Back to campus is a season all its own. For procurement, that means spending against a new budget for the office supplies, IT, and campus furniture faculty and students need each year — and shopping around for the best deals. While universities are constantly looking for ways to stretch budgets further and give more to students, a new school year brings with its opportunities to transform your procurement process to save time and money year-round.
Sometimes you know exactly what you’re buying for an academic year — when it will happen and how much you’ll need. More often, it’s hard to know what will happen in seven or eight months, long before the fiscal year ends. Will that groundbreaking happen in December as planned? That’s a lot of custom hardhats and shovels for donors and dignitaries you might need.
As plans evolve, the ability to maintain purchasing agility while staying within budget requires a careful balancing act on the part of procurement leaders. Are you able to delegate purchasing power within departments, ensuring purchasing guardrails are in place as fall schedules are finalized? The science department’s popular Chemistry 102 course for 300 students might have two sections in the spring or it might have three (depending on how well the introductory course goes). That difference could have a big impact on how many beakers and centrifuges to buy.
Tracking purchases as they happen within your organization allows purchasing leaders to proactively plan for what’s to come. However, centralizing purchasing data and parsing through numerous SKUs, POs, and other sources of information can be a time consuming and tedious process. Tools to manage and guide purchasing, along with a comprehensive built-for-education selection, can be the solution to help colleges and universities across the country make the most of back to campus preparation.
“It can be hard to keep up with contract pricing changes, but Amazon Business solves all of the issues related to maintaining compliance—it delivers third-party sellers competing for our business, we can easily compare pricing, and it’s delivering a powerful product comparison tool. If something changes over time, which in most cases it does, everything is highly visible with Amazon Business.”
— Sharon Loosman, Director of Procurement & Business Services at NC State
First, time savings equates to dollar savings. How much time do you think you could save if you didn’t have to manually open a purchase order with each vendor? What if you could submit one request to get a dozen quotes instead of 12 separate requests?
Amazon Business’ Request for Quote tool makes it easy to request customized quotes for high-volume purchases at a desired price and quantity, across pre-vetted bulk suppliers who can support your university’s needs. Using the Request for Quote tool requires just a few pieces of information and allows you to check the quote status easily and quickly before presenting an offer, which you may select knowing Amazon Business helped you save, on average, 10 percent.
Second, time-savings means smarter choices. Does your university require you to comply to purchasing guidelines? Amazon Business’ Budget Management tool helps you set spend thresholds to avoid overspending and make smart choices through real-time usage tracking and reports, powered by Amazon Business Analytics. Empower purchasers to operate confidently and efficiency with transparent guardrails by auto-identifying preferred, restricted, and blocked product categories or sellers, and integrating pre-purchase approval processes.
North Carolina State University, with its more than 35,000-student population, is the largest university in the state. Like many public institutions, it has one procurement team that serves multiple colleges and departments. Sharon Loosman, director of procurement and business services at the university, says working with Amazon Business has been a “transformational journey” that has redefined visibility and efficiency for her and her colleagues.
“It can be hard to keep up with contract pricing changes, but Amazon Business solves all of the issues related to maintaining compliance—it delivers third-party sellers competing for our business, we can easily compare pricing, and it’s delivering a powerful product comparison tool,” says Loosman. “If something changes over time, which in most cases it does, everything is highly visible with Amazon Business.”
Third, prepare for the back to campus season by leveraging the power of artificial intelligence (AI) — a hot topic in higher ed, but also a transformative one for procurement. Keeping up, as Loosman says, doesn’t have to be a human job anymore.
Amazon Business's AI-powered product recommendations can help organizations find comparable products at lower prices to maximize cost savings without needing to perform time-consuming manual data analysis. It’s called an AI-first approach, and Amazon has been working toward it for two decades.
The Amazon Business’ Education Storefront is another example—a customized experience that recommends products based on your organization’s frequently purchased items. Proactive product recommendations, not to mention all-important integrations with punch-out systems, can mean faster, more sustainable, and efficient bulk orders—and better bulk orders mean you’re running a tighter ship.
Consider the data on what you have spent, what you want to spend, and what environmental and diversity requirements are important to your college or department: you’d want a solution that makes it easier to balance all those factors. Sometimes that means consolidating accounts, like at the University of Washington.
University of Washington is home to 140 academic departments. A few years ago, the university — which counts more than 50,000 enrolled students — wanted to consolidate its purchases through Amazon Business under a single master account. After years of siloed-spending and the classic scenario of “one hand not knowing what the other was doing,” the university decided to work with Amazon Business. As a result, they gained greater visibility into spend and simplified order administration for the procurement services department, giving faculty and staff greater autonomy and an easier purchasing experience.
The more intuitive workflow also saved the university time and money. “Amazon Business gives users the autonomy to find what they need [to purchase] in a way that’s familiar, easy, and intuitive,” says one assistant director of procurement at the university. “It lets us focus on the strategic purchases we make for the university. It has changed the way I think about purchasing.”
Amazon Business’s Request for Quote and Budget Management tools, driven by AI-learning and a best-in-class user experience, are transforming procurement processes for many colleges and universities. Even in the face of unknowns, Amazon Business can make it easier for you and your colleagues to spend confidently against a new fiscal year budget to help you achieve your goals, no matter how big or small.
Originally published on the The Chronicle of Higher Education.
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