The relationship between travel, meetings, and procurement has gone from “Why do we need to talk?” to “Can’t we all just get along?” to “Let’s partner to ensure we are getting the best value for our company.”

Although I’m sure that in some organizations it’s still a struggle to work together, in others they are combining data, expanding preferred-supplier agreements to include groups, developing standard contracts, and creating tremendous savings, reduced risk, and increased productivity.

In my previous corporate experience, we had just begun to share transient and group data between the travel and meetings departments. When we started to combine this data, it helped us leverage our spend with suppliers because they could now see our total spend—we were able to show them just how big a piece of the pie our business was.

ABCs of Working Together

Here are some ways to develop an effective working triad with your travel and procurement teams:

-Accept the new paradigm of working hand-in-hand with these departments. This is not simply a trend you can wait out. It’s here to stay.

-Be proactive. If you do not have an existing relationship with either department, reach out to them. If all three of you are not in regular communication, be the one to set up the first meeting.

-Collaborate. Share your ideas for cost savings and minimization of risk. Let others know about the best practices you hear about in other companies. (Check out Corporate Meetings and Incentives’ Web site, www.meetingsnet.com, which has a special section on SMM, including best practices.)

-Data is king! Never go to a meeting with these departments without data. At least present a list of the information you are trying to gather and why it is important. Then see how you can work together to get it.

-Expect some bumps in the road. Building trust and strong relationships takes time. Take the high road; show you are there for the good of the company, not just to position your team.

-Frequently communicate your successes. Make sure your various stakeholders understand how important these relationships are to the success of your SMMP.

-Get suppliers involved. Make sure they understand your goals, as they can help you to achieve them. Ask what they are seeing other clients do to align these three departments.

-Help educate travel and procurement staff about meetings, and ask to learn more about their world. The more you all know about each other’s business, the more you can achieve.

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