USO improves operations for service members and their families.
For nearly 80 years, the United Service Organizations (USO) has been a leading organization serving the women and men in the US military and their families throughout their time in uniform. From the moment they join, through their assignments and deployments—and as they transition back into their communities—USO works to support them with a range of specialized programs to support their needs. With 250 locations worldwide, and in the process of incorporating several independent charters under the corporate umbrella in the next two years, their procurement team’s goal is to centralize operations to consolidate suppliers, achieve more competitive pricing, and create efficiencies.
The USO is not part of the federal government, rather it’s a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Arlington, Virginia. Its origins trace back to the onset of America’s involvement in World War II in 1941. President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought to unite several service associations into one organization to lift the morale of the United States military. Today, the USO operates 250 locations, extends to fifteen countries on every continent, and staffs thousands of employees and volunteers. In 2019, USO centers were visited more than eight million times, serving five million active duty military members and their families, all benefiting from its programs and services.
Rick Quaintance and Tina Stockov lead procurement for the USO, both joining in 2015. They immediately noticed that the sourcing and finance process were manual, time-intensive, and paperwork-driven. To modernize the organization, they initiated a request for proposal (RFP) to find a procure-to-pay solution that would be user-friendly, automated, and compatible with their existing process structure.
Through this RFP process, Quaintance and Stockov led the implementation of a modern procure-to-pay solution with Coupa. They also worked with Amazon Business to enable a punchout—a technology solution that allows the USO to source supplies from Amazon Business through Coupa. They launched the punchout in 2017, first to the headquarters, and then to the entire global organization in five months. Today, nearly 80 percent of all USO spending goes through this e-procurement integration, and between 80-90 percent of all spend is confirmed best pricing available, according to the team at USO. Amazon Business supports more than 110 different software platforms for these punchout integrations.
“While the introduction of this new process is a big, structural change for the organization, most everyone has now embraced it,” said Quaintance. “Things like approving invoices and reconciling receipts for expenses used to take five to seven days, and now it takes two. What used to be a manual process that took up much of our time is now almost entirely automated. This reduces processing times and allows us to provide autonomy to center directors to get what they need more quickly and efficiently,” he said. “Further, this new integrated solution is also providing us greater visibility into spending across the USO, a key benefit for a global nonprofit organization that has to regularly report on how we’re using donor dollars across multiple time zones.”
Another benefit to this automation is the ability to allow all users across the organization access to the Amazon Business store to source for their unique needs without having to search through individual supplier catalogs. The USO is also leveraging Approval Workflows, an Amazon Business feature that allows administrators to create, and quickly scale purchasing workflows that fit their organizational structure. Currently, there are approximately 300 users with this feature and it’s helping center directors around the world review and approve spending, reducing the workload on the main office.
“Things like approving invoices and reconciling receipts for expenses used to take five to seven days, and now it takes two. What used to be a manual process that took up much of our time is now almost entirely automated. This reduces processing times and allows us to provide autonomy to center directors to get what they need more quickly and efficiently."
— Rick Quaintance, Senior Director of Procurement and Contracts Management, USO
“Anyone who wants access to Amazon Business can have it,” said Stockov. “What we’ve done is allow each center director to manage their own regional budgets, and all purchases go to the center director to review and approve. So for example we have ten centers in Southwest Asia, and have identified ten approvers, creating a self-service model for our centers,” she said.
Beyond improved operations from automation, the USO is also benefitting from the ability to get fast, free delivery in the locations that Amazon Business services today, with Business Prime. According to Stockov, supplies that used to take from two to five weeks to get from other suppliers, now, in many cases, arrive in two days, without incurring shipping costs. With these savings, the USO is able to source the supplies needed for service members and families. “The fast, free shipping that we’re getting with Business Prime has been huge,” said Stockov.
“Our centers are not only buying supplies for the wellbeing of the military and their families, but also for entertainment needs such as children’s games, TVs, and books,” said Stockov. “A huge effort for us is for the Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program—a partnership between The Bob Hope Legacy and the USO—that makes it possible for military kids to add books to their library, and their loved one stationed overseas can walk into any center, record themselves reading the book, and share this story time with their children back home,” said Stockov.
“What we’ve done is allow each center director to manage their own regional budgets, and all purchases go to the center director to review and approve. So for example we have ten centers in Southwest Asia, and have identified ten approvers, creating a self-service model for our centers."
— Tina Stockov, Procurement Manager, USO
Staying agile and flexible helps nonprofits respond to changing community needs. Every dollar spent at a nonprofit represents a choice between funding staff, operations, or programs. In the US, Amazon Business serves 75 thousand nonprofits including the 30 largest charities, 28 thousand faith-based organizations, and global operations like the USO. From the Amazon Tax Exempt Purchasing Program, to Workflow Approvals, and advanced analytics, Amazon has built features to increase collaboration with the needs of nonprofit organization in mind.
For the USO’s procurement team, their ultimate goal is to foster collaboration across the organization. As in many large organizations, departments look to find ways to work together more efficiently. Procurement leaders like Quaintance and Stockov believe it’s essential to make it easier for teams to perform their functions together, given their reliance on each other.
“By automating processes to work cross-functionally between procurement, finance, and our centers around the world—making things work more efficiently—it's saving us time and money that can be reinvested back into programs and services for those we’re serving. That’s the mark I want to leave on the USO that will continue to last into the future,” said Quaintance.