Project Management

eProcurement Success!

Making the move from traditional procurement processes to a sleek eProcurement setup is all about project strategy.

eProcurementTODAY, 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.

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