2024 Procurement Trends: Strategic Partnerships and Purchasing for Higher Education Professionals

Busy procurement professionals in higher education rarely have the time or resources to accomplish everything they are asked to do. Amid the need to do more with less and increasing budget constraints, procurement teams are also dealing with supplier volatility, inflationary pricing, new commitments to sustainability and diversity, and staying on top of procurement trends.

This is challenging, to say the least.

2024 procurement trends focus on three core priorities: cost reduction, supply chain resilience, and sustainability, which is not surprising when you consider the current economic conditions.

Concerns over declining enrollment, budget constraints, and inflationary pricing necessitate greater cost controls. While supply chains have settled down considerably, they remain tenuous. Instability risk in many areas is increasing again due to economic uncertainty and global unrest. Building a sustainable supply chain and meeting budgetary goals is more challenging than ever.

For these reasons—and more—procurement leaders are investing in a proactive approach to strategic planning by developing partnerships with suppliers, procurement companies, and cooperatives.

The Benefits of Building Strategic Partnerships in Procurement

For higher education procurement teams, one of the most effective ways to accomplish more with limited resources is to build strategic partnerships with key suppliers. Developing relationships that go beyond one-off transactions can provide tremendous mutual value for both the institution and its suppliers.

Identifying Strategic Supplier Partnerships

When assessing potential suppliers for strategic partnerships, look for indicators of shared values, complementary capabilities, and interdependence. Suppliers who already understand the higher education landscape and mission often make natural strategic partners. Seek suppliers invested in a long-term relationship and willing to collaborate to meet your evolving needs.

Particularly for large, complex, or critical categories of spend, strategic partnerships pay dividends over transactional interactions. For example, partnering with a facilities management provider can enhance campus operations and sustainability. A strategic travel provider understands how to meet university travel needs while optimizing budgets. An IT infrastructure partner can bring innovative solutions rather than just sell equipment.

Creating Mutual Value

The most effective strategic partnerships are mutually beneficial to both parties. The supplier benefits from the stability and volume of the institution’s business. The institution benefits from the pricing discounts, service levels, and expertise that come with working closely with the supplier over an extended period.

From the supplier side, a deeper relationship enables and incentivizes vendors to tailor solutions, enhance services, and provide market insights to add greater volume. For procurement teams, strategic partnerships provide leverage, scalability, and efficiency.

Building Trust and Transparency

Strategic partnerships only succeed when they are built on trust, transparency, and accountability. Both parties must be willing to share information to drive mutual success. Trust enables more candid conversations and honest discussions about capabilities and limitations.

Closer collaboration also reduces risk. With deeper insights, procurement teams are more likely to be proactive and anticipate potential concerns.

Sustaining Strategic Partnerships

To sustain partnerships over the long term, regular checkpoints and engagement are key. Procurement needs to go beyond identifying preferred providers and facilitating purchasing by developing relationships and evaluating performance.

Leveraging Strategic Partnerships

These strategic partnerships with suppliers, procurement companies, and cooperatives can help create greater efficiencies—both in time and cost savings. By tapping into the experience of these organizations, you can gain pricing power, expertise, and administrative efficiency,

Procurement companies can help fill in knowledge gaps or extend your sourcing network. They can also help relieve the administrative burden for procurements. However, most higher education procurement teams see more significant benefits from working with a cooperative like E&I Cooperatives Services®.

E&I is the only non-profit, member-owned cooperative that focuses exclusively on education. There is no cost to become a member and gain access to ready-to-use, competitively solicited contracts. These contracts leverage the bulk buying power of more than 6,000 education institutions to solicit best-in-class pricing.

E&I’s deep experience in education procurement helps negotiate terms and conditions that align with its members goals and best practices. Working with E&I,  education institutions can rethink their procurement strategy:

  • Optimize spending: A comprehensive portfolio of more than 150 contracts designed for education.
  • Strategic spend assessments: No-cost reviews of your spend to identify opportunities to streamline sourcing and reduce spending.
  • eProcurement: No-cost online marketplace to simplify sourcing and purchasing, including punchout to vendor catalogs with preferred pricing.

As procurement trends continue to evolve, E&I empowers procurement teams with the tools, contracts, and insight to improve efficiencies and reduce costs. Learn more about E&I membership.


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