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Why SMMPs Take So Long: A Step-by-Step Timeline

If you haven't already joined in the strategic meetings management journey, now is the time! I don't use the term “journey” lightly, as developing and implementing an SMM program is not a one-time event. It takes time to assess the opportunity, engage the appropriate supplier and technology partners, develop strategy, engage in change management, and finally, go live with the SMM program. Some small, nimble organizations can get a program running in 6 to 12 months, but this is the exception, not the norm. Larger organizations, especially those that are multinational, can have a phased implementation plan that takes 18 months or more.

You may be wondering why it takes so long. Below I have outlined some of the key process steps involved in designing and implementing an SMMP.

Category spend and process assessment: On the front end, in advance of designing the SMMP, there is a detailed examination of meeting and event spend coupled with a current process assessment. This information is developed into a detailed business plan for executive approval of the SMMP. Depending on how much time can be dedicated to this analysis, it can take two to four months to complete. Once the plan gets approved, the program can be designed and implementation plans can be crafted.

Request for proposal for SMM technology and/or services: Part of the program strategy will be to deploy a technology tool to support the sourcing, participant management, and data and analytics needs. Some organizations go direct to a technology company; others use the technology tool of a third-party provider, who also manages the SMMP. In either case, an RFP for SMM technology and/or services needs to be conducted. Ideally, this is a two- to four-month process.

Policy and process design: Design of meeting policy, work flows, technology configurations and integrations, supplier sourcing strategies, service level agreements, communication plans, and data and reporting procedures need to be developed. Depending on what type of resources can be dedicated to the work, this is likely to be a two- to three-month process.

Change management and training: This part of the process can be embedded within the steps above so that it does not add to the overall timeline. To increase program adoption, various stakeholders should be consulted and involved in the design process. Training on the new processes should take place in advance of going live with the SMMP.

Pilot evaluation and program modifications: Best-in-class programs have a three- to six-month pilot with a core group of clients in order to test and evaluate the program. Once the pilot is complete, process improvements are made and a broader roll-out is initiated.  

Certainly, there is much more involved with designing and implementing an SMMP, but these broad categories should give you an idea of the potential time commitment needed.

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