The same way that businesses must keep track of their spending, universities and colleges need to guarantee that they are spending money in a smart and efficient way. A strong procurement process is essential, which is why Lehigh University recently upgraded its system.
The private school announced that it switched from its existing electronic procurement platform to Unimarket, a cloud-based option, to improve the performance of its procurement process. University executives said that Lehigh opted for a single eMarketplace platform that improved automation and integrated with its Ellucian Banner ERP.
The new eProcurement platform will provide greater visibility of spend and help ensure greater control over the entire purchasing process, said Lehigh University Strategic Sourcing Manager Jane Altemose.
“Purchasing through a single eMarketplace of approved suppliers reduces processing time, improves operational efficiencies and leverages negotiated contracts while promoting policy compliance and adherence to University financial rules,” Altemose said.
Moreover, the Unimarket platform has an “intuitive nature,” and will allow Lehigh to scale multiple functions across its community, according to Altemose. “The many integration touch-points with Ellucian’s Banner ERP offers the ability to configure the (package) to the various needs of our campus customers, enabling us to automate more functionality than we were capable of with the previous system.”
Unimarket CEO Peter Kane said that not only is Lehigh’s decision going to benefit its procurement process, it is “an opportunity for other institutions to review their existing e-procurement.”
Many schools have invested in e-marketplaces, but they often find themselves constrained by limited functionality, Kane said. For example, universities might not have e-invoicing, integrated sourcing, or could find themselves with prohibitive costs associated with enabling additional suppliers.
Developing a strong procurement process is something that universities across the nation are working to achieve. PYMNTS.com reported in June how the University of Iowa, the University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University are under review by Deloitte consultants to help the schools improve their procurement processes.
In that scenario, a new funding model would be put into place, and officials said that it could save between $30 million and $80 million across the Iowa state Board of Regents system. However, several university officials are concerned that the changes could result in staff cutbacks, larger class sizes and contract cuts with local vendors.
However, phase two of the Iowa study is expected to happen this fall. That portion of the study will include developing business cases for each of the 17 areas the board’s task force selected for further review.
While it is not clear if the Iowa schools are considering a single platform, cloud-based solution similar to Lehigh, one thing is clear: a complete procurement process is essential for colleges and universities.
Michigan State University also recently upgraded its eProcurement system by choosing ESM. According to an ESM press release, MSU wanted a more streamlined eProcurement process, and felt that the cloud-based spend management company was the best option.
The exact same format might not be appropriate for all schools though, which is why university officials must take care in choosing their spend process.