C-Suite Involvement Is Key

The first thing procurement executives need to do before getting involved with the company’s meeting planners is make sure they have top management’s backing, says John Sorci, who retired in 2011 as vice president, global operations, of Symantec Corporation. 

“What you don’t want is the two people at the executive level butting heads over whether we should do this or not,” he says. “That’s the first thing. If my boss, the CFO, and (in Symantec’s case) the executive vice president of marketing, who both report to the CEO, get together and say, yes, we’re going to have an event, let’s make sure we have a formal process in place and we’re getting the most value for our money. They in turn tell that to their people, and say this is what both of us executives want — that paves the way, when the people at the next level start to butt heads, for the executives to say, ‘Look, our bosses want this to happen.’ As opposed to the other way, when the senior execs don’t agree and then you have a big war on your hands — a turf battle.”

That said, getting C-level support shouldn’t be too difficult to get, says Steve O’Malley, senior vice president of St. Louis-based Maritz Travel and executive sponsor of Maxvantage, its strategic meetings management solutions alliance with American Express. 

“The C-suite comes down on this where they come down on most things,” he says. “That is, they want all divisions to find a way to work together, collaboratively.”

O’Malley adds: “The C-suite will set the objectives for every division of a company. If those are clear, then every division, whether it’s production, an event planner, marketing, or procurement, should understand what that translates into for their particular goals. That collaboration is what C-suites are looking for, not tug-of-wars or fights over who’s doing what.”

Another thing the C-suite is looking for is an answer to some of the most basic questions about anything the company spends money on. Specifically, how much are we spending and are we getting the best value for our money?

Answering those questions requires the same data, and the systems in place to track that data, that procurement needs to ensure meeting planners are getting the best value for their money. 

“In order to be able to negotiate strongly with your suppliers you need to have good data,” says Wendy Dell, the director of business development, strategic meetings management, for Chicago-based BCD Meetings & Incentives. “You need to understand what your volume is, where you’re spending your money, how you’re spending your money. That data is your tool to negotiating with other suppliers.” 

At the same time, she adds, that data is where the manager of the meeting planning department can turn when she “gets that call from the CEO to ask, ‘What are you spending, what are you saving?’ That data is what makes you look good. You can show you’re providing value.”