program (1) the meetings policy, (2) processes and (3) procedures, and (4) register their meetings in a central data repository or meetings technology system? Has enough changed in the world of meetings that maybe the time has arrived for mandated programs?
Although there are no up-to date statistics on whether strategic meetings management programs are mandated, anecdotally we know that the majority are not.
This point has always struck me as odd, although I suppose it is because not enough organizations have been convinced that the potential benefits outweigh the investments – both of resources and financial wherewithal. In fact, the most common refrain we hear from companies today is that they want to undertake just the few pieces of a strategic meetings management program that will give them the biggest return on their investment. Rarely are companies willing to undertake the design and implementation of a comprehensive program, and more often than not, they are only interested in developing a meetings policy, or developing a sourcing program.
When we look at our sister field, travel management, we see that the adoption of travel management programs moved more quickly than for strategic meetings management. My original assumption back in 2004 was that the adoption of strategic meetings management programs would happen much faster than the adoption of travel management programs, because the key stakeholders in meetings had already been through the adoption of travel management programs, and were familiar with the rationale for consolidation. But that has not happened.
So how did we arrive at this point? I believe there are two main reasons:
- The primary rationale for strategic meetings management programs, as initially promoted by industry associations and meetings management companies in the early 2000s, focused primarily on the cost savings benefits of strategic meetings management programs
- While risk mitigation was mentioned as an outcome, the risk discussion was primarily focused on financial risk
I believe these two factors were not sufficiently compelling to motivate organizations to invest in the development of strategic meetings management programs, especially when it has historically been so difficult to demonstrate the return on investment that would result (although this has now been remedied by a recent Aberdeen study). And this is why we have seen anemic uptake of comprehensive strategic meetings management programs.
However, with the emergence of new regulations in recent years, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, the UK Bribery Act of 2010, the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act of 2007, the Physician Payment Sunshine Act that went into effect August 2013, and increased prosecutions under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, I would argue that the primary rationales for implementing a comprehensive strategic meetings management program have now shifted to risk mitigation and duty-of-care responsibilities, and away from a primary focus on savings. While savings are still important to help offset the cost of the program, they should no longer be the primary justification for a strategic meetings management program.
When working in concert, the four core components of a strategic meetings management program, policy, processes, procedures, and technology, can help prevent the following consequences of regulatory or duty-of-care breaches:
- Significant injuries or fatalities to employees or third parties, such as customers or vendors
- Game-changing loss of market share
- Long-term negative media coverage
- Financial loss of $X million or more
- Significant prosecutions and fines, litigation, including class actions, incarceration of leadership
- Multiple senior leaders leaving
The risk mitigation mechanisms that help minimize the likelihood of these consequences occurring are found in the policies, processes, and procedures of the strategic meetings management program. For example, policy language should be written to cover all risk types, and processes and procedures should be put in place to ensure that even if a meeting owner wanted to, it would be difficult for them to violate the policy once their meeting was funneled into the strategic meetings management program.
But is mandating a program necessary to achieve these goals? One school of thought, found in Five Myths of Strategic Meetings Management, a Cvent white paper, states that “Although mandates can be successful, they are in no way required to achieve SMM success. In fact, the absence of a mandate can actually work to the advantage of the SMM project leader.”
No doubt, there are organizations where mandates are not necessary, but, as any travel manager will tell you, if you want 100% compliance, you need a mandate. And when the potential impacts of less than 100% compliance are as grave as outlined above, I would argue the stakes are too high to leave compliance to a nonmandated program, as the risks are to life and limb, to the brand your organization has taken so long to build, and to the bottom line.
If you have not done so already, I encourage you to read the earlier articles in this series on risk, including an overview framework for meetings risk here, and mitigation strategies for risk here and here. These articles go into depth on the criticality of mitigating risk in meetings and events, and serve as a basis for this discussion on the importance of adhering to the strategic meetings management program.
Please let me and your fellow readers know your thoughts on mandated versus nonmandated programs. Is your program mandated? If yes, which parts of the program are mandated (policy, processes, procedures, data collection)? Please add your thoughts in the comments box directly below.
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Earlier Posts in the Series on Meetings Risk Management