What is in this article?:
- IBM Takes Its SMMP to China
- How It Works
- Cultural Challenges
- Paul Wakelin's First Trip to China: A First-Person Account
- Active Network | StarCite: IBM's Tech Partner
Active Network | StarCite: IBM's Tech Partner
To learn more about the technology behind IBM’sprogram, we caught up with Betty McNulty, general manager for ACTIVE Network’s Business Solutions Group.
Please give an overview of how the StarCite tool works at IBM.
The process starts with the centralized On-line Meeting Request Form, which collects all meeting details. IBM employees who want to hold a meeting can submit this form through the Web-based application, which is then routed directly to one of two approved event agencies that source venues on behalf of IBM in China.
When the event agency receives an e-mail notification of the request, they connect with the requester to discuss the event in greater detail. The event agency then uses the StarCite Online Marketplace to research hotels and uses the StarCite Request for Proposal template, which has been customized for IBM’s needs, and submits it through StarCite to preferred vendors with a deadline for completion of a response. The StarCite solution has been configured to highlight IBM’s preferred vendors during the sourcing process.
The selected vendors receive a notification via e-mail and can go online to view the RFP, and either accept or decline through the StarCite online tool. The event agency can quickly run a report of all responses received, engage with the client to determine competitiveness, and select and a venue.
The agency then enters the proposed and contracted spend into the budget and the system automatically calculates the savings. Through this process, IBM gains powerful data, which it can use to track spend and savings across all venues.
What were the technology, cultural and/or business challenges unique to China in designing and implementing the tech tools to support the IBM program?
A big plus from the beginning was that the StarCite solution was global in scope and supported numerous languages, and multiple currencies, including the currency of the People’s Republic of China.
The main challenge came from the newness of the Chinese hotel market in general, and awareness of managing group business online. Most of the major business/group hotels in China were built in the past five years, so they weren’t as familiar with online RFP management. The average hotel salesperson in the U.S. checks for their RFPs multiple times during the day. In China, that's not always the case and it might take longer.
What would your company do differently, based on the experience of rolling out the China program?
We continue to learn from every global deployment and market. We see the key to the success of the China deployment due to the fact that Paul traveled to China to meet face-to-face with the IBM stakeholder, the hoteliers, and the event agencies.
The more we can learn and understand about a region’s hotel partners, business objectives, and goals, the better we can tailor our solutions to meet both buyers and suppliers. One of the benefits of the StarCite solution is that it can be configured to a customer’s business practices.
What markets/services do you see growing the most rapidly for the company in the next five years?
We anticipate seeing increased activity in areas such as Asia, India, Latin America, the Middle East, and some Eastern European countries.