During a Recent roundtable discussion we held with several Boston-area meeting executives, participants spoke of how their departments were under scrutiny. (See our cover story on page 10.) One of them, who oversees both travel and meetings, had made a conscious decision to limit the size of the department.

“I no longer see the value of having a staff of 20 that has become a huge target,” the planner told us. “We aren't a revenue-generating department — and that's how the company sees us. So, instead of taking the people I've got and putting them at risk, I'd rather take pieces of the function — things such as graphic design — and outsource that and still provide the core values internally.”

You don't have to be in the line of fire to position your department now — to come up with a strategic plan that makes you less of a target and more of an asset. That was what Michelle Snock, CMM, manager of global meeting services for Cisco's Americas operations at Cisco Systems (the subject of last month's cover story) did. When she got wind of a companywide shift toward outsourcing all functions that were not considered “core,” she chose to outsource some of the meeting logistics and developed a business plan that positioned her in-house planners as strategic sourcing experts.

The fact is, outsourcing meeting planning entirely can be extremely detrimental to a company's external and internal communications strategies. Just as the IT industry has learned (hundreds of thousands of layoffs later), numerous factors besides cost — quality, for one — need to be considered. As CIO Kevin Sparks of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City recently said in an interview in CIO magazine, “There's always the perception [among management] that our department is costing too much and not getting enough return. A lot of the decision to outsource has to do with the fact that they're not in touch with what's going on in my department.”

If this sounds too familiar, then it's time to get them in touch — before it's too late.

Barbara Scofidio


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