Paul Wakelin has taken quite a journey as strategic sourcing specialist with the IBM Corp. United Kingdom. It all began four years ago when the company created a framework to manage meetings and events, capture spend data, and develop key supplier relationships. Wakelin was there through the pilot program, the U.S. launch, and after nine months of success in that market, it was then launched in the U.K., 37 countries in EMEA, and two countries in APAC (India and Hong Kong). Now he’s taking the program throughout China, making IBM one of just a handful of companies to do so in what he calls “a highly challenging market.”
Not only did he coordinate employee training among IBM’s meeting management users and hotel vendors, but now that IBM is using the SMMP for larger meetings, he is also working to train the company’s event agencies, training 750 people all by himself.
He is also a driving force of the IBM Global Travel Council, a team of IBM procurement professionals who manage the global spend and initiatives.
EVOLUTION Without question, China has been one of Wakelin’s biggest challenges. “Even though the new program is just out the door and even though I’ve laid the best plans and education mechanisms, this is a huge transition with a lot of potential,” he says. “People don’t like change. It takes us out of our comfort zone and makes us nervous of how this new unknown set of procedures will impact us.” Not to mention the cultural, language, and time zone challenges.
ADVICE “Travel and especially meetings and events is an exciting area to work in, so enjoy it! It’s not a nuts-and-bolts thing that you can take off a shelf and ship to your client. It involves emotions, feelings, and experiences. We actually get to participate in what we are selling and buying!” - Barbara Scofidio