ACTIVE Network, Business Solutions + Lanyon = Lanyon

ACTIVE Network, Business Solutions Teams Up With Lanyon

On Feb. 20th, ACTIVE Network made an announcement that the Business Solutions Group of which I am part of would be split off from the rest of ACTIVE and merged with another Vista Equity company, Lanyon. The new combined group will be known as Lanyon. Since that announcement, the industry has been abuzz with chatter via social media, e-mails, news articles, etc.

The overall reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, most notably by leading industry analysts including my good friend Christopher J. Dwyer, research director at Ardent Partners, a leading supply management research and advisory firm. He went on record to say: “To capture, control, and manage meetings, events and transient hotel spend, the contemporary enterprise requires a series of end-to-end processes that address hotel and venue sourcing, analytics, reporting, spend management, and compliance. Once combined, the ‘new’ Lanyon offering can help procurement and sourcing teams gain a holistic, enterprise-level view of their events-management programs.”

But what does this really mean to the many entities that comprise the eco-system of our industry and marketplace?  I thought I would share with you my views as to how this will impact each key player in the eco-system.

C Level:  The new Lanyon for the near term will be the only true enterprise technology platform where senior executives will be able to receive and view their enterprise spend data not just for corporate travel expenses, but also for the first time, their meetings/events spend. Today, based on the maturity of the business travel marketplace and corporate programs, they are receiving tons of big data around their business travel spend, even boiling it down to what is known as “Total Cost of Trip”.  Today for the meetings and events industry, with decentralization prevalent at most corporations, with numerous point solution suppliers and disparate data gathering formats and integrations, it is very challenging to get close to a “Total Cost of Attendee” figure. The new Lanyon will be the only true enterprise cloud solution that will be able to provide that level of big data to the marketplace.

Travel & Meeting Buyers: The new Lanyon Smart Cloud technology will be scalable for your respective programs; your program maturity can incorporate functionalities and features as you need them.  You will be able to have smarter and more meaningful negotiations with your suppliers as you will be able to leverage your enterprise spend for not just your transient spend but also for your meetings/events spend.  In this day and age where the demand is outpacing the supply and the hotel and venue suppliers hold the cards when it comes to rate and amenity negotiations, Lanyon clients will have a significant advantage over other companies because their spend intelligence will give them better information to negotiate with their program suppliers.

Suppliers:  Lanyon customers will have better data and information to conduct more productive negotiations with you.  Intelligent clients who truly know and understand their buying patterns can focus on being more strategic in terms of relationship development with you.  Prioritization of responses to Lanyon driven eRFPs will result in better market share and revenue performance for your corporate agreements.

Procurement/Finance:  Lanyon’s technology will allow for optimal supplier rationalization especially for strategic sourcing initiatives.  Companies can easily eliminate 3-4 current point solution technologies servicing niche areas of  transient, meetings & events business with a singular enterprise technology cloud that is exclusive to only Lanyon. The cost savings and program management becomes less costly and difficult to manage resulting in a more meaningful and productive preferred supplier relationship.

Intermediaries:  The combined customer base for Lanyon is unparalleled and is the envy of the industry.  Working with Lanyon and our enterprise solutions will require little to no change management for your clients as the majority of them currently use Lanyon technology via their transient programs and/or via their meetings/events SMMP.

In closing I have to share a story with you. Five to six years ago, after leaving the corporate world to join StarCite, I recommended to our then CEO that we should look into purchasing or merging with Lanyon in order to produce a truly enterprise technology that could provide comprehensive spend data and functionality to corporate buyers as well as to the meetings/event buyers and planners.  Unfortunately by the time he looked into that possibility, Lanyon was purchased by Vista Equity.

Now fast forward to present day. Vista Equity also owns ACTIVE Network | StarCite via ACTIVE Network.  It is indeed a small world where the right things go full circle.  I am excited to be part of this historic merger as I believed in it many years ago.  I believe in the marketplace power of the newly combined Lanyon.  I am privileged and excited to be a part of the executive team that will transform this marketplace and drive the much needed convergence of players.  Please continue to watch this space as we prove to everyone that our strategy and roadmap for the industry is not just the best path forward; it’s the right path.


Read more about the ACTIVE Network, Business Solutions merger with Lanyon!

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SMM Champions Reveal Their Best Practices in a New ACTIVE Network ebook

I’m very proud to announce our new ebook, “SMM Champions: Best Practices for Developing SMM.”

This is a great look into the SMM practices of 9 industry thought leaders and practitioners on a variety of strategic meetings management-related topics.  Our new ebook, which we’re unveiling today at the GBTA convention, follows our first book on SMM, “Strategic Meetings Management Handbook: From Theory to Practice,” published in 2011.

We start with my essay on the evolution of SMM – and the collaboration it took to get the concept launched (and the roadblocks I had to vault along the way). There’s also a piece from my colleague, Linda McNairy, VP, Intermediary Relationship Management, at ACTIVE Network, on “Maturing Your SMMP – Getting to Where You Want to Be.”

Check out the essays from the rest of the SMM champs:

  1. Carol Ann Salcito, President, Management Alternatives Inc., on “Power Management: Combining Meetings & Business Travel Management”
  2. Kari Wendel, Senior Director, SMM Strategy + Solutions Carlson Wagonlit Travel Meetings & Events, on “Maximizing Supplier Relations with eRFPs: How to Create a Win-win When Sourcing”
  3. Betsy Bondurant, Founder, President of Bondurant Consulting, on “Integrating a Meeting Card Into Your SMMP”
  4. Debi Scholar, Dir. Managed Meetings Strategies, American Express, on “Financial Risk Mitigation in Meetings Management”
  5. Tyler Altrup, Solutions Architect, Badgeville, on “Strategies to Engage Attendees: The Science of Gamification”
  6. Joanna Belbey, Social Media and Compliance Specialist, Actiance, on “Managing Social Media Compliance within Financial Services Industries”
  7. Herve Joseph-Antoine, Global Managing Dir., Pacific World, on “SMM in Asia – New Opportunities & Challenges”

I’m so happy to be part of this new ebook, and prouder still to be part of an organization that continually raises the bar of excellence – both in terms of thought leadership and innovating new SMM and event management technology

What do I hope you get out of this book?

JR Sherman, SVP of ACTIVE Network and Senior General Manager, Business Solutions Group, who wrote a foreword in the ebook, says it best: 

“It’s my hope that you use “SMM Champions: Best Practices for Developing SMM” to increase your SMM skill set and move your programs forward – whether you’re just thinking about creating centralized management of meetings or you have a global program in place that’s already delivering benefits. Think of this book as a very smart tool to help you achieve SMART EVENTS™ – meetings that help you save time and money … engage your attendees on a new level … and, most importantly, grow your business.”

Download “SMM Champions: Best Practices for Developing SMM” and become an SMMP champ, yourself. By the way, I'd love it if you shared your impressions of the ebook here!

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Congratulations MeetingsNet 2013 Changemakers!

MeetingsNet magazine has announced its annual list of industry Changemakers--and we'd like to say congratulations to all 20 winners.

The Changemakers "have elevated the meetings role beyond logistics, advanced the practice of strategic meetings management, and/or driven sustainable meetings within their organizations," says MeetingsNet. "They are educators and mentors who look beyond their own four walls for ways to make a difference."

We'd like to especially congratulate all the ACTIVE Network customers who made the list this year! Here's a look at five honorees and their accomplishments: 

- Bobby Badalamenti, Director, Siemens Event Management Services, Siemens Corp. – who has implemented an enterprisewide SMMP, beginning with the U.S. and now in place for North America;

- Judy Bauer, Director of Global Travel, Marsh & McLennan Companies – who is overseeing the rollout of the company’s global SMMP;

- Susan Dupart, Senior Director, Global Travel, Meetings, Corporate Card, Mobility McAfee Inc. – who developed a business case for the company’s first SMMP. The program, which launched in North America this spring, includes an online registration tool, a media policy, and standard contract terms and conditions;

- Angie Henderson, Global Strategic Meetings Manager, Apple Inc. – whose meetings program supports more than 3,000 global groups a year and has built innovative reward and recognition programs for her employees;

- Courtney Page, Global Category Manager–Meetings & Events, and Hotel, Chevron  -- who consolidated planning practices and processes for about 1,000 meetings across Chevron’s 20 separate operating companies—each with their own legal and procurement departments—and meeting planners;

Who would you nominate as an industry changemaker?

Check out the full list of MeetingsNet 2013 Changemakers!

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Kudos to Paul Wakelin of IBM for Taking SMMP to China

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the latest issue of MeetingsNet to read about IBM’s success in bringing a strategic meetings management program to China. Paul Wakelin, strategic sourcing specialist with IBM’S Global Travel Council in the U.K., drove the eight-month-long process – and even traveled extensively within China to kick off the program in face-to-face events. MeetingsNet calls him a modern day Marco Polo!

I’m so happy for Paul; I had the good fortune of working with him – discussing ideas on how best to implement IBM’s SMMP in China, I shared with him some of my own experiences in global program deployment during my years at HP Global Procurement.  The Chinese marketplace is a unique one, in that all Westernized creativity and ideas for “out-of-the-box” thinking really doesn’t work in China.  The Chinese government has rules and regulations that all foreign companies must follow in order to do business in China.  That requires some research and sensitivities toward programs, supplier management, policy creation and adherence, etc.

In China and the rest of Asia Pacific, the value of a hand shake, and proper exchange of business cards and polite socialization is critical to any business-to-business relationship and development of that relationship.  While most companies today “phone in” or “Webex” program kick-offs and initiatives, that simply doesn’t work in the Asia-Pacific region.  In order to get compliance and support not only from internal stakeholders but your supplier-base, one must make a physical appearance, at least initially or at kick-off in order for program deployment to succeed.  It’s not even an option to “phone it in.”  I shared with Paul my experiences and lessons learned.  Together we approached his manager to get budget released for his trip to China to spend time reviewing his SMMP plans and launch with all his local internal stakeholders and most importantly, his local suppliers and NSOs.

His subsequent success in China speaks for itself.  I can tell you that anyone wishing to deploy their SMMP or any other initiative in China and Asia-Pacific is going to have to do it the regional way, as any other way is just not going to work.  If you want to hear Paul and I talk about SMMP Maturity, we will be doing a session at this year’s ITM Conference 2013 in the U.K., on Wednesday, April 17.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Are you expanding your SMMP regionally or globally? Tell us how you’re meeting the challenges that come with differing cultures!

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BABTA Message: SMMPs Make You More Competitive

Susan Dupart, Senior Director, Global Travel, Meetings, Corporate Card & Mobility for McAfee, and I, did a SMMP Case Study for the 100 or so members of the Bay Area Business Travel Association (BABTA) the other night in downtown San Francisco. 

I provided an industry and SMMP update and high level overview, and Susan generously provided her “lessons learned” on how she managed to sell establishing and funding of her company’s global SMMP, which is about to launch this month.  The audience of buyers and suppliers were all engaged in the presentation and discussion afterwards, and throughout the presentation there were a lot of nodding heads. 

The bottom line is that more and more companies realize they really do need some program and process that can provide key information and data around their meetings and events spend.  With supplier costs rapidly rising, a company can quickly fall behind the eight ball in terms of Op Ex versus their competitors who may have an established SMMP in place -- generating cost savings, risk mitigation and spend transparency at an enterprise level. 

Many thanks to BABTA President, Gary Murakami of MGM Resorts and Programs VP Mark Ziegler of NetApp for inviting Susan and me to do our SMMP Case Study.  Also, sincere thanks to Peter Gamez, VP of Global Sales for Commune Hotels & Resorts for the fantastic venue, the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco.



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Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013

What a year! There were so many transitions this year, including StarCite being acquired by ACTIVE Network.  Now that the dust has settled and some of the hard integration work is starting to bear fruit, I’m especially excited by what our customers and prospective clients will experience and discover from our Business Solutions Group in 2013.  I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for the new year!

Many people seem to think I am psychic and can clearly see the future – they’ve all asked what I see forthcoming in 2013.  Let me give you my disclaimer by saying I really don’t know! All I know is what I’ve read and researched, so let me just share my thoughts (not predictions) about what I think will be on people’s radars for 2013:

1)     Watch the price of fuel – that is a clear indicator when and how prices for goods and services will go up or down
2)    Read and review all marketplace surveys and studies; it’s the best way to know where our industry is going in terms of spend, cost per attendee, average cost of destinations, locations with higher taxes and surcharges, etc.
3)    Watch what is going on in the direct distribution area, many have tried to cut their business costs by trying to bypass the traditional GDS and credit card models, but with the internet and companies’ ability to communicate and transact things directly – trust me that someone somewhere (probably in Silicon Valley) is working on a better mousetrap.  And if you don’t believe in viral adoption of new technologies, think of Pinterest.  A few years ago it wasn’t on anyone’s radar, today it’s one of the top 3 most visited web portals.
4)    Analyze and better understand your employee base!  For the first time there are four generations in the workforce!  If the average age of your employee base is younger now, you’ll need to figure out better ways to get compliance, adoption and communication of your travel & meetings programs.  Do yourself a big favor and research this area as you may be missing your goals and objectives by pandering to an audience that no longer exists!
5)    Pay attention to the rapid speed of all of the developments in social media, mobile apps and new technology.  The faster-than-the-speed-of-light way that this area is exploding will impact the way you do business, the way you manage your area of business and the speed in which you do both.  Miss it and you’ll be irrelevant.

So my friends and readers, I wish you all the happiest and safest New Year!  and I look forward to reconnecting with all of you in 2013!

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SMMP Down Under & There’s No Way To Avoid Paying The Credit Card Piper

G’day mates!  I recently returned from Sydney, Australia, where I conducted a SMMP Workshop session at the first-ever ACTE Australasia Conference.  The conference very successfully drew over 220+ attendees from, not just Australia and New Zealand, but other APAC countries, too. 

The audience was keen to hear best practices and updates on the state of the industry, which I gladly provided, but the interest level surged when I got into the building stages for an enterprise SMMP.  The audience was definitely paying attention, as evidenced by the excellent questions I received and responded to, especially when it came to discussing how rapidly the meetings and events industry is changing. As I've discussed before in this blog, social media, mobile apps and the internet -- coupled with cloud-based technology like ours -- is driving the change. 

If you combine that with the yearly increase of Millennials entering our workforce (remember this is the first time when we have four generations in the workforce), you not only get change, you get accelerated change!  

By the way, for companies who have offices or do business in Australia, the country has a very strict anti-money laundering law. So, if you are using a credit card for expenses, your company and your card supplier have to be complicit with the law.  In addition, just using a credit card will also incur extra costs because, in Australia, the merchant is allowed to pass on surcharges to the consumer.  If you don’t believe me, check out the hotel invoice after you depart from an Australian hotel. Not only are you going to pay for the convenience of using a credit card, but you will also pay a hefty foreign exchange fee for each transaction on the card. And let’s not forget that if you decide you want to be smart and avoid some of that by using cash, the ATM’s have a hefty ATM usage surcharge.

Bottom line is that sometimes you have to balance convenience and expense accountability -- even if it means paying these fees and surcharges.  Australia is only one example of how you should never take a cookie-cutter approach to creating a SMMP. A true SMM champion managing a global SMMP has to understand where the differences are and be sensitive to the needs of local stakeholders.

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SEIU Saves $7.3 Million in 2012 via SMM

It's a pleasure to feature this guest post by JR Sherman, ACTIVE Network SVP of Business Solutions:

2012 has been a very exciting year for us here at ACTIVE Network, especially welcoming StarCite as part of our Business Solutions group. One of the great things about my role is hearing how our customers are leveraging technology to make their meetings and events programs smarter.

One of these customers is SEIU, a 2 million-member-strong labor organization active in the Western Hemisphere that had no controls around its meetings. To gain more visibility into meetings activity organization-wide and identify cost savings, SEIU implemented our StarCite Strategic Meetings Management solution and leveraged an experienced planning team for sourcing and contracting.  This included:

•    Managed Hotel Sourcing through the StarCite Supplier Marketplace and Professional Services
•    Attendee management and online tools that have streamlined meeting planning and helped planners better track attrition and cancelations – avoiding fees.
•    Meetings360 -- helping the organization keep track of all meetings costs through meeting cards and integrated expense reconciliation.

According to SEIU’s Tim Bone, Director, Union Conventions, Events, Meetings & Travel, “the meetings group’s service and reporting capabilities have reached a whole new level.” This increased visibility allowed Tim to identify new areas of savings, such as back-to-back meetings that can use the same location. Through these efforts, SEIU achieved a $7.3 million savings in 2012, which is a decrease of 48% from the previous year!

What’s next for SEIU? They are rolling out Meeting Locator to further help SEIU compare and select the best destination to hold a meeting based on where attendees’ travel is originating.

At ACTIVE Network, our goal is to provide our customers with the intelligence and data they need to experience the tangible and intangible benefits of leveraging smart technology for their events. I’d like to close with this quote from Tim, which is truly a great compliment for us:

“I needed a partner who could take us from a manual world into the world of modern data management technology.”

Download the case study here!

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Are We Headed Back to a Buyer's Market?

New figures out by American Express have me wondering if we're slowly turning back to a buyer's market -- even in the face of higher air and hotel prices.  If so, it may be time to start planning tougher negotiating strategies as part of your company's strategic meetings management program (SMMP).

What's got me thinking this? An article in The Beat reports that Amex cardmembers, while continuing to spend during the second quarter, pulled their cards from their wallets at a slower pace than in previous quarters. At the same time, global corporate travel sales fell 4% in 2012 second quarter from a year earlier. That followed a 2% decline in the first quarter -- which was the first quarterly reduction since late 2009. This is big news for the largest travel management company out there.  

In my meetings with customers and prospects, I continue to see cautious spending and stepped-up application of SMMPs. No surprise there -- as the nasty recession we've lived through has taught us all that uncontrolled spending wins you no allies with senior executives ... or, if you're a government agency like the GSA, the public, for that matter.

But this new data from Amex shows that a slower rate of spend is building over time.  That means more leverage for buyers, as suppliers step up their efforts to win over new business. More evidence: Carlson Wagonlit Travel's new pricing forecast for 2013. It calls for slightly higher prices next year in most regions of the world (due to demand outpacing supply). But, according to an article in BTN, those increases will pale in comparison to price hikes in 2012 -- with Asia/Pacific economies normalizing and European uncertainty a big issue.

It’s so easy in our daily lives and work to ignore or miss signs of a reversal in the economy or in business in general, but a smart and savvy travel and meetings manager knows what indicators to look for in order to gauge their sourcing strategies and leverage a marketplace advantage.  

Are you following business intelligence from sources like Amex, CWT and other travel industry indicators? If you’re not, then you may be missing your opportunity to negotiate to your company’s advantage. Remember, a well-informed buyer is an effective one that produces results.   Watch for the signs!

Need help negotiating and sourcing for meetings? Read this free ACTIVEBusiness whitepaper!

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