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Centralization: The Struggle—and Benefits—Are Real

Carrie Cliggett, CMM, CED, drove a comprehensive approach to meetings and events at Wolters Kluwer. Here’s how it went.

MeetingsNet’s Changemakers list recognizes outstanding meeting professionals for their efforts to move their organizations and the industry forward in unique and positive ways. Find the full 2023 Changemakers list here.

Carrie Cliggett, CMM, CED

(Formerly) Vice President, Global Event Management

Wolters Kluwer

For consolidating event staff and systems companywide using a deliberate approach

The Covid pandemic prompted a lot of inward reflection across corporate America, and Carrie Cliggett, CMM, CED, took that opportunity to advocate for change.

As vice president of global event management for software firm Wolters Kluwer (a job she left in late May), she recognized that comprehensive data for the company’s nearly 600 meetings was lacking. Her team was responsible for about half of those meetings, with the rest handled by a hodgepodge of methods and personnel.

Cliggett lobbied for a single, comprehensive approach to meetings and events that would be achieved through a multi-step transition. She identified 17 staffers who were already managing internal and external events and recommended they be added to her team. She proposed that all divisions and business units agree to a consistent global event policy, and that all events be tracked through Cvent and assigned a tier level and priority based on the complexity, budget, and attendee count.

“All companies have disparate systems, ways of tracking, budgeting, intake, and so on,” Cliggett says. “Centralization brings scale and the ability to leverage spend, and it prevents duplication of roles. It really creates operational agility and synergies when you bring everyone together.”

Under the new approach, the company’s global events team has now expanded from three to 35 people, and the team manages 400 to 500 internal, external, and trade show events each year.

Not a Quick Fix

Cliggett found that shifting from a fragmented system to a consistent approach required changing processes and, perhaps more important, changing mindsets. “You need the ‘why’ and the ‘way’ to encourage buy-in and trust,” Cliggett says. Resistance to change varies from individual to individual, and managing those nuances takes patience, flexibility, and resourcefulness, she adds.

Besides providing the organization with greater operational agility, consolidation had benefits for team members, she contends, including an expansion of their core capabilities and more career opportunities.

Communicating that “why” and “way” throughout the transition process is key, Cliggett says. It takes multiple forms, including grassroots outreach, Q&A sessions, newsletters, face-to-face meetings at company events, and stakeholder surveys.

Also, she notes, keep in mind that changing course is an incremental process. “Faster doesn’t mean success,” she says. “It’s more thoughtful to have a plan and be consistent,” and from her experience, it’s small, consistent changes that are better in the long run.

The three-year effort to centralized meeting management at Wolters Kluwer still has some work to be completed. “Lots of folks go so fast, with no ‘why,’ no ‘way,’ and no support,” she says. “Without those basics, everything is a priority—but at the same time, nothing is a priority.”

Of course, another key consideration in managing a department transition is making sure it doesn’t interfere with fundamental work of orchestrating company meetings. “You don’t want to disrupt the business, Cliggett notes. “Your events team still has to kick ass and have rock-solid events.” 

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