believes in equitable access to education which is key to a thriving workforce. A simplified procurement process helps them focus on that vision.
Per Scholas is a nonprofit training organization that believes a thriving workforce starts with equitable access to education. With the help of Amazon Business, Per Scholas has created a more efficient procurement process, and benefited from the cost savings that come with it. Through supplier consolidation, improved workflow approvals, and transparent spend controls, Per Scholas is able to simplify procurement and focus on what matters most: their mission within a mission to unlock potential for individuals, communities, and employers through rigorous training for careers in tech.
The team at Per Scholas envisions a technology workforce as diverse as the customers it serves. By providing learners with skills training and access to employer networks, they are opening career paths to people often excluded from tech careers. More than 20,000 graduates to-date have launched successful careers in tech through Per Scholas’ no-cost technical training, advancing economic equity through rigorous training for tech careers and connecting skilled talent to leading businesses.
In order to fulfill this noble vision, Per Scholas recognized a need to resolve inefficiencies within its procurement process in order to unlock significant cost savings – which are so important to the bottom line of a nonprofit.
When Lawrence Chang started as the Director of Procurement at Per Scholas a few years ago, there were seven Per Scholas campuses. Now, there are campuses in more than 20 cities, and they’re still growing. “At that time, we needed more people to manage the organization’s procurement activities. We would have been required to hire more people without the help of Amazon Business and the benefits that came from their procurement solutions,” Lawrence said.
What procurement challenges were you facing that brought you to Amazon Business?
“When I was hired, there was no procurement infrastructure at all. It was just the wild west of purchasing. People were swiping their credit cards left and right and there were no control measures in place at all. With our organization scaling so quickly, this lack of spending control made it difficult. Everything seemed like a bureaucracy. Our IT department was purchasing their own IT equipment. We had each campus purchasing their own office supplies – we have about 22 campuses. With that, obviously, it's very difficult to centralize every single purchase. Each campus or department has a Financial Manager who are pretty much the principles of the campus. They are also the purchasing approver, and logins are provided to anybody at the campus. We would advise them where to purchase and make sure they were staying in line with our policies. Amazon [Business] brought us a lot more structure and a lot more control over how we were purchasing,” Lawrence said.
How did Amazon Business help to bring solutions to your procurement challenges?
For nonprofits, staying on budget is an important primary concern. Using Lawrence’s procurement expertise and knowledge of Per Scholas’ business, Amazon Business analyzed how the organization was structured, their different procurement workflows, and identified how to control their tail spending. Per Scholas’ traditional non-centralized procurement processes needed to transform.
Amazon Business Budget Management brought much needed transparency and reduced the bureaucracy from the ordering process with pre-approved budgets. These guardrails allowed the Per Scholas' staff to still feel empowered to order what they needed, while procurement administrators were able to maintain oversight. With this setup, Per Scholas was able to move away from the decentralized, manual procurement process to one that operated with more efficiency and visibility.
"Amazon [Business] brought us a lot more structure and a lot more control over how we were purchasing.”
— Lawrence Chang, Director of Procurement at Per Scholas
Spend analytics and visibility
“It's very important how we spend our money and the transparency of that. Any dollar saved can be reinvested on a new student and that is so important to us. If we’re using the dollars that we get from our funders ethically and correctly, those funders are going to continue to fund us. They understand that in the nonprofit procurement space we have control measures where we know we are spending ethically, purchasing the right, quality products at the right cost. So, it’s very important for the procurement mission and the mission of our organization to know what’s being purchased and where the dollars are going,” Lawrence, reflected.
Business Prime’s Spend Visibility feature has been a huge improvement, giving Per Scholas the spend intelligence and insight into their purchasing trends that they needed. This has allowed their staff to make more informed, data-driven decisions from analysis, illuminating even more opportunities to save and cut costs. Business Prime is a separate membership program designed for businesses offering business-specific features and benefits. “I can say [with Spend Visibility insights] we have saved about 50% from our original purchasing,” Lawrence recalled.
“I can download a CSV file of all the purchases by cost center. It had all the fields that I needed so I could filter to see more specific details and it showed that there were a lot of unwarranted purchases. We’ve found it to be very informative," Lawrence reflected. "Being able to run reports on Business Prime has definitely been a big help, especially since I don’t have the capability within our traditional procurement system. Business Prime and the benefits that come with it in terms of having visibility into the purchasing of the organization and being able to make changes based on that information has been super helpful. As a result, Per Scholas is able to continue evolving our procurement process."
How else has Amazon Business helped bring value to your organization?
"Since we are a nonprofit, diversity spending is a business imperative for us. We have Guided Buying set up where all the diversity vendors are highlighted, and I hope a majority of our users will take advantage of that. Our goal is to increase our purchasing from diverse vendors by 10 to 20%,” Lawrence said.
“When I was first introduced to Amazon Business’ performance and capabilities, it was a no-brainer for me. Amazon Business provided the control and visibility I needed and an approval process that works well. I'm very, very happy with it. Getting an efficient procurement process set up, getting costs in line, and creating efficiencies was right in line with our mission. I was tasked with creating the infrastructure and control mechanisms, and that’s what Amazon Business really did for us,” Lawrence said.
As Sean Ullman, Sr. Account Executive for Per Scholas at Amazon Business says, “Amazon Business is standing by to help nonprofits like Per Scholas be the best stewards of generous donor investment. Per Scholas, like many thoughtful nonprofits, is absolutely willing to try whatever can be done in order to cut costs effectively while still supplying the necessary products to finalize and execute on the organization’s mission. Amazon Business helps organizations in their mission objectives and assists nonprofit leadership on their path to being the best stewards of donor dollars possible.”
No matter the size of your nonprofit, Amazon Business is an incredible partner to streamline the procurement process with cost savings and proactive business management tools. Firstly, Amazon Business understands the need for nonprofit frugality and Amazon Business Prime is heavily discounted for nonprofit customers. Secondly, with Amazon Business, nonprofits can upload state sales tax exemption forms ensuring sales tax, when applicable, is removed from the purchasing process. Amazon Business Sales Tax Exemption Program helps nonprofits with cost savings on the front end of purchases and on the back end through Accounts Payable department reconciliation process. And thirdly, Amazon Business provides multi-layered purchasing approvals to the procurement process, transitioning a historically reactionary expense reimbursement process into a proactive and strategic procurement investment.
“For complex customers like Per Scholas," Ullman continues, "there are multiple ways to incorporate Amazon Business into the work stream, from group level budgeting to Multiple Legal Entities or, when applicable, Punchout Catalog integration. It comes down to prioritizing: what do we want to do, and what results do we want to see? Per Scholas is absolutely willing to try whatever can be done in order to cut costs effectively while still supplying the necessary products to finalize and execute on the organizations mission."
Lawrence reflected, commenting on the impact Amazon Business has on Per Scholas' mission, "You can't take over the world one learner or cohort at a time unless you provide the necessary resources to execute that mission. Amazon Business is helping us do just that."
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