- By Anthony Rotoli
Making the move from traditional procurement processes
to a sleek eProcurement setup is all about project strategy.
TODAY, IT'S CLEAR to almost every campus executive that
moving an institution from the traditional purchasing model to
a strategic eProcurement program can greatly increase staff
efficiency and save the institution money. Because eProcurement
automates so many purchasing processes, it eliminates
reams of paperwork and allows procurement staff to
refocus their efforts on cutting costs and improving strategic
partnerships. The move to automation alone can save institutions
hundreds of man-hours every year.
Still, the process of making the move to eProcurement is
a project that represents a significant investment in planning,
training, and execution. The success of an eProcurement
program ultimately hinges on buy-in from around the
campus (and from all of the university's suppliers), to ensure
a smooth transition, ongoing training and education, and
most importantly, cost savings to the institution.
Create Stakeholder/Supplier Strategies
To get that all-important buy-in, first it is important to help
senior administrators and other key institution stakeholders
understand the value of eProcurement: lower costs through
leveraging institutional scale, and simple, accurate reporting
mechanisms to demonstrate success against institutional
and state mandates. Procurement officers also should utilize
data reporting tools to support eProcurement and demonstrate
institutional cost savings of the program to stakeholders.
Right behind that, procurement officers need to develop
one-, three-, and five-year purchasing goals for the institution--
especially plans for ensuring return on investment
(ROI) and supporting the staffing needs for the program.
Every institution has short- and long-term goals that guide its
leadership through planning and executing key initiatives;
embarking on an eProcurement program is no different.
Finally, procurement officers must develop a supplier
strategy. It is not necessary to include every single vendor
in the initial rollout; rather, focus first on the institution's
most-used vendors. Engaging a few key vendors first
enables you to leverage your relationships with them to
ensure a smooth transition to eProcurement. What's
more, eProcurement systems can be structured to limit
purchasing options and to provide speedy access to preapproved
product bundles, resulting in better technology
standardization across the institution. Also, consider how
your vendor partners can contribute to those very important
eProcurement reports by providing the institution with
additional data and insight into spending trends.
To ensure a smooth transition to eProcurement, focus
first on the institution's most-used vendors and
leverage those relationships before moving forward.
Develop End-User Strategy
With key stakeholders and vendors ready to support your
eProcurement program, you can turn your attention to the important task of rolling out eProcurement to purchasers
(end users) around the institution. Remember: Without enduser
buy-in, the system will never be fully utilized, making it dif-
ficult to demonstrate eProcurement's full potential.
So, help end users understand their role in making the
new system a success and in increasing the program's ROI
by sharing, in simple terms, the one-, three-, and five-year
procurement plans. Next, as the rollout begins, provide users
with regular updates by highlighting key milestones and reinforcing
the long-term goal messaging. Finally, engage the
campus as you plan for end-user training. You want training
to be as smooth and effortless as possible, so ask key faculty
and staff members to help you determine the best ways to
"teach" the end users about the new system. Also, consider
building into your plans the use of training feedback surveys
so that you can make adjustments on the fly.
Build Strategic Training
There are several ways to structure end-user training for
your new eProcurement system. Much of it depends on
how tech-savvy your staff is to begin with, and how your
campus typically handles staff training. Some campuses
prefer to start with hands-on training in a classroom or
computer-lab setting, which enables the procurement team
to receive instant feedback. This can be a great way to
adjust the training for future sessions.
With your first round of end users trained, your campus can
move on to the second training phase, which is a train-thetrainer
model within individual departments or colleges. This
enables departments to tailor training to address specific
purchasing needs and processes within that department.
And lastly, you can move on to the final and ongoing training
phase: providing end users with 24/7 access to online help
programs and web demos that highlight the most commonly
used tasks in the eProcurement system.
Leverage Vendor Partners
When you did your homework at the start of the path to eProcurement,
you tallied your vendors most readily available to
support the program, either via their own systems or through
their ability to contribute to ROI reports. Now it's time to work
with your partners to cement relationships that will ensure the
long-term success of your eProcurement program.
Start by examining the largest vendor contracts your institution
has and how you can utilize the vendor partner relationships
to expand eProcurement. Also, consider key commodity
groups, and how they can supply products to your
campus. Both of these segments can provide your campus
with critical product information and marketing support to a)
help users make the most of your eProcurement system and
b) drive sales, resulting in c) better volume contract pricing.
Next, consider conducting quarterly business reviews with
your partners to demonstrate eProcurement's value to the
campus. These meetings provide insight into how your campus
uses vendors, and give you the opportunity to understand
how to grow those relationships. Finally, train your vendors to
use your eProcurement system to ensure that everyone is
articulating the same eProcurement message throughout the
process and across the institution. Don't forget to give your
vendor partners access to end users, to further educate them
about buying products through the eProcurement system.
Sell, Sell, Sell!
Sell eProcurement early and often. With your eProcurement
program running smoothly and your end users
trained, you can now turn your attention to developing a
detailed campus promotion and marketing program. Consider
branding your eProcurement program with its own
name in order to market it to faculty and staff. From there,
you can support the program by building out your marketing
materials to include print collateral and online tools.
And don't forget about those vendor partners! Most of your
suppliers have extensive marketing capabilities that can support
your campaign. Start with partner marketing collateral
branded for your eProcurement solution, and designed to
help promote that vendor's relationship with the campus.
Also, invite partners to host webinars and attend on-campus
supplier days or vendor fairs as ways to introduce themselves
and their eProcurement partnership with your institution.
As Projects Go...
eProcurement enables institutions to be more strategic than
ever. By proactively engaging stakeholders inside and outside
the institution, you can achieve a maximum level of cooperation
and compliance from end users and suppliers. Ultimately,
a successful, well-managed eProcurement initiative
gives colleges and universities the opportunity to leverage
technology to improve productivity, make better decisions,
and achieve maximum return on procurement dollars.