©2018 Robert Walters, Meeting Evolution

Recent articles have indicated that many organizations attempting to deploy a Strategic Meetings Management (SMM) technology solution have not experienced the savings and improvement they expected.  In many instances, the reason has nothing to do with the technology selected – but the internal procedures and processes that have either stymied the adoption or indirectly impacted the adoption.

Deploying a new technology in any organization (and in any aspect of your business) is often a difficult task since there are existing accepted practices, expectations and in some cases fears about the impact of the new technology on staff and positions.  Often very good technology is subconsciously sabotaged by a lack of buy-in by existing staff or a continued adherence to work-arounds or old approaches that both management and staff have become accustomed to.  “That’s the way we have always done it” is too often the explanation for this resistance.

Bringing any new technology on board should involve several preliminary stages that include staff and management in the review of existing processes, identification of areas of improvement and the development of goals for the implementation.  Manufacturing companies have long deployed the Lean and Six Sigma approaches to tackling these types of projects and take a standardized approach to reducing costs, improving performance and reaching measurable goals.

Applying Lean Six Sigma to the meetings industry and, specifically, the deployment of new SMM technology, isn’t as much of a stretch as it first appears.  In Lean Six Sigma for Service, Michael George provides a blueprint for how the Lean and Six Sigma approaches can be used to improve service as diverse as hospitals, banks and even city governments.  It isn’t much of a stretch to apply those same approaches to your meeting department and your SMM technology project.

By starting with the question – “Who is your customer? – you can quickly determine the party or parties that should be the biggest beneficiaries of the technology.  After all, if the technology doesn’t improve the satisfaction of your ‘customer’ then why are you going through the process?  While this might seem like a departure from addressing what are perceived as your immediate needs – to reduce waste, improve performance and lighten your workload – if the SMM technology doesn’t directly improve the services you provide your customer – then you are taking the wrong approach and will not get the buy-in at all levels you desire and need for success.

One approach to ensuring the success of your SMM technology selection and deployment would be to follow the Six Sigma project flow of DMAIC.  These phases are:

DEFINE – which would be the ‘needs assessment’ aspect of your typical technology project;

MEASURE – measure the project to determine current performance (what we do now) and quantify the problem (what do we need to fix);

ANALYZE – make sense of the information gathered in the Measure phase to determine desired results;

IMPROVE – identify what areas and processes need to be improved to eliminate wasted steps, costs, tasks that are unnecessary to insuring customer satisfaction;

CONTROL – in this phase we use what we have learned in the prior phases to evaluate and select the proper technology tools that meet the goals – increased customer satisfaction, reduced wasted steps,

If you haven’t started the process of evaluating and selecting a new SMM technology solution, this is a great place to start and an approach that would be recognized by management since Lean and Six Sigma are probably deployed somewhere in your organization. 

In the meetings industry we have been inundated with technology solutions – some that are a single-source solution, others that are best-of-breed.  With all of the consolidation taking place, it is even more important that you do the groundwork to first determine what you need before you start to shop.  Many organizations have selected the most popular, largest installed base or the sexiest looking – only to find that while it may address some of their issues, it highlights other shortcomings that could have been identified in advance if a Lean Six Sigma approach had been followed.

A new education initiative has been launched by Six Sigma Meetings and classes are available to earn Lean Six Sigma for Meeting Professionals (LSSMP) White, Yellow and Green belt certifications.  CE credit hours are available for these courses and more information can be found at www.sixsigmameetings.net.

Bob Walters has been involved in meetings technology for more than 35 years and was the developer of one of the first database registration systems – MeetingTrak.  Currently Bob is VP of Meeting Evolution, an SMM technology provider that recently launched a new education initiative – Lean Six Sigma for Meeting Professionals (LSSMP) that has been certified for CE credit hours by the EIC.

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