Collectively, public and private universities in the U.S. spend about $600 billion annually on goods and services. Public elementary and secondary schools spend another $870 billion. With more than $1.5 trillion in purchases each year, many institutions struggle to control spending or fail to take advantage of consolidation and cooperative purchasing to lower costs.
Now more than ever, it is crucial for educational institutions to manage procurement effectively. eProcurement software as part of a digital transformation has helped streamline processes and consolidate purchasing with preferred vendors. Cloud-based eProcurement software has enabled a comprehensive platform with bidding, routing and approval mechanisms to tightly control spending.
The procurement environment, however, continues to evolve. Here are some of the emerging trends in eProcurement.
It is no secret that many colleges and universities are struggling financially. Steep declines in enrollments post-pandemic have reduced incoming tuition. Funding cuts have hit some schools, and the rising costs of goods and services are also taking a toll. Inflation, economic uncertainty, and concerns about a potential recession have many institutions trimming budgets and taking a closer look at every transaction.
Against that backdrop, procurement teams are increasingly being tasked with reducing costs, streamlining systems, and finding new ways to do more with less. For many, this means consolidating purchasing, leveraging eProcurement software to streamline processes, and exploring cooperative buying marketplaces like E&I Cooperative Services® to leverage economies of scale.
Strategic procurement includes a thorough review of buying policies, procedures, and sourcing. Deloitte’s 2023 Global Chief Procurement Officer Survey of 350 procurement leaders shows a 15% increase in the centralization of resources for tighter control.
In the education sector, there are generally hard deadlines for essential resources. While most supply chains have returned to post-pandemic norms, organizations are looking for diverse sourcing options to ensure they can get the goods and services they need without disruption.
At the same time, schools and universities are putting greater emphasis on building supplier relationships. Building mutually beneficial relationships can help create partnerships that go beyond the typical buyer/seller relationships and can be crucial during adverse times.
Institutions are also focusing more on data, evaluating suppliers’ performances against key metrics to reduce overspending and move on from underperforming partners. Analytics and AI enable more in-depth supplier monitoring to help make better decisions. For example, procurement teams can track cost savings, on-time delivery rates, order accuracy, request responsiveness, and other KPIs. Real-time data helps identify problems or concerns faster for remediation and focus efforts on top performers.
Students are increasingly expecting the schools and universities they attend to be eco-friendly, focusing on sustainability. Nearly 700 colleges and universities, for example, hold a Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) rating, and many educational institutions now publicly report their ESG goals and performances.
Campuses have a considerable carbon footprint. A Reuters review of 90+ campuses revealed that power plants on campuses emit 5.8 million tons of greenhouse gases (GHGs) annually — about as much as 1.1 million vehicles. Educational institutions are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint through sourcing suppliers that provide sustainable options.
Additionally, schools and universities are increasingly turning to solar panels, energy-efficient devices, and green energy suppliers. While eProcurement software helps reduce paperwork and waste, the real power is in connecting you with suppliers and vendors that can support your ESG goals.
Educational institutions can also control their spending by using cooperative contracts and leveraging the bulk-buying power of multiple educational facilities. This can mean working collaboratively with other institutions, consolidating procurement across campuses or districts, or utilizing cooperative purchasing agreements. E&I Cooperative Services is the only member-owned, non-profit sourcing cooperative focused exclusively on serving the education community.
E&I members can take advantage of significant benefits, including:
Become a member of E&I Cooperative Services and leverage powerful eProcurement tools to improve your purchasing process.