Technology has undoubtedly improved our lives, allowing us to perform tasks more quickly and efficiently, and with greater ease. But not all technology is created equal. Some platforms promise better functionality, others seduce us with naturally intuitive interfaces.
Ultimately technology - whatever its level of sophistication or range of capabilities - is only effective if it produces the desired results. A firm must choose the right technology — one that most harmoniously synchs with its needs — not simply opt for the latest product on the market or the one used by all its competitors.
When we talk about meetings technology, some corporates tend to immediately start looking at what others are using. Rather than be stuck on that idea, we advise clients to look inwards. The first thing to do is not look at other companies, but to look at yourselves. It’s a discovery process. What do you require from the meeting technology? What is the objective of implementing such a technology, and based on that, we consider the proper fit?
Here are five things to consider when looking for technology that’s the best fit for your meetings program.
- Does it work across regions?
Consider technology that can be deployed across various markets and regions, not just dedicated to a single market. For instance some platforms in China are built to focus solely on China, not beyond, so certain meeting functionalities like sourcing and reporting might only be customized within the country. For domestic meetings this doesn’t pose an issue, but when a planner in China engages that technology to source hotels outside China, it has its limitations. Can the technology support multiple languages, does it include inventory across different regions? If not, don’t use it.
- Is it multi-purpose?
Some companies will use specific programs for a one-off task, like sourcing. This will address any immediate concerns, but this silo method could prove to be limiting. Down the road, a firm may need to expand its scope to find a program that can fulfill multiple applications. Take the technology that you use for sourcing, for the specific function that currently serves your needs. Is it scalable? Can it be expanded for budgeting, registration or attendee management in the future? Some platforms are seamlessly holistic, allowing the planner to register a meeting, input budgets, source suppliers, track delegates, and offer a true end-to-end service that streamlines the entire process. Seek these out.
- What data does it capture?
Data is digital gold, so no wonder that scouring it is called 'mining.' Companies need to choose technology that has strong reporting capabilities, that offers full tracking of data collected during a meeting, and can analyze and provide strategic insights into the information compiled. Data needs to be output into categories that are useful to a company’s custom requirements, which could range from the distribution of the meeting spend to where most of the meetings are held, from which hotels are used most frequently to the budget range across markets. These parameters will help an organization to understand the finer details of its meetings spend, allow it to identify patterns, and enable it to exercise better management and achieve better value and cost leverage. And that’s priceless.
- Is it easy to use?
Let’s not sugarcoat the truth — inputting data can sometimes be considered a rather mind-numbing, thankless task. Using a system that makes the process instinctively straightforward certainly makes the burden easier to shoulder. Some organizations leave it to their agencies to input data. For those that opt to do it themselves, it is imperative to ask pointed questions of any client-facing interface. How many steps does it take to complete an entry? Do these steps take a lot of time? Is the information structured clearly and are the procedures intuitive to follow? How does the whole process flow or are there breakages in that flow? The best technologies, usually developed by established, matured providers, offer customization, so meeting planners can enjoy a system that is entirely shaped by their needs, all but guaranteeing its ease of use.
- Try it before you buy it
Before committing to a specific type of technology, it’s vital to carefully evaluate what you’ll need from it. Some meeting technology offers better, more focused search functionality. Others are more intuitive in analyzing inputs and matching and predicting user requirements. Some allow search fields to be more extensive so that a customer can anticipate stronger, almost ‘customized’ matches. Then there are the types that provide results within a few short steps, ensuring you spend less time in the finding mode. Whichever facet of the technology is most important to you, it’s safer to test the search results during the exploration and testing stage of that technology, not after you’ve already sunk vast sums and inked an agreement to use it.
A version of this article was published on CEI Asia