Companies that bill their meeting expenses to the American Express card and use the StarCite meeting spend management tool heard some noteworthy news last week: The companies are integrating those products, allowing—among other things—for planners to reconcile the charges without rekeying them into the spend management tool.
“It’s been a long time coming. We need this,” says Michele Snock, CMM, global manager, meeting services at Cisco Systems, San Jose, Calif., who expects to see time savings and improved data accuracy with the new system.
Michael Boult, president and CEO of Philadelphia-based StarCite, says his company has 120 corporate clients that use its spend management tool, and 75 percent to 80 percent of them also use the American Express card for meetings. Cisco is one such client, and Snock says she looks forward to the time when her planning team isn’t spending a minimum of 30 to 45 minutes per meeting entering spend data by hand, and, in addition, having to assign personnel to clean up errors in the data every month. Boult cites five improvements planners will see from the partnership.
- Meeting charges will be aligned with meeting budget categories, and planners will be able to drag and drop the actual charges into the spend management tool. By the middle of next year, Boult expects the system to “autoreconcile the charges. … So if the budgeted figure is within a certain tolerance of the actual figure, they’d be considered matched and move straight to payment,” he says. “It would only be the exceptions you’d be dealing with when reconciling the budget.”
- Planners will be able to check charges posted on their American Express card before they’re actually billed. That way, Boult says, planners can connect with the supplier to ask questions or resolve disputes before the bill comes.
- Authorized planners will be able to apply for an American Express card within the StarCite technology. Using a new card number for each meeting is, for some companies, the most efficient way to organize.
- Preferred rates and special offers that planners get for using the AMEX card are typically delivered via newsletters but will now also be embedded in the StarCite online Marketplace, so planners can more easily take advantage of them.
- “Perhaps most important,” Boult says, “is the real reporting that’s now going to be available. Actual, real, full, complete reporting.”
- The first iteration of the StarCite/American Express product is expected to be ready in November, with upgrades to follow. “Obviously we’ve got a lot of hard work to do,” says Boult. “Lots of further product releases into next year, and then roll out into certain markets in Western Europe and Australia. This thing will take a couple years to get full on, but we’re excited about it.”
The American Express/StarCite partnership follows a July announcement of a similar integration plan between Toronto-based Arcaneo’s strategic meeting management technology, Metron, and Visa’s commercial payment cards.