The Future of Event Software: Collaborate or Die

By September 28, 2016Tips and Tricks

Can standing alone as an event software company–without collaboration with outside resources–be a matter of life or death? Perhaps not literally, but in terms of growth I believe this is the case.

The concept “Collaborate or Die” comes from a slogan used during the American Revolution that was made famous by Benjamin Franklin through his 1765 illustration, “Join or Die.” It was soon adopted by the American Colonists and acted as a powerful symbol to urge the separate colonies (represented by parts of the snake) to come together as one entity to create a better defense system and future.

That same concept can be applied to today’s event software systems. There are many long-standing companies in the industry that used to operate with the premise that they could either “do it all” in their software, or that the software was a single-point solution to provide functionality and reporting alone. This approach worked well for such companies and their clients for many years, but became shaky around the time mobile technology started becoming the rule rather than the exception. This was a powerful catalyst because like most drivers of change, it came from the person attending the event. Attendees began looking for newer, faster, and better ways to get the ultimate event experience – from registering, buying tickets, to ordering services. This same demand for change can be likened to the evolution of television: it used to be that TV was expected to provide access to publicly available channels. That expectation progressed into another–the capability to connect to cable and satellite providers. Today we nearly demand that our TV’s connect to the internet and other countless devices in our home. After all, why wouldn’t we? We want an experience that can be expanded beyond the solitary television and it’s original functions. And while we don’t expect our TV to be all things, we do expect collaboration between technologies to ensure a greater viewing experience. In other words, we know that when technology providers collaborate, great things can happen.

Some might argue that their software can, in fact, do it all. While this may sound impressive, the truth is that no single solution can do it all well.

Think “Jack of all trades and master of none.” On the other end of the spectrum,  singular systems that offer one set of functionality (even if done very well) with little or no integration of outside technologies are equally as archaic as the “all in one” solutions.

In today’s world, both of the above approaches could inhibit a company’s growth as they attempt new processes for their clients but see little benefit–all because their core systems don’t have the technological capabilities to do it exceptionally.  And these days, venues and event planners want exceptional. They want the best, easiest-to-use and most flexible systems in the market to empower them to manage many moving parts, but they also want be holistic in doing so.  This means comprehending the moving parts by referencing the whole of the business. This means gaining insight into trends and analyses from these systems–systems that take into account the entire picture, not each individual data point.

Imagine this scenario:

An Association submits a bid to a local Visitor Bureau to bring their 10,000 person event to a city. When the Bureau accepts this bid, that information flows automatically to the Convention Center’s booking software to appear on the calendar. The Center then requests a deposit from the Association and creates a payment schedule–which gets logged in the Center’s financial system. The Association wants to know what the layout for the gala dinner will be, which can be found in their diagramming system (which has been updated via the booking system). Requirements for tables, chairs, tablecloths and the like are logged into a resource management solution. Labor requirements are entered into the personnel software to manage workloads, the cost of which is also factored into the financial system. The event has an exhibition component, so exhibitors must go online to register and place their orders for electrical, wifi, and other amenities. The Association wants a mobile app for the attendees, so they can view the schedule and interact with the speakers. Attendees want to know where they can eat on a free night–a decision that could be influenced by the personalized marketing software that logs their individual preferences (noted at registration). Putting this information to use, various restaurants and bars in the area would send attendees special offers through the mobile app or their registered email. Revenue collected at the various restaurants, bars, and hotels would then be logged in the Visitor Bureau’s software to generate a true reflection of the economic impact of the event.

Add to this equation other facets such as ticket management and hotel information, and you have an ecosystem of a dozen or more top-tier tech solutions crossing over multiple platforms–interacting with and learning from each other.

No “modular” solution or singular system can achieve this. There’s simply too many moving parts to consider.

Progressive software companies understand this and ensure that much of their development work is focused on having “friendly” APIs (a tech term for the way one system can “talk” to another), which goes beyond simply having a feature/function setting in their application to do so. But to really make this multi-platform “ecosystem” work, one needs more than just technical know-how. It requires technology vendors to embrace the idea that collaborating with others is just as important as developing world-class software. Over the years I have heard many vendors pay lip-service to this philosophy, but never take the steps to make it happen.

If there is one fact about what’s ahead for event technology, it is this–the future of it lies in collaboration. If this way of thinking is truly adopted, the most in-depth information could be delivered to the event planner, the venue, and the destination–resulting in a better experience for the attendee overall.  And ultimately, that is the common thread: it’s what we in the event industry should all want to achieve. To do so, we collaborate or we die.

Steve Mackenzie is President at EventBooking, an innovative cloud-based venue management solution that has over 700 clients around the globe, and with regular polling of its clients has an unprecedented 99% customer satisfaction level.