Can e-Procurement be a potential solution for decreasing procurement spending in educational institutions?

The United States government spends at least 2.6% of GDP on educational institution expenditures. This is much higher than the average rate (1.4%) of OECD countries.

It’s not just the government that’s looking to cut costs but even the schools themselves. What can they do to achieve operations savings without disturbing the quality of education provided?

One key best practice that comes to mind is adopting modern electronic procurement (e-Procurement) solutions. But just what is e-Procurement and why should educational institutions concern themselves with it?

Let’s explore.

What is e-Procurement?

The Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS), defines e-Procurement as:

“…electronic systems supporting the phases in the procurement cycle from contract award to asset management.”

What this simply means is that e-Procurement is a business function that relies heavily on technology to achieve its buying objectives.

e-Procurement makes it possible for buyers such as educational institutions to develop strong relationships with suppliers especially when sourcing in supply chain. A move that can lead to significant cost savings for the schools.

Electronic procurement makes it possible to improve inefficient purchasing, manage requisitions with greater visibility, and keep track of invoices and pay them in a timely fashion.

Before we look at ways your school can integrate e-Procurement into its purchasing process, let’s consider some of the advantages of e-Procurement.

e-Procurement Benefits for Educational Institutions

We know that one of the biggest benefits that e-Procurement provides schools with is the general improvement of relationships with suppliers. We’re also aware of the fact that internal institutional processes are typically made stronger. But here are some additional advantages you may not be cognizant of:

· e-Procurement leads to automation of requisitions, purchase orders, e-invoicing which leads to faster processing – eliminating bottlenecks in the procurement process

· Provides a decentralized workflow mechanism of the procurement process – no more chasing up with each department to find out what they need.

· Direct communication with vendors in real-time – reduces incidences of miscommunication 

· e-Procurement provides greater visibility of what’s being requisitioned and by who – encouraging strategic spend management.

Now, let’s take a look at the steps you can take to incorporate e-Procurement into your institution’s procurement campaigns.

5 Steps to Help You Integrate e-Procurement Into Your School’s Procurement Process

Step 1 Evaluate Your Current Procurement Solution

Before doing a complete overhaul, first, evaluate what is currently working in the procurement process that you have in place at the moment? Which areas can be improved?

The reason for asking these questions is because you can pick and choose which e-Procurement solutions you’d like to integrate – from platforms that help with contract management, spend analysis, to RFP and even purchase requisition.

So first establish what works just fine and then determine what needs to be improved.

Next…

Step 2 Implement Supplier Catalogs and Punch-Outs to Supplier Websites

Strategic spend management should be on everyone’s radar. A simple way to ensure that staff is purchasing with cost savings in mind is to implement vendor catalogs as well as punch-outs to supplier websites.

This means buying is limited to products that fall within your contract pricing. It also gives staff freedom to buy without having to go through the procurement team. This avoids the sometimes longer approval times involved when several people have to sign off. 

But this doesn’t mean staff can order without restraint because you will have established budgeting parameters, a point that takes us to the next step…

Step 3 Set Budgeting Parameters For Staff Purchases

Being able to reign in spending from internal departments is going to be one of the best benefits of rolling out e-Procurement solutions.

Not only will the procurement team be able to view all requisitions and purchase orders, but they’ll be able to set limits on what can be bought.

This budgeting capacity will go a long way in making sure purchasing remains within the institution’s procurement budget. 

Step 4 Identify Your Top Vendors and Award Them Contracts

Now that you can see which vendors your staff regularly purchases from, it might be time to lock them in by awarding them with a contract. 

This works in your favor – potential discounts for bulk orders. What’s not to love?

And speaking of contracts…

Step 5 Choose an e-Procurement Solution with Contract Management

No one wants the trouble that comes with handling different contracts. As soon as a preferred vendor has been selected following a successful reverse auction, a contract should be issued.

Owing to integrated contract management functionality, your institution’s procurement team will now be able to manage contracts and monitor spending with better visibility.

Choosing the Correct e-Procurement Software

When trying to ascertain the right e-Procurement software for your educational institution, it’s important to establish how complex a solution you’re looking for.

There is e-Procurement software for large corporations and solutions developed for small and medium-sized organizations.  In order to determine which solution is a better fit, ask questions related to:

· The safety of the e-Procurement solution

· The learning curve – i.e. how easy is it for people to use

· How the solution would fit into the school’s procurement processes

· Which departments would need access to the technology

Answering questions like these will give you an idea of the features and functions you need.

Conclusion

Procurement across industries is now largely tech-based. It’s time for educational institutions to step up and keep up with the times. 

Thankfully you don’t have to look far for reliable, robust, and innovative e-Procurement firms.

ProcurePort is one of the leading providers of e-Procurement solutions on the market.  We are trusted by organizations such as HUD.GOV, UNOPS, Grant Thornton, and conEdison.

If you would like to discuss your educational institution’s procurement tech needs with a consultant or to schedule a demo of our suite of procurement solutions contact us today.

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