Maybe you know that implementing a strategic meetings management program would bring value to your company, but you don’t know where to start. Maybe you believe an SMMP is fine for global companies but doesn’t have relevance for your small meeting department. Maybe you’re having trouble laying out your SMMP vision with enough specifics to get the attention and buy-in of senior management. Or maybe you’re just flat-out mystified by how you would put all the pieces together to make an SMMP fly.

Planners in all of those situations would be greatly helped by being able to use another financial services company’s SMMP as a model and roadmap. A new offering from StarCite, a company that provides the technological backbone for corporate SMMPs, will allow them to do that.

“We’ve learned a lot by working with the big players in the financial services industry,” says Kevin Iwamoto, vice president, enterprise strategy, at StarCite. “They are creating enterprisewide, global deployments of their SMMPs. But there is another tier of customer who competes in that [industry] but might not have the resources or the need to launch a global SMMP.”

Still, these companies have to comply with the same NASD and FINRA rules and regulations as their bigger competitors, they may serve the same types of audiences, and they may require many of the same SMMP components. “So we determined that, using our own lessons learned, we could develop a QuickStart package for financial services customers,” Iwamoto explains. “That way they would already have a roadmap” for SMMP implementation. (StarCite is rolling out a life-sciences-specific SMMP as well, with others to follow.)

Shortening the Colossal Conversation
The way it traditionally works is that StarCite sits down with a client and exhaustively covers its needs and desires—or rather “uncovers” them, since those needs and desires often are not fully known by the customer when the process begins.

With the new strategy, Iwamoto says, “we come to the table showing them how it’s been done. We’ll say, ‘Here are the best practices,’ and they can fill in the blanks. They can pick and choose from what’s on the table. We’re not asking a gazillion questions to find out what they want. It saves a colossal amount of time.”

He also points out that having a more specific picture of the scope of the SMMP and the resources needed to get it going can help a planner make the cost/benefit case to procurement or to senior executives.

Know Where Your SMMP Stands
Also useful for planners implementing—or already working with—SMMPs is the new SMM Maturity Model that StarCite has developed in partnership with the National Business Travel Association Foundation. The model describes five SMMP levels, each with specific criteria, offering companies a way to determine where they are with their programs and if they want to take the next steps. For companies thinking about launching an SMMP, the model can help them get their arms around the scope of the project.

Briefly, Level 1 (“infancy”) means you’re just managing attendees, Level 2 (“emergent”) means you’ve also created a process for meeting requests to come into your department and you use e-RFPs for sourcing, and Level 3 (“operative”) adds budget-tracking. It’s a big leap to level four (“excelling”), which adds spend management, best practices, integrations with other technology systems in the organization such as a customer relationship management system or a finance purchase order system, and globalization. And Level 5 (“mastery”) means you’re using your SMMP not just to manage meetings but to position meetings, your department, and yourself at a strategic level.

Iwamoto notes that so far, reaching “mastery” is rare. “Based on what I’ve seen and companies I’ve worked with, no one is 100 percent in the mastery category,” he says. “A lot of companies are at level 2 or 3, emergent or operative. A few companies are in the excelling category and some have some program elements in the mastery category.”

The financial-services-oriented QuickStart tool can help companies at any point on the maturity model, Iwamoto says, adding that the model itself is another way of making the implementation process more efficient. “Some companies may choose to not have mastery as an SMMP goal: They could be satisfied at the excelling stage or the operative stage. If a company says, ‘we just want to be at Level 3-operative,’ that tells us a lot.”

The SMM Maturity Model will also offer a guide to advancing through the stages of SMMP development, including the tangible and intangible benefits of an SMMP at each stage, information on best practices and case studies at each level, plus benchmarking data from companies in similar industries.

At StarCite’s Web site you can learn more about the company’s industry-specific tools, and read Kevin Iwamoto’s SMMP blog.