Technology is the linchpin of a strategic meeting management program. And the Groups and Meetings Committee of the National Business Travel Association has addressed that in a new white paper, the fifth in its “Framework for Success” series on meeting management issues.

The first part of the 11-page paper, “Choosing the Right Technology in Support of Your Strategic Meetings Management Program,” discusses how technology facilitates the elements of an SMMP, from proper meeting approvals to cost-avoidance reports. In brief, the authors say that an SMMP technology should, among other things:

  • ROUTE MEETING REQUESTS through the approval process and track (or impede) meetings that do not receive the necessary approvals;

  • COLLECT MEETING DATA, including expenses, across departments, to be able to report a consolidated view of the company's meeting activity that can be analyzed by vendor and meeting type;

  • INCLUDE A SEARCHABLE, online supplier database that directs users to the company's preferred suppliers;

  • HELP PLANNERS TO create, submit, and compare RFPs — as well as save the bids for future reference;

  • INTEGRATE WITH A company's meeting-planning software for attendee registration, housing, and air, or have these capabilities itself;

  • AUTOMATICALLY NOTIFY legal or procurement departments if RFPs are of a certain size;

  • CREATE A FULL SLATE of standard and customizable reports.

The paper also considers best practices when buying or building a tech system. In general, the authors come down on the side of off-the-shelf systems: “In recent years, with more viable products on the market and a growing understanding of the overall cost to maintain such systems, it has become widely considered a best practice to buy an SMMP technology solution, rather than build one.”

When researching a meeting management technology, the paper discusses key selection criteria, including security, the ability to integrate with other company systems, scalability, brand issues, and ease of use and support for the customer.

NBTA's Groups and Meetings Committee is co-chaired by Kari Knoll Kesler, global manager — Honeywell Meeting Solutions, Honeywell International Inc., and Joni Miyashiro, travel manager, Amgen Inc. While you need to be an NBTA member to download most NBTA white papers, the series began with “Building a Strategic Meeting Management Program,” which is available to all at the NBTA Web site, www.nbta.org.