Buying stationery supplies, scientific equipment, and office furniture hardly qualifies as capital expenditures. But shop for enough pens, beakers, and chairs, and the amounts add up.
That is especially true at an institution as large as The George Washington University (D.C.), whose decentralized purchasing process made it difficult to keep track of the school’s almost countless minor purchases, to say nothing of getting staff to buy from vendors with which it had negotiated good prices.
“We were looking for a way to get a lot of that low-hanging fruit,” says Joshua Van Nuys, eProcurement program manager, “those easy spends we can drive toward our contracted suppliers and keep track of and better report on what’s being purchased. We could then continue to negotiate better deals on the things we spend the most on while also saving time and money not having to have buyers or large technical systems process those low-dollar transactions.”
E-procurement software from SciQuest allowed GW to give purchasers across the university a single, online source to buy everyday supplies. Implemented in 2009, what became known as “iBuy” centralized the purchasing process and placed in one spot the catalogs of a variety of vendors.
“The e-procurement solution makes it easier from an end-user perspective,” Van Nuys says. “It brings it all in one place. You don’t have to worry about this website here with this login and that website there with that login. Everything in a single shopping experience can be brought together, and it makes that whole process easier.”
The iBuy system also allows for smoother and swifter processing of purchase orders and invoices. Van Nuys estimates that more than 90 percent of requisition orders can be completed within a day. And because everything is handled electronically, thousands of sheets of paper have been saved. “Things are so fast with an e-procurement solution that we can have a P.O. sent and an invoice submitted within the same day,” he says. “That’s something that just can’t happen with the other systems.”
His office reports 1,700 active users—500 of them on a monthly basis—with the numbers continuing to rise. Annual spending has more than doubled since iBuy was implemented, and last year alone the system processed almost 30,000 P.O.s, invoices, and related documents.
iBuy has given GW greater purchasing power: after all, the more buyers who are using the system, the greater the strength the university has when negotiating prices. Nearly 50 suppliers have made their catalogs available, and Van Nuys anticipates more to come.
“Every month when I look at the numbers of how many people logged in the previous month, I find it’s our best month,” he says. “We’re constantly growing in the number of people using the application. And every month the number of people who have never logged in is going down, as well. We’re getting a greatly increasing usage of the system overall.”