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Articles: e-Procurement

Rogue spending—buying outside a purchasing contract—can be an issue at colleges large and small. Here’s how the small college pros rein it in.

Help spenders put a face to your name. This is easier at smaller colleges, says Karen Khattari, director of general services and procurement at Cedar Crest College. “Everybody knows me, and I know them.” That leads to more control and better accountability.

While many regional consortia use the collective power of members to negotiate purchasing contracts with volume discounts, it can pay to think beyond neighboring colleges when looking at this cost-saving solution.

That’s what the 19 members of the LAMP Consortium did when they joined colleges from around the country to get affordable access to Sakai, a popular open-source learning management system.

REMOTE BUYS—Rural institutions such as Colgate University may have added purchasing woes because of supplier delivery challenges.

These purchasing managers work to save their institutions time and money through a range of strategies that result in purchasing power and wisdom from higher ed peers. Here’s how to do the same.

Event management systems have given schools greater control over everything from booking spaces to ordering food, linens and equipment.

Thinking beyond painfully slashing big line items, higher ed leaders can realize significant savings in finding smaller cuts that, all together, add up to make a huge impact.

Campus discussions about spend analytics might sound like a late night infomercial: Implement the technology and save millions!

The editors of UB magazine proudly present the 2016 Readers’ Choice Top Products, chosen from hundreds of nominations. This annual award programs alerts higher ed administrators and staff to the best products their peers use to achieve excellence at institutions throughout the country.

You—the nation’s higher ed leaders—submitted testimonials throughout 2015. Our editorial board carefully narrowed the list based on the quality and quantity of these testimonies.

Who's buying what?

When it became clear that the scientific equipment in hundreds of labs across the University of Pittsburgh campus was not being maintained effectively, professionals in the university procurement department began looking for a new provider to do the job.

The university had long relied on a purchasing cooperative to secure favorable contracts with vendors for bulk products such as office supplies. When administrators discovered that the cooperative had established an agreement with Specialty Underwriters (SU), a provider of equipment maintenance, their search was over.

Picture the amount of paper associated with almost 42,000 travel reports and 300,000 procurement card transactions. That’s how many expense-related documents the University of Colorado’s four campuses generate in a single year. Besides the sheer challenge of filing and storing so many receipts, a few years ago there also were major hurdles for reconciling and auditing.

Increasingly, colleges and universities, like their corporate counterparts, are being asked to do more with less. Vendors can play a key role in offering expertise, reducing workload, and saving money.

As money and time grow tighter for procurement departments, interest in purchasing groups and their contracts has grown, says Duff Erholtz, manager of membership services, the National Joint Powers Alliance (NJPA), a municipal contracting agency. In fact, many institutions belong to several such groups—for example, says Bill Wheelock, Youngstown State University (Ohio) has membership in seven, including E&I Cooperative Purchasing, NJPA, U.S. Communities, and the Inter University Council Purchasing Group.

If the phrase “everything is negotiable” makes you uneasy, you’re not alone. Even though negotiation is increasingly essential for campus procurement departments, the task is often approached with trepidation. This isn’t surprising, given the past experience of many procurement professionals, says Steve Mack, director of procurement services for the University of Missouri System.

Encountering resistance to e-procurement platforms isn’t unusual, says Max Leisten, market director for higher education at SciQuest. He offers the following advice to thwart compliance issues:

As the benefits of e-procurement become more widely known, institutions are moving to incorporate these systems into their operations. And why not? As Sabrina Stover, CEO of BidSync, a provider of e-procurement systems, says, e-procurement saves time, keeps departments on budget, increases efficiencies, makes the procurement process more transparent, and encourages a more competitive bidding environment, among other advantages (including being greener).

Bill Cooper of Stanford University and Jack D. Zencheck of Yeshiva University (N.Y.), who serve on E&I Cooperative Purchasing's strategic sourcing committee, offer these examples of how their more strategic ideas and actions are paying off for their institutions:

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