Advice and Information for Finance Professionals

How to Win Big in Higher Education with Procurement

Guest Author

By Becky Alvarez and Linda Wong, Product Strategy Directors, Oracle

When we talk about competition at the college level, we’re usually talking about sports or students applying for an academic program. But if you’re an administrator in higher education, you know that you’re competing as well.

You’re fighting for funding, research grants and students.

And just like in the corporate world, you have to minimize costs and maximize efficiencies to stay ahead of the game.

Procurement is one expense that can quickly spiral out of control in an academic setting. Whether buying textbooks, lab materials, computers or maintenance supplies, efficient purchasing plays a critical role in managing higher-education costs.

Automating your procurement processes can help you identify the best suppliers, negotiate the best contract terms, and process invoices and payments more efficiently.

Purchasing Visibility: Keeping Suppliers in Check

Let’s start with your supply base. You may be working with more suppliers than you need. That means you may be receiving less-than-favorable contract terms and creating a host of inconsistencies that can lead to cost overruns and errors.

If you’re managing suppliers in a spreadsheet, you probably don’t have the insight you need to make intelligent purchasing decisions.

Oracle Procurement Cloud offers a centralized system that provides a list of approved suppliers, their costs, and their performance. Within the system, you can establish supplier qualification requirements and generate reports to see if a supplier is meeting expectations. For example, you can track what items were ordered, whether the supplier delivered them on time, and how many times you had to return them.

Learn more about the advantages of automation in the cloud with our white paper, “5 Minutes on Empowering Modern Procurement.”

Performance also can extend to compliance requirements—for example, requirements for environmentally sustainable purchases.

When entering into contracts, Oracle’s cloud solution automates rules and policies, letting contract authors and legal departments focus energy on higher-value and higher-risk areas.

Knowing your suppliers may also help you gain more favorable contracts or discounts.  You can generate detailed reports and present them to suppliers during negotiations to secure better terms.

Cloud Procurement: Winning the Efficiency Game

Efficiency is particularly critical for departments—such as medical research programs—that are working on time-sensitive projects. Think about it: if you’re spending half of your academic year procuring what you need, how much time does a program have left over to accomplish its objectives?

Automated procure-to-pay can increase productivity by eliminating many manual processes. Organizations that haven’t automated their purchasing processes can spend two to three months issuing contracts. That’s valuable time going to waste when you consider a single semester is about 15 weeks.

In addition to being fast, your procurement process should also be mobile. Instructors and program leaders are often traveling or working odd hours, which means they need access from anywhere.

Oracle Self-Service Procurement Cloud lets faculty and department heads order their own supplies from a list of pre-approved suppliers. They can go online from their laptops or mobile devices and look through catalogues of items. Once they find what they need, they can purchase the items with a consumer-like, “shopping cart” experience.

There are rules and budgetary controls built into the system behind the scenes to make sure that your staff doesn’t overspend. For example, if there isn’t enough money left in a department’s budget to cover an expense, the system can automatically stop the transaction from going through.

In addition, all expenses must meet pre-programmed conditions (for example, “laptops can only be replaced once every 5 years”). Any exceptions will be automatically routed to a manager for further approvals—which can be done via social collaboration, on mobile devices, or both.

When the item arrives, the system automatically generates an accounts payable invoice as soon as the supplies are received.

Efficiency can have an impact on employee behavior. If a staff member knows a system is time-consuming and tedious, they may find alternate ways to procure materials that are more expensive or violate compliance standards. Having an efficient system encourages proper purchasing practices because employees see the benefits.

In turn, the entire institution boosts its competitive standing by streamlining processes and reducing purchasing costs. In other words, even if you don’t win the Rose Bowl this year, you can feel confident that your organization is winning where it counts most. 

Learn more about the advantages of automation in the cloud with our white paper, “5 Minutes on Empowering Modern Procurement.”

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