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April 5, 2008

PROCUREMENT 3: Moving forward together

Despite all the mistrust and horror stories that you hear, procurement does have a vital role to play in the future of live communications. As much as anything that future role is unavoidable, as procurement departments are simply not going away. If that’s the case how can we all move forward together? In the final part of EVENTS:review’s trilogy of procurement-focused features, our respondents put forward their thoughts for the future.

Peter Rand, director of industry relations at events solution company Zibrant: “The only way we can move forward is through a clear agreed process and most importantly through mutual education of everyone's role and contribution to the process. It is my view that the involvement of procurement in the meetings and events sector is the best thing to have happened.

“It will focus everyone on the value of our sector. It will put live events on a level with other services that are purchased by organisations. It will enable us to recognise, for example, the similarities (and variations) between our sector and say advertising and PR, where the arguments of how to measure the return can be equally contentious. Other sectors are more developed than ours so we can all learn from their experiences of working alongside procurement to develop ‘good practice’ to the benefit of all parties.”

Ian Irving sales and marketing director of brand experience agency Sledge: “Only by involving the buyers in the process from the start will procurement and live marketing ever be able to move forwards together. Just because a buyer has cut and paste a tender document together, does not mean they are ‘involved’ in the process, they need to be educated on the reasoning, the objectives and the challenges.

“I am essentially an advocate of the involvement of procurement in live events, but I am beginning to tire of attending pitches and instantly being drawn to the budget considerations on the back page of my document!”

Andrew Latta, Norwich Union’s head of corporate events & hospitality: “Conflict almost always arises when there is miss-communication and misunderstanding from each side. The key here is not only for the three parties to work together but for all parties to understand the different roles that each needs to play.

“As a planner you would expect me to say this, but I truly believe that the most successful examples of event procurement see the Corporate Planner taking the lead by formulating an effective supplier relationship management programme where procurement have clear roles and responsibilities and suppliers are used to their greatest strengths.

“In my experience, the relationships I have with my procured roster of suppliers are much more mutually beneficial. When the team worked in an environment with un-procured suppliers, the supplier relationship was mostly arms-length with very short lead times. Following our procurement process, our suppliers are much more involved in the overall programme of events and are able to add more value to the event development process. “

Elling Hamso, meeting management consultant and managing partner of the European Event ROI Institute: “You get the buyer you deserve. If you approach them with suspicion, and treat them as cost-cutting beancounters, that is what you will get. If you treat them as intelligent professionals with a desire to maximise event value as well as minimise costs, they can make your events return better value for money.

“The professional buyer will look for return on investment. What is the cost and how much value do we generate? The cost part is easy, but what do we tell him when it comes to value? I am embarrased on behalf of meeting planners who claim to be professionals without even trying to account for the value they create. If your event evaluation procedures are not up to scratch, why not invite the procurement department to a joint project to develop some measuremet tools.

“The fact that the procurement profession is now making time available to support event planners, is probably the best thing that has ever happened to the meeting planning profession. Event planners who see this potential will take the initiative, ask procurement for their professional advice, develop value measurement methods together with them and ride on their backs up the steps to senior management attention and recognition.

“Procurement also provides an opportunity for suppliers who want to set themselves apart from the competition. Why not propose a long-term risk-reward sharing partnering contract for your services, the kind of contract that buyers learn about at university. The corporate meeting planner would not have the time or ability to even discuss such an idea, the procurement officer will welcome your suggestion with a great deal of professional interest.”

Mike Bell managing director of live event production services company Clever Works: “We have to accept and adapt to the procurement activity. Complain and go bust. Understand, educate, and be open, and prosper.

“Our long-term client relationships are with both procurement and project-owners. You cannot (professionally) make a long-term friend of procurement, like you used to with the end-client, but you can help them to help you.

“What sickens me is when established businesses end-up dealing in backhanders, silent directorships, and ‘gifts’ - rewards to end-clients for sealing business. We see it going on – at various levels – with private and public bodies. If the procurement role can stay ‘clean’ then the ‘dirty’ players will have to reappraise their activity. One can live in hope.

“Procurement and live marketing can live happily ever after – just don’t believe the grim stories until you’ve tried it.”

Related articles
PROCUREMENT: Hindrance or help?
PROCUREMENT 2: It’s not just about the money

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