When Lisa Palmeri sat on the OnVantage customer advisory board as a meeting professional from Abbott Laboratories, the group was in agreement that forming a consulting arm would be a good move for the meeting technology company. At the time, the talk was theoretical. She had no idea that within a few months of that conversation, the job would be hers.
In July, Palmeri made the leap from her position as travel and meetings analyst at the pharmaceutical giant to the newly created position of director of consulting services when Santa Clara, Calif. — based OnVantage formed MeetingView Consulting. The new division was launched to help companies develop their strategic meeting management programs, from process and policy evaluations to designing meeting approval systems.
Working from a remote office in Wisconsin, between Chicago and Milwaukee, this former corporate meeting buyer brings a hands-on perspective to the job: She has lived it. At Abbott, she was part of a strategic sourcing initiative starting in 2002, working with procurement to insert her meeting industry experience into the standard sourcing procedures.
Next Step: Tech RFP
The first spinoff project from the initiative was a formal meeting technology request for proposal. “During the [sourcing] initiative, we realized we couldn't accomplish our objectives without technology,” she says. Of the five divisions involved in the initiative, two were already considering meeting technology, but each was focused on a different product. The company, of course, wanted a single system in order to capture and leverage its total meeting spend.
Palmeri says the company looked at a number of solutions, including creating something in-house. “There was no system that did everything — and still probably isn't,” she says. “You've got to set your priorities.” Abbott went with OnVantage, and Palmeri became the “super administrator,” configuring the new system across the divisions.
Now, taking her experience on the road as a consultant, Palmeri says that, like Abbott, many companies choose to manage meeting sourcing first, without necessarily centralizing the planning function. “I've seen that trend over and over again,” she says, noting that companies can enjoy savings and risk avoidance without taking on — initially at least — a more all-encompassing SMMP.
The most common roadblock she has come across is lack of a mandated environment. Many decentralized companies, she says, need to consider policy changes that support the use of preferred suppliers or a common technology to be able to begin the SMMP process.
In addition to working with individual companies, the OnVantage consulting division is in the midst of a benchmarking project to analyze data from OnVantage customers regarding hard-to-determine metrics such as the average cost per attendee by meeting type or industry, and the head count and workload of meeting departments. The data should be compiled by the first quarter of 2006.