Taking the Journey
ETS organizes and hosts more than 700 meetings annually. The programs range in size from 16 participants to more than 12,000, but the average meeting hosts about 40 attendees. Before 2003, this high volume meetings schedule was fragmented among multiple business units with no visibility into process efficiency, contract terms or spend per meeting. In fact, at that time, there was very little known about meeting terms or spend overall, says Martin Hoski, now the global manager of travel and meetings operations for the organization.
Our controls were weak,” he said, going on to describe a meetings procurement and payment process that was completely decentralized. “Generally events were held within a business unit, so visibility outside the that’s through procurement.” And though procurement spent significant time to develop a policy, the final prescription did not attempt to dictate every aspect of the meeting. The goal for ETS was to take the contracting and reconciliation of the meeting out of the planners’ hands so they were free to work on the content and logistics of the program.
“It’s really important to be able to say to our internal clients that [procurement] is here to help—not that we want to take over the meeting planning function,” said Hoski.
PAYMENT – According to Hoski, payment was a helpful implementation to tackle at the beginning of ETS’ journey toward SMMP. It allowed the organization to get a handle on what each business unit was spending on meetings and how that added up for the throughout the year. In 2003, ETS rolled out a ghost card to cover air travel and began to get a handle on the travel portion of its meetings spend. In 2005, the organization got serious with its efforts to understand costs for all meetings-related line items and put a meetings procurement card in the hands of all planners.
“The credit card payment program was a good way to help centralize,” Hoski said. “Prior to that, the business units executed the contracts and asked for payment through accounts payable. By instituting a better payment methodology we got a better view of spend data and used that to negotiate some savings on behalf of our internal clients.”
PROCESS – For the 67-year-old company with a long history of decentralized events, managing change around policy and payment was no mean feat. Success in those areas focused the procurement team on the next big step— automating the meeting process.
“The first step was to start with a web- based meeting request form. Even now, that is the initiation of any meeting project,” Hoski said, noting that ETS used Cvent technology platform to get this initiative off the ground, and continues to use the same supplier today. “The next step was in venue sourcing—our software vendor also maintained a supplier network to streamline the sourcing piece and to support the process of executing the contract.”
In 2009, ETS moved its meetings technology strategy to Cvent’s cloud-based platform, allowing for better access and a more comprehensive automation strategy that enables procurement and marketing departments to work together more seamlessly. Indeed, a clear understanding of that cross-functional relationship has been key to the success of ETS’ SMMP initiative to date—and will definitely benefit the program as it moves forward.
Where to go From Here
For the sake of managing change at ETS, Hoski believes that centralizing within the procurement department was the right move, and made it easier for ETS to get a handle on spend and process. As the organization moves forward with automating attendee invitations, event websites online registration and post-event surveys, the benefit of engaging marketing stakeholders from the beginning of the SMMP process is clear.
In whatever ways we can automate the full lifecycle of the meeting, we want to do that, and we are excited to extend technology support to these elements of our meetings” said Hoski, noting that ETS is also interested to explore onsite smart badges and more mobile integration.
While there is still work to be done, Hoski underscores the effect that SMMP has had on ETS as an organization. “When an organization plans 700 meetings a year, you have to be able to manage them efficiently and effectively – and have the data to support your strategy. Thanks to our technology platform, we can go in and look at any area of the meeting lifecycle and generate data that helps us see what’s really going on.”
That’s a critical ability for any organization looking not only to manage meetings spend, but also to manage meetings strategy. It will put ETS a step ahead as the organization moves its meetings toward the future.Download PDF
About the Company:
Education Testing Service is a non-profit organization that advances quality and equity in education worldwide by creating assessments based on rigorous research. ETS develops, administers and scores more than 50 million tests annually.
“Thanks to our technology platform, we go in and look at any area of the meeting lifecycle and generate data that helps us see what’s really going on.” – Martin Hoski, Global Manager, Travel 7 Meetings Operations, ETS