S is for Successful Supplier Relationships!
As a result of the economic downturn over the past few years we have seen a steady increase in the co-sourcing and outsourcing of meeting and event services in the corporate setting. More and more companies seem to be reducing their internal staff and augmenting with 3rd party meeting planning companies, travel management agencies and other Strategic Meetings Management service suppliers. This has created a need for companies to create successful supplier relationships in order to manage their business effectively, efficiently and within expectations. In procurement terms this is referred to as "Supplier Relationship Management", which is a thoughtful and systematic process for integrating suppliers into your business and ensuring their success on your behalf throughout the life of the relationship. Therefore, Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) needs to be a part of the design of your SMM program, not an afterthought.
One of the cornerstones of SRM is the development of Service Level Agreements (SLAs), which I have referred to in previous editions of Keeping it SiMMPle. The Service Level Agreement is a negotiated agreement designed to create common understanding of services, priorities, and responsibilities. By the very nature of discussing SLAs, communications are increasing between the supplier and client. The main concepts of the SLA are that it is a:
- Means of consistent communication
- Conflict prevention tool in that there is a shared understanding of needs and priorities
- Living Document that should be reviewed regularly and updated as business needs change
- Objective basis for measuring effectiveness as both parties are using the same criteria to evaluate quality
Keep in mind that the operative word in Service Level Agreement is Agreement, and both the client and supplier need to be actively involved in developing the SLA. It is not successful if one party or the other develops the SLA in a vacuum and insists that the other party abide by them, especially if the details in the agreement are not realistic. This sounds like a lot of work, and it does take a bit of time to develop meaningful and "SMART" SLAs (see the G is for Grand Goals issue for SMART goals), but the payoff in clarity and measurement of performance is well worth it for suppliers who provide a large portion of services to you. That being said, it may not make sense to establish detailed SLAs for suppliers who just provide occasional services to you.
TIP #1: Suppliers, keep your SLA handy, review it periodically throughout the year to be sure you are delivering what was agreed; don't leave it in the drawer and pull it out a week before your annual client review; as it will be too late to take any corrective action.
TIP #2: SMM champions, if you don't have them already, consider developing SLAs for your internal clients, it is a great way to confirm expectations and been seen as a more strategic and valuable partner to your clients.
TIP #3: Suppliers, if you do not have an SLA in place with some of your major clients, suggest that you plan now to implement one for 2018; this is the perfect time to set yourself up for success in the coming New Year!
Hear more from Betsey Bondurant at Pharma Forum 2018 where she will be moderating a panel discussion, Cultivate Bold Simple Meeting Management Strategies!
About The Author
Betsy Bondurant, CMM, CTE offers a unique 360-degree perspective with over 30 years industry expertise in
hotel sales, meeting & trade show management, including 13 years of direct involvement in the
discipline of Strategic Meetings Management. This diverse background positions Betsy uniquely for the
successful development and delivery of projects in the category of meetings, events, and trade shows.
Betsy began her career in food and beverage in 1977, transitioned into hotel sales and ultimately found
her passion in meeting and trade show management. During her 15 year tenure at the world’s largest
biotech company, Betsy developed and implemented a pioneering corporate‐wide strategic meetings
management program. This experience also provided her deep insight into the regulations affecting the
Life Sciences industry. In 2007, she moved from the corporate meeting world to consulting, some of
which has been within procurement organizations. In addition to her current work with Fortune 500
companies, Betsy is considered a Subject Matter Expert in the area of Strategic Meetings Management
Programs and as such, has authored many articles, developed educational content, and presented to
audiences in North America, Europe and Asia.
Betsy holds a Bachelor of Science in Hotel Administration from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She
has been an active member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) since 1994; having served on
many of international committees, and as a member of the International Board of Directors. Betsy
currently serves as Vice‐chair of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Meetings Committee and
is a Women’s Business Enterprise National Council certified woman‐owned business. In 2009, Betsy was
one of the first to achieve MPI’s Accredited Trainer designation. Betsy has been recognized as one of
Business Travel News “Best Practitioners” and has been honored as one of Meeting News “25 Most
Influential People in the Meetings Industry”, and was awarded MPI “Chairwoman’s Award” in 2010.