A recent survey of incentive industry professionals shows a possible disconnect in the importance placed on technology: Most respondents say that technology is critical when choosing partner companies, but at the same time, remarkably few of those respondents are organized about planning their technology needs into the future.

This was among the key findings of a technology-focused Site Index survey, the second in a series of surveys planned by the Site International Foundation (the fundraising arm of Site, an incentive-travel industry association) to gauge trends in the motivational events and travel industry. Respondents were both end-users and suppliers.

Only 12.5 percent of respondents have an organized multi-year plan for their future technology needs, said Steve O’Malley, senior vice president and general manager, MaXvantage, and vice president of the Site International Foundation. “But when we asked about the importance of a company’s available technology in selecting partners, 91 percent deemed it ‘somewhat important or important.’ So there’s a bit of a disconnect there between the level of importance and the level of planning,” said O’Malley.

“That’s something that we think needs to be addressed. We feel that everyone, particularly every supplier, in our business needs to have a [technology] roadmap and focus on it,” O’Malley said. “The potential downside is that they just get left behind in what is such a dynamic atmosphere around technology in our industry.”

O’Malley reported two other key findings from the survey:

  • Productivity Gains Offset by “Noise”: 78 percent of the respondents believe that technology has increased their productivity, but at the same time, almost 50 percent report more work and more stress as a result. “While technology is a phenomenal enabler,” O’Malley says, “what we’re seeing is that people are simply taking on more work, more programs, etc., and that has a negative consequence to it as well. Some of the technology is allowing almost indiscriminate behavior. It’s easy to add one more e-mail address or one more hotel to an RFP, for example. And for that reason, you’re seeing a lot more noise in the system that probably doesn’t create more productivity in the value chain but clearly creates more work.”
  • Virtual meetings are on the uptick. The survey found that 41 percent of the respondents use virtual meetings, and 70 percent believe that using virtual meetings decreases the cost overall for events and meetings. As many of the respondents are suppliers, O’Malley explained that, “If you’re a supplier, you could be using [virtual meetings] to engage with your client rather than business travel.”

Step Up and Share
The Site Index technology survey drew a 25 percent response rate from a 250-member panel of incentive industry professionals, both end-users and suppliers, with responses coming from 17 countries. The Site International Foundation plans more surveys this year and is eager to grow its panel of participants to at least 1,000, says O’Malley, who invites any incentive industry professional, whether a Site member or not, to sign up as a panelist. Panelists will be asked to complete five or six short surveys each year and, in return, will be sent a first view of the results. “We’re very much trying to make this a global survey,” says O’Malley. “We want it to be the holistic voice of the motivational industry.”

The second Site Index survey of the year (the third for the program) will be on measurement, says Allison Summers, executive director of the Site International Foundation. “We’ll be looking at what people measure, what they’re looking for when they measure, and what kind of tools they use when they measure,” she says.