Posts Tagged Data

The Art and Science of Data for Meetings Management

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Written by Marie Johnson, CMP | Director of Marketing and Strategy

Data is key to a successful meetings management program. But the larger question is how to make sense of the data and gain insights to drive decisions that can positively impact your organization. This is where the art and science aspect comes into play. Data science is about methods, processes, and systems to extract knowledge from data in various forms. More sophisticated analytical skills also require more sophisticated visual presentation skills. It is important to combine elements of design, such as harmony, rhythm, flow, balance, and focus, together in appropriate proportions to convey the messages in interesting and informative ways that grab and keep the attention of your audience.

In practice, the art of data for meetings management is often a team sport. The creative process includes divergent thinking, which involves the generation of multiple answers to a problem; conceptual blending, in which solutions arise from the intersection of different frames of reference; and, honing, in which an acceptable solution emerges from iterating over many successive unacceptable versions of the solution. The art is the ability to bring together individuals with diverse backgrounds, look at things differently, and solve real business challenges.

Then there is this idea of “big data.” But, what exactly is it and how does it relate to meetings management? In 2001, Gartner analyst Doug Laney came up with the famous three V’s of volume, variety and velocity of data that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis. In 2011, Gartner expanded this to definition of data management. “Big data” is high-volume, -velocity and -variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision making.

But it’s not the amount of data that’s most important. It is what organizations do with their data that matters. Business Intelligence (BI) technologies can handle large amounts of structured and sometimes unstructured data to help identify, develop and otherwise create new strategic business opportunities. They also provide a historical, current and predictive view of business operations. Whereas business intelligence comprises the set of strategies, processes, applications and technical architectures used to support the collection, data analysis, presentation and dissemination of business information.

Recently, Lisa Palmeri, Vice President of Global Enterprise Solutions with Meetings & Incentives Worldwide and Linsey Giant, Technical Event Consultant with Anthem, presented on this topic at Cvent Connect 2017. Specifically, they focused on leveraging BI tools with Cvent and shared their knowledge of meeting management applications such as; team management and workload distribution, benchmarking and strategic decision-making. They discussed the business information that can be gained from meeting data and how to apply those insights and make an impact in your organization. They stressed that acting upon the insights is imperative.

So, the question we are often asked by our clients is how to get started, connect data, tell a story and benefit their organization’s meetings management goals. “In response to an ever-increasing need for business insights, BI software has flooded the market. And, with the benefits of BI being numerous and the cost of not having BI growing, it is easy to want to quickly adopt a solution,” said Mona Lebied, Online Marketing with Datapine. But, she also cautions this approach could be disastrous and investing in BI shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Understanding what drives success in your organization is tough stuff, and you should not expect to get it right the first time. It is an iterative process. And, before you get started you need a strategy and roadmap if you are looking to launch and manage your business intelligence. Even the best BI software needs some initial heavy lifting to maximize its potential. It involves stakeholders, sponsors, technology, data cleansing, KPIs, the right tool and/or partner, and a phased approach according to Lebied.

M&IW was on the verge of working with a third party to create a data warehouse. However, what we learned is that the effort is always in construction. ETL (Extract, Transform and Load) is a process in data warehousing responsible for pulling data out of the source systems, normalizing the data, cleaning, applying filters, loading it into the data repository for other reporting applications and then pulling data to run queries,” said Lisa.

Duplicating the data in a DW and transporting data from multiple sources to a centralized repository eats up network bandwidth and time and consumes endless CPU cycles in the transformation process. Whereas, in a BI system, you leave the data in the sources where it exists. BI without a DW is a valid approach for some organizations if you trust the raw data in your systems. You are then essentially creating a virtualized data warehouse environment that allows for continuous data loading for dynamic elements that can render real-time dashboards and scorecards. You are not dealing with huge volumes of data. You are extracting only what you need to answer the business question at hand.

There are a lot of BI technologies in the marketplace and this is not an endorsement of any one tool. We determined DOMO to be the best solution based on our needs and requirements. One of the benefits of using DOMO is early “dirty data” detection. We can apply business rules to a meeting request and see if the results don’t look right at the time of extract. This helps to ensure the data is going in correctly.

Columns and rows are great for storing data, but not for telling stories. Whereas the Domo card builder interprets the data and suggests how to visualize it for maximum impact and clarity. Or, a multitude of other options for charts, cards and more are available essentially making complex data sets consumable and meaningful for answering a specific business question. Dynamic cards allow for instant filtering, date range updates and can be readily shared.

By way of example, let’s say we want to answer what was the average hotel rate for programs held in the United States in 2016? We source thousands of hotels representing hundreds of thousand contracted room nights annually. For this exercise, Domo is connected to three data sources, two through Cvent and one flat file in a financial system. Those three data sources are 579 MBs of flow. And, after the output it represents only 21MBs which is much more manageable.

Because it notifies us of missing data points, null values, or invalid data, nothing falls through the cracks. In our example above, the average negotiated domestic rate was showing as $277. But, a quick look at the data revealed that one rate was not divided by the number of individuals so the real average, once the anomaly was fixed, was $198. That is the beauty of having that level of data transparency. There is lots of information we can glean to make decisions. When we look at cost savings, we save the most on sleeping rooms. However, we can dig deeper to see where are the best opportunities for additional savings for our clients.

Another benefit for us as a third-party is scheduling and assigning workload. We can get a view of our team to see when we have multiple resources out and time constraints to work around. This helps us ensure we are responsive to our clients by assigning an individual that has the bandwidth to fully support the request and meet the deadline. Domo also assists us in continuing to provide world class sourcing services and outperform our competition by using it as a performance monitoring tool in looking at the number of projects per buyer, average hours to contract, cost savings achieved, and more to ensure they are exceeding established goals. “Our clients expect us to be as efficient and productive as possible. And, having a BI strategy and software platform helps us drive results based on facts. It is an iterative process. The more you learn, the more application it has and the more opportunities you have to use it,” said Lisa.

Because of interest we received at Cvent Connect regarding this topic, Lisa presented a follow up webinar in June. It was the first of a two-part series and will be available on demand soon. Or, if you are interested in receiving copy of the presentation or connecting with Lisa, email us at marketing@meetings-incentives.com. The second webinar will take place in September so stay tuned for more information.

 

Posted in: Company News, Data Analytics, Business Intelligence & Consulting, Event Technology & Mobility Solutions, Program Management & Event Design, Sourcing, Negotiating & Contracting

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Top 10 Reasons to Collect Relevant Data

Data, Analyses, Insight, SMM

Written by Jill Pearson | Digital Marketing Manager

Data analytics is the science of collecting and examining raw data with the purpose of drawing conclusions about the information. These analyses are used by organizations to make better business decisions, especially where change is the outcome. In Strategic Meetings Management (SMM) there is a plethora of data available for collection, analysis and reporting, however the relevance of the data depends on the questions requiring answers. Thus, answering the ‘why’ of needing the data is a great place to start. Below is a list of Top 10 Reasons to Collect Relevant Data from our expert contributors, David Sachs, Director of Analytics and Lisa Palmeri, VP of Strategic Account Solutions.

1. To support the need for a change in operations or process.

People often fear change, especially without supporting data to validate the need for it. Many times we see a need for a change in a process within our organizations but approaching policy-makers with your opinion or gut instinct will not hold much ground without concrete data to support it. In today’s metrics-driven world, data is required in order to institute change or justify a business case for it.

2. To gain visibility to the unknown.

Industry professionals are smart! Our intuition often guides us when making key decisions, however data is useful in proving our instincts right. Actionable insights add clarity to the unknown which will support or challenge a theory, both of which are invaluable in decision-making.

3. To reduce risk.

Why is it that an employee cannot purchase a stapler without following certain protocols, but they can enter into a hotel contract for a meeting with little or no scrutiny? Often, people tasked with planning meetings and events in an organization are not meeting professionals, but rather meeting planning is a part of their job responsibilities. As such, they are not experts in understanding and negotiating the terms of a meeting contract and sign agreements that may not support the best interests of their company. This practice exposes both the individual signing the agreement as well as the organization to risk should an issue arise with the contract, or in the event the meeting cancels and penalties are assessed. There are also terms that, if not properly addressed or omitted, could jeopardize the safety or well-being of attendees of that meeting. Having historical bid data or analytics that identify suppliers with whom it’s safe to do business, or to support professional procurement practices, can reduce or eliminate this risk all together.

4. To demonstrate compliance with regulations.

No one wants to be called out for non-compliance. Whether it’s following company policies, regulatory guidelines, accounting principles, or laws, being compliant is key to job security. This is especially critical to health care and life sciences organizations who need to demonstrate compliance to Health Care Professional (HCP) transfer of value transparency laws. It’s not enough to have regimented processes for transparency, government entities want to see that the data is reported in such a way that it meets the letter of the law(s). That is why at M&IW we have a dedicated HCP reporting department whose sole job is to support the compliance needs of our clients.

5. For Executive Management support of a new idea.

Executive management, especially in publicly held companies, are being tasked with ensuring that all the decisions they make support quarterly earnings! It’s fun to be the initiator of a new idea with the potential to dramatically streamline a process, improve the bottom line and increase those earnings. Many such opportunities exist when implementing a Strategic Meetings Management Program (SMMP). As mentioned in point #1, suggesting new concepts may be admirable, but they won’t go very far without analytics to support them. It’s not enough to illustrate historical evidence that the innovation could improve the bottom line. Often predictive analytics are necessary to project how that idea will benefit the organization going forward. Leverage data to build a business case for specific elements of an SMMP that will yield the highest ROI or provide other tangible benefits to the organization.

6. To build stronger partnerships with key suppliers.

Knowing what you spend and with whom is the first step in establishing preferred or strategic supplier partnerships. These relationships work best when they provide a win-win for both parties. Suppliers are looking for increased market share (a larger piece of the pie as compared to their competitors) in exchange for discounts and other financial incentives. This leads us to a common failure with SMM implementation. Most SMMPs go in with a consolidation approach that is challenging, especially in today’s suppliers’ market, to build compliance around. While it’s good in theory, management also doesn’t want to micro-manage or otherwise mandate the use of suppliers. A better approach is to align with partners with whom your organization naturally gravitates towards, whether because they provide a level of service meeting managers and attendees can depend on, they are geographically well-positioned, and/or they offer financial benefits already that may be improved upon as market share increases. Regardless of the approach in selecting key suppliers with whom to partner, having the data that supports who to approach in the first place is a critical success factor.

7. To leverage greater amounts of spend in order to put into place spend controls.

How do you determine spend controls or thresholds? Establishing spending baselines can be challenging if you are limited to using industry benchmarks simply because there aren’t many meetings-related benchmarks available to reference. Reviewing your organization’s spend data on common elements such as guest room rates, meeting space rental and meals, by city and/or time of year, can lead to spend limits or controls that make sense.

8. To validate cost avoidance and savings.

Cost savings and avoidance are often cited as the number one reason organizations will deploy a managed meetings program. Unless you have a consistently applied methodology to track and report in these areas, you may be challenged in understanding if real savings is being achieved. Data validates your cost savings and avoidance efforts and can serve to identify trends and opportunities for more strategic negotiations or cost-cutting measures. When it comes to saving money, knowledge is power.

9. To validate ROI.

As previously mentioned, measuring the performance and success of a managed meetings program includes the ability to report out on Return on Investment. ROI can be measured in several different contexts. Starting at a high level, measuring an SMMP’s overall program ROI based on the cost to run the program as compared to the savings and cost avoidance delivered. Often, companies deploying meeting management software are tasked with validating the ROI on technology expenditures versus efficiency gains. At a more granular level, ROI may be measured for certain types of meetings in which a financial benefit is an expected outcome. This is commonly measured in sales and marketing related meetings and events, where increased sales and revenue are compared to the cost to operate the meeting.

10. Drives innovation in event attendee experiences.

Collecting data from an attendee level is a must to the success of future events. Today’s meeting attendees expect to engage with their fellow attendees before, during and after an event. They expect to connect using social media, to be recognized and to experience some degree of personalized service while at the meeting. Event apps are becoming very sophisticated and are able to offer many innovative solutions. With the massive amount of data apps are capable of collecting; event professionals can gain valuable insight into attendee’s preferences and drive new innovative initiatives. Data drives attendee satisfaction thus supporting your events’ ROI.

Download our Collecting Relevant Data to Affect Change handout to learn more. It features the top 10 list along with SMM scenarios for capturing data and the best practices of successful organizations. Interested in receiving additional resources and updates to your inbox? Simply click the Subscribe Today button below.

Posted in: Company News, Data Analytics, Business Intelligence & Consulting, Pharmaceutical, Medical and HCP Compliance, Sourcing, Negotiating & Contracting

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