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It all began in 2007, when technology giant IBM decided to get its arms around itsmeeting spend. That’s no easy task for a company that’s the second largest in the world in terms of number of employees (433,362, according to the 2012 Fortune 500), with thousands of off-site meetings worldwide every year.
The man they chose for the job was Paul Wakelin, strategic sourcing specialist with IBM’S Global Travel Council. Based in Birmingham, England, Wakelin has overseen the rollout of the company’s SMM program from the start, beginning with deployment in the U.S. in 2008, followed by the U.K. in 2009. Over the last several years, he managed the launch in more than 30 countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.Then it was time for China, a country of more than a billion people and an economy that is expected to soon surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest. IBM is a growing quickly there, with a field force of 5,000 sales/technical personnel in more than 300 cities across China.
“It’s a very dynamic market,” Wakelin says. “We’ve done product launches there with more than 10,000 attendees. Along with India, it’s where we expect to see the most growth in the coming years.” He believes IBM is the first company to strategically source its meetings in China, though Apple and Intel are now in the initial stages of sourcing. The entire process took 8 months to launch.