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director, travel and meetings
Daiichi Sankyo Inc.
Parsippany, N.J.

PAST Before joining Daiichi Sankyo in November 2006 as manager of meetings, Karen Vander Ploeg spent five years working for a pharmaceutical industry contract sales organization. Her focus was on travel, meetings, and fleet, as well as compliance, state reporting, expense reporting, and other internal processes. It was great preparation, she says. “I came here to focus on the centralization of meetings, and given that the pharmaceutical industry is so highly regulated, compliance is key to how we run and operate our business.”

CRED Vander Ploeg joined the company shortly after the merger of Daiichi and Sankyo, and meetings management was scattered around the company. Eighteen months later, in March 2008, the department officially launched, with documented policies and processes; a back-end technology system for budgeting, registering meetings, Web registration, and attendee management; and two meeting management companies under contract (one for all sourcing and external physician meetings and the other for large internal meetings).

SUCCESS STORY Early in the consolidation process, Vander Ploeg put together a task force of stakeholders—marketing executives, salespeople, and administrative assistants—from a cross-section of meeting types. That teamwork, she says, led to a collaborative launch and an appreciation of the meetings team’s strength. “One of the values we bring to the table is knowing how to keep the meetings we plan compliant with the various laws of our industry,” says Vander Ploeg. “Our internal customers know that we are not only there to help plan logistics, but to work within the regulatory requirements, hand-and-hand with legal. It’s just been a huge success.”

LOOKING AHEAD This year, the target is to benchmark costs. “We plan similar types of meetings throughout the year. Our goal is to create best practices to keep costs in line.”—Sue Hatch