Your answers to “Will my transition fall through the cracks?”
Debra, a Tradeshow Coordinator asked:
“We're thinking about changing suppliers for our exhibit program and I am concerned that there will be things that fall through the cracks. Is there a way to insure a successful transition? Do I need to set up a timeline and milestones? How long should a successful transition really take?”
Moving to another supplier, particularly in the exhibit industry can be a major proposition. But it doesn't have to be overwhelming. Your new exhibit partner should provide you with a transition plan. And since, presumably, you have selected your new partner because they are professional, organized, knowledgeable and trustworthy, that plan shouldn't allow anything to slip between the cracks.
But even so, the more you can be aware of about the transition process, the more efficient and timely the move can be. So here are some tips to get you started.
MC2's account managers have all been through this experience on behalf of our new clients. Here are some comments we gathered that can make the transition smooth and uneventful.
Alan Cordial, Senior VP Account Development, Chicago, recommends that the new supplier provide a transition document detailing the roles and responsibilities along with a timeline. He notes that some tasks, like establishing the team and agreeing on communications expectations, must be handled right away, while others, like assessing current inventory, can take place within the first 30 days. This way top transition tasks are taken care of in order of priority.
Ken Dec (pronounced Dees), Senior VP Brand Experience Strategy, Boston agrees. He suggests using the RACI model (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) to sort out who does what while keeping everyone on the same page.
As far as any “cracks” are concerned, Robin Bridgewater, Strategic Marketing Services, San Francisco, counsels Debra to expect a comprehensive plan from the new supplier and the opportunity to review it carefully before going forward. There should be a specific date set for the transition to be completed. And finally, Robin advises Debra to be very clear about her expectations. Vague statements, she says, just lead to misunderstandings down the road.
Here are some additional suggestions to make a transition successful. Divide your transition into phases so you can break them down into tasks, responsible parties and create a timeline.
- Launch Phase – This is where you meet with your new supplier, get to know their team and introduce your team. During this time, you should be discussing everything from how to communicate with each other, to reviewing service agreements, the invoicing process and communicating your program scope. This is the point where you should plan a detailed inventory transition.
- Brand Immersion Phase — Here's where you introduce the exhibit house team to all things about your company and your exhibit program. Think about your corporate culture, the outside agencies they should meet, share your brand guidelines and identity, the business units in your program, your exhibit properties, and the like.
- Inventory Transition Phase — This is the part of the transition that we think you are most concerned about. You should expect to share all your program data such as inventory storage locations, inventory lists, exhibit photos, construction drawings, and setup drawings with your exhibit house. If you have a bigger program, be sure that the timeline for moving properties coordinates with the show schedules for your various business units. Once inventory reaches your exhibit house, it will be audited, photographed, labeled and entered into the program management tool.
- Technology Implementation Phase — The exhibit house will then set up your online management and provide training to use it.
Most of these tasks should take place in the first 2 weeks to a month. Expect the inventory evaluation and online application to be ready by the 90-day point.
The short answer to your question is that the more you know about your corporate culture and the exhibit program—the teams, schedule, properties—the better prepared you will be to manage the transition process side-by-side with your new partner.