One of the toughest parts of setting up your strategic meetings management program is the technology piece. The more I speak to readers, the more I see why.

For starters, you're not going to get management buy-in until you have compiled data on the company's meetings activity, whether you do it through your corporate travel department, work with accounting to determine what's been spent on corporate credit cards, or check with hotel national sales offices to get info — or all three. Right there, that's enough to make most people queasy.

But don't overdo the data reporting, Kelly Everhart, managing partner of Strategic Management Solutions LLC in Minneapolis told me. “Avoid analysis paralysis! I recommend the 80/20 rule: Focus 80 percent of your time and energy on the 20 percent that is really important. Get just enough data to result in approval.” The other thing to remember is that once you have your SMMP in place, the savings can be between 15 percent and 25 percent in the first 18 months. It will pay for itself in no time.

Finally, a full-blown enterprisewide solution is often not even necessary. There are so many other options. StarCite, for one, has a small-meetings module for companies with less spend. Or you can choose a la carte tools or hire the consulting services of a tech provider rather than trying to figure it all out yourself. But did you know that software companies often don't include consulting in their initial conversations about pricing?

Even if you use this software just to choose sites, it can be confusing. Are you aware that hotels can buy a marketing package that bumps them to the top of search results lists? One software provider, in its sales pitch, told a hotel it would be 22 times more likely to be selected if it bought the package. But buyers don't want to be influenced in that way!

This month's cover story by Web Features Editor Alison Hall asks all the tough questions about meeting management software and online site-search databases. Be sure to check it out on page 16.

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