In a recent study by the Incentive Research Foundation, more than half the respondents (52 percent) reported that procurement professionals are actively involved in incentive planning, supplier selection, or program implementation processes at their companies. But that involvement is not necessarily well received by incentive planners and suppliers.

According to the study, “The Involvement of Procurement or Purchasing in the Incentive Travel Business,” — which was unveiled at the IRF's 15th Annual Incentive Invitational, held in May at the Atlantis resort, Paradise Island, Bahamas — 67 percent of respondents said that procurement departments have had a negative effect on their ability to plan and implement incentive programs. In addition, 75 percent of participants reported that procurement's involvement in incentives has increased at their companies over the past two years, with 67 percent expecting that involvement to continue to increase through 2010.

“[Many incentive planners] believe that procurement is trying to stifle the incentive program and squeeze every penny out of it,” says Dahlton Bennington, CMP, CMM, director of business meeting services for Spherion Corp. in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who attended the IRF event. “In a way, that is true, but at the same time, they have a due diligence to get the best bang for the buck. And that actually helps me in the end.”

Yet, despite the sourcing and negotiating expertise that procurement offers, a disconnect exists between planners and procurement. Most detrimental to the success of their incentive programs, according to the survey respondents:

  • Procurement's emphasis on cost and savings comes at the expense of results (39 percent);

  • Procurement lacks an understanding of incentive programs and their objectives (33 percent);

  • Procurement's influence dampens or eliminates creativity and programs become commoditized as a result (16 percent); and

  • Procurement creates roadblocks and delays in the planning and execution of incentives (6 percent).

While most attendees at the IRF's Annual Invitational agreed that working with procurement professionals presents challenges, many were also focused on making the partnership work. “We have an opportunity as planners to educate procurement about our business objectives,” says Sherrie Newman president of Firstpoint Consulting LLC, a Sammamish, Wash.-based marketing and communications firm that specializes in incentive program management.

At the Fortune 500 companies she works with, Newman says she often invites heads of procurement departments to budget planning meetings and destination review meetings when planning incentives in order to get their buy-in early in the process. “In the past, I have even had someone from procurement come on a site inspection with me and witness the decision-making process first-hand,” Newman says. “It really helps them better understand the business approach we take when selecting destinations and suppliers.”

Strategic Reading

Companies are looking to keep costs down and productivity up — and meetings are no exception. In Charlie Hawkins's new book, Make Meetings Matter, the author draws from his experience as a professional facilitator and communications consultant to offer strategies for improving the effectiveness of small meetings (two to 25 people). Hawkins offers tips on keeping the agenda on track, improving retention, leveraging new technologies, and keeping participants engaged. Hawkins includes checklists for evaluating a meeting's effectiveness and anecdotes from his involvement in thousands of meetings at Fortune 100 companies, small businesses, and nonprofit groups.

In What Areas is Procurement/Purchasing Involved in Incentives?

Supplier contract negotiation: 87%
RFP development: 79%
Supplier selection: 77%
Proposal evaluation: 77%
Supplier evaluation: 51%
Program evaluation: 23%

What is the Impact of Procurement/Purchasing on the Ability to Plan and Implement an Incentive Program?

Significantly positive: 8%
Moderately positive: 8%
Slightly positive: 7%
No impact: 11%
Slightly negative: 32%
Moderately negative: 23%
Significantly negative: 12%
Source: Incentive Research Foundation, “The Involvement of Procurement or Purchasing in the Incentive Travel Business,” April 2008


December 2-4

EIBTM Global Meetings & Incentives Exhibition Barcelona, Spain

December 5-8

Society of Incentive & Travel Executives
International Conference
Montreaux, Switzerland

January 11-14, 2009

Professional Convention Management Association
New Orleans