Led by director of global meetings management Marybeth Roberts, pharma giant Amgen has pushed tech vendor StarCite to reconfigure its systems to accommodate conventions data, standardize input across business units and enhance reporting on the company's group spending. In addition to bolstering StarCite functionality and winning favor with Amgen's senior management for adjusting the sharpness of its meetings picture, Roberts now is beginning to leverage that data for group hotel deals.
Initially responsible for the sales and marketing meetings program, Roberts' role expanded to include meetings for the entire corporation. Building on a program that gained momentum under predecessor Betsy Bondurant and director of strategic sourcing and procurement Lynn Ridzon, Roberts began expanding the program to other divisions and consolidating disparate suppliers, which led to the rollout of StarCite as its primary source of data.
"The most important thing was getting the technology in place and the robust reporting," Roberts said. However, tweaking the StarCite offering, which the company has been using officially since September 2008, and customizing the reports to Amgen's liking took some work, she said. "They kept telling us, we have all this great reporting, but what we really found was we were getting a data dump from them, so we really took time to reconfigure the system the way we wanted it configured," Roberts said, adding, "I thought the reporting that we had should really be standard in the industry, and apparently not a lot of people have it."
What Roberts wanted was 360-degree view of the company's group spending, whether for a convention or a meeting, "by business unit, by Amgen location, by brand, by sponsor, by city, by hotel," Roberts said. "We're able to get the data we need now" after a number of tweaks.
Roberts guided StarCite in developing a way to capture convention activity. "Some of our roughly 120 annual conventions have people from the U.S. and people from Amgen Europe, so we have a lot of activity going on. At some, we might have 100 ancillary meetings and a huge booth and all of these people coming in. Before StarCite, we had all these different systems collecting the data, so no one could get the data in one place. We initially went to StarCite saying we were going to consolidate meeting data in their system, but then we found that if we tweaked it here and there, we'd be able to get convention data."
The adjustments gave Amgen some of the most robust group reporting in the industry, Roberts said. "The first time I was called into a meeting with management," Roberts said, "they didn't realize I had this reporting. Our finance person said we need all of this data, and I pulled out my report and said, this is all of our spending, and he was absolutely shocked. He'd never seen anything like it in his life. His first words were, 'Imagine that, a system that actually works.' Now I talk to them at least once a week to look at a specific convention or a specific meeting."
With nearly a full year of data, Roberts said she is working closely with Ridzon to capitalize on the newfound wealth of information. "Right now, we're in the process of going through the preferred hotel program, and we're going to look at groups and transient together," according to Roberts.
One recent victory in hotel negotiating came in a local hotel to host recurring training meetings. "In addition to achieving savings, we're mitigating risk much more than we ever had before," Roberts said. "We just put in place a program with thousands of room nights with one hotel chain with zero cancellation penalty if we cancel." Roberts said the current buyer's market no doubt helped, "but the data show them what we've done for them and we're able to do for them for the next year. You can't do that without the data."
With tweaks in place and hotel deals progressing, Amgen also is in the midst of a multinational expansion of its meetings program and the StarCite tool.