Group Purchasing Agreements: Best Practices for Higher Education Institutions

You have a wide variety of options when it comes to group purchasing organizations, sourcing cooperatives, and group purchasing agreements. Which is right for you? We have some best practices to help you make the best decision for your college or university and ensure you get maximum value from the relationship.

Best Practices for Group Purchasing Agreements

One of the most important decisions you will make is choosing the right group purchasing organization for you, so let’s kick off this list of best practices.

Evaluate the Fit

GPOs and cooperatives do not all operate the same way, so you need to make sure that they align with your specific needs. For example, some GPOs specialize in categories like furniture or office supplies. Others focus on particular niche areas., E&I Cooperative Services focuses exclusively on the education sector.

Fit is crucial.

Before selecting a group purchasing agreement, you need to ensure that the organization aligns with your institution’s goals and values, as well as your needs.

Understand the Solicitation Process

Make sure you have a clear understanding of the solicitation process to ensure it meets your policies and requirements. You should be able to review not only the contract awarded but also the RFP documents that were used to solicit bids to ensure compliance with your standards.

Examine Contract Terms

Even if you have a high level of confidence in the GPO or sourcing cooperative you are working with, a detailed contract review is crucial to provide safeguards. If you commit to a group purchasing agreement, you will have to accept its terms.

Details matter.

Some group purchasing organization contracts may have obligations that are not in your best interest, such as requiring you to use certain suppliers or products. This can be a significant challenge because of the unique equipment or software you may need in higher education, which might not be available through the GPO or cooperative.

Demand Transparency

Regardless of the GPO or cooperative you partner with, you are ultimately responsible for what is included in a group purchasing agreement. You should demand transparency at every step.

You should make sure there is clear communication and that all of your questions are answered. You should also independently track the return on investment and determine if you are getting the savings and benefits that provide the value you need.

Probe for Sustainability and Diversity

Colleges and universities today often have to comply with an increasing number of initiatives, such as sourcing diversity and sustainability.

One of the significant benefits of working with a group purchasing organization is the ability to access a broader pool of suppliers. This can help meet supplier diversity and sustainability goals. You will want to review the available group purchasing organization contracts to make sure you have access to the goods, services, and suppliers that can help you fulfill these initiatives.

Look for Local Engagement

Some GPOs and sourcing cooperatives provide for a certain percentage of spending to be directed toward local suppliers. In many cases, you may be able to find group purchasing agreements with national or regional brands that enable you to purchase locally while still getting the full value of volume discounts. This helps you keep purchasing in the local community.

However, not all group purchasing organization contracts allow you to do this, so you will want to do your due diligence to make sure buying local is an option if that is important to you.

Monitor Performance and Value

To maximize your savings—and the value you get from group purchasing agreements—it’s important to monitor performance over time. New suppliers, products, and services come on the market regularly. You need to make sure the suppliers you contract with continue to be the best option for price, quality, and performance.

You also need to assess the value you get from the group purchasing organization and whether it continues to meet your goals.

By following these best practices, you can establish a group purchasing strategy that produces significant savings—as much as 10% to 15% on average. As the only non-profit, member-owned sourcing cooperative solely focused on the education sector, E&I Cooperative Services can help you achieve your goals. There is no cost to become a member of E&I Cooperative Services and no obligation or minimum spending requirements.

Save time and money with group purchasing agreements through E&I Cooperative Services. View available contracts.


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