Smarter procurement part 4: attention to process, streamlining procurement

What are the pinch points faced by SBMs when it comes to procurement? How are schools and academies overcoming these to deliver better outcomes for students? In partnership with GLS Educational Supplies, we undertook in-depth research, which included a reader survey, to find out.

In part one we explored some of the key findings of the report. Purchasing can be time-consuming and so can overcoming the challenges it presents. In this, part four, we consider how to concentrate resources and reclaim time by streamlining your process.

READ Smarter procurement: a practical guide to improving value efficiency

When asked how the procurement procedure could be streamlined when purchasing day-to-day items most survey respondents agreed that automating the procurement process is the way forward (44%). The ability to repeat orders quickly was also highly favoured (40%), as was enabling staff to add to an online ‘shopping basket’ (32%). Pre-approved vendors also ranked highly (30%) as did improved purchase scheduling (23%).

With this in mind, we looked at the benefits of e-commerce in school purchasing and the rise of Amazon-like platforms and their benefits. We have already noted an increase in schools using functions such as Amazon Wish List to acquire necessary resources for their schools; could the same concept be applied to the regular purchase of resources?

The e-revolution

The CIPS definition of e-procurement is, ‘The combined use of electronic information and communications technology (ICT) in order to enhance the links between customer and supplier, and with other value chain partners and, thereby, to improve external and internal [production and system management] processes.’

Part three of the National e-Procurement Project, published by the Centre for Procurement Performance and supported by the department for communities and local government, categorises the benefits of e-procurement as ‘cashable’ and ‘non-cashable’. Cashable benefits result in a reduction in expenditure, while non-cashable benefits free-up staff from a task – although the report points out that, ‘…the time saved for each staff member is not large enough to result in a reduction in the number of staff required’.

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Locking down your e-systems

Clearly, there are benefits to be had from choosing to streamline via e-procurement. In order to be certain that an e-procurement process is effective, ensure that the chosen system provides:

  • an audit trail available at all stages of the transaction process, from request through to receipt of goods/services and payment;
  • complete visibility of the transaction throughout – which means that information is available regarding who raised the transaction and who has been involved at each stage – for example, the person who approved a purchase;
  • adequate controls and security;
  • a separation of duties so that the member of staff cannot raise a purchase order, approve that purchase order and also authorise the invoice for payment;
  • e-procurement procedures which are aligned with guidelines for public procurement.

Smarter procurement; a practical guide to improving value efficiency looks in more detail at these key findings and makes some key recommendations for schools seeking to implement smarter procurement processes.

You can read the full report here.

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