What Higher Education Needs to Know About Supplier Sourcing and Purchasing

Working in higher education procurement can feel a bit like being a busy firefighter dealing with wildfires. You are constantly putting out fires-both big and small-only to watch the winds shift and new fires start burning. It can be overwhelming when you are on the frontline. Getting fires under control requires a thorough game plan to find and eliminate root causes, stay ahead of shifting weather patterns, and deploy modern technology.

Procurement sourcing in the supply chain may not be at risk of burning things down, but the same tactics can apply. By deploying advanced strategies for supplier sourcing and purchasing, identifying smarter ways to source, and staying on top of procurement trends, you can create a more efficient plan of attack.

Strategic Sourcing

There are four pillars in strategic sourcing:

  • Data analysis
  • Market research
  • Supplier relationship management
  • Contract negotiation

Data Analysis

Data is at the center of your supplier sourcing playbook. Strategic spend assessments (SSAs) can review total spend by category, items, and suppliers to look for potential savings with existing or new contracts. SSAs can uncover the potential to consolidate purchasing to get volume discounts or move to new suppliers for better pricing.

E&I Cooperative Services® members can get a no-cost SSA to compare their spend to E&I contracts to look for opportunities.

There are a significant number of ways that data analytics can improve the procurement and purchasing process. For example:

  • Spend analytics: Analyzes procurement spend data to identify savings opportunities.
  • Invoice analytics: Analyzes invoice and payment data to improve working capital.
  • Purchase order analytics: Analyzes PO coverage, maverick spend, and cycle times.
  • Payment term analytics: Identifies opportunities to improve working capital through payment terms.
  • Supplier analytics: Analyzes supplier performance, risk, sustainability, and diversity.
  • Diversity analytics: Analyzes diversity and social responsibility in the supplier base.
  • Sustainability analytics: Analyzes environmental and ethical sustainability in the supply chain.
  • Supplier risk analytics: Identifies external risks impacting the supply chain.
  • Contract analytics: Analyzes supplier contracts and metadata.

Market Research

Market research is essential to understanding the competitive landscape to ensure you get the best possible pricing and terms from suppliers. Benchmarking can help by comparing recent purchase prices against market prices.

E&I members have access to more than 150 competitively sourced contracts for higher education. While there is no obligation to use these contracts, they typically provide best-in-class pricing. This helps establish price points and can help you see market pricing.

Supplier Relationship Management

Managing supplier relationships is about more than just contracts and transactions. It requires developing strategic, collaborative partnerships built on trust and transparency.

Such collaboration can reveal innovative approaches to solving problems, which might not be found through RFPs. Strategic insight from your suppliers who work across broad sectors can provide novel ways to think about or approach the procurement process.

Building these types of relationships takes time. Many schools and universities use cooperative contracts from E&I for transactions to accelerate the purchasing process. This streamlines procurement to free up time to invest in supplier relationships.

Relationships require regular communication and open dialogue to understand the goals of both buyer and seller. eProcurement programs that facilitate digital communication can help keep lines of communication open, as can good old-fashioned brainstorming.

Contract Negotiation

With data in hand and a solid relationship with suppliers, you have the information you need to make good supplier sourcing decisions and begin contract negotiations. Based on spend data, market research, and benchmarking, you can clarify your terms and set pricing targets.

The best negotiations come from clear information. Be upfront about non-negotiable terms that are set by your institution’s policies or requirements. Know in advance where you have some flexibility to work with suppliers. When you can work together to craft mutually beneficial agreements, you can build better relationships for the future.

E&I’s competitively solicited contracts are designed for higher education. As the only non-profit, member-owned cooperative that focuses solely on education, we understand the unique needs of educational institutions. E&I contracts leverage the aggregated purchasing power of more than 6,000 member institutions to get exceptional pricing, terms ad conditions. This often includes exclusive incentives and rebates when you utilize an E&I contract. Contracts also include terms and conditions favorable to academic institutions, built on years of experience in procurement sourcing in supply chains for education.

Implementing a Strategic Supplier Sourcing and Procurement Plan

Procurement teams in higher ed are being asked to do more with less and working with increasingly tighter budget constraints. A strategic supplier sourcing and purchasing plan is key to finding cost efficiencies and streamlining your procurement process.

There is no cost and no obligation to become an E&I member. Contact E&I Cooperative Services today.


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