Procurement Sourcing Trends to Help Higher Education Leaders Excel in Today’s Market

The procurement model has not changed significantly in recent memory, yet the landscape has changed dramatically. Teams are working remotely or in hybrid arrangements. Global unrest continues to cause supply chain concerns. Labor struggles are disrupting a broad section of industries. These trends all play a part in an evolving procurement workflow.

Yet, procurement sourcing is typically handled through specialized buying teams and centralized administration. This model does not allow for integrated solutions that create broader value in today’s complex supply chains.

In 2024, sourcing in procurement will continue to evolve as educational institutions better understand the need for collaboration with suppliers. Instead of issuing RFPs and evaluating responses, procurement teams are working cross-discipline with suppliers to identify areas to create greater value.

Emphasis on Data-Driven Procurement

There is an increasing emphasis on data-driven sourcing in procurement. With the right tools, procurement teams can delve deeply into spending, markets, and suppliers. Strategies include:

  • Spend analysis: Analyzing historical spend data to identify patterns, maverick buying, opportunities for consolidation, and more targeted vendor sourcing.
  • Supplier risk analysis: Assessing supplier financial health, cybersecurity posture, and compliance track record; using third-party data to inform supplier selection and contract terms.
  • Market intelligence: Researching market pricing trends, new technologies, and shifts in supplier leverage to develop more informed negotiation positions and pricing models.
  • Contract analytics: Digitizing and analyzing contract terms, pricing, and performance data to support negotiations and highlight opportunities to improve future agreements.
  • Demand forecasting: Using statistical models and market indicators to predict future demand for goods and services for more proactive sourcing planning.
  • Cost modeling: Building models that incorporate historical costs, current market rates, and projected needs to estimate total costs and identify optimization opportunities.
  • Scenario planning: Running what-if scenarios for different sourcing approaches based on changing needs and market conditions.

Developing Alternate Supplies Strategies

While most of the supply chain disruptions from recent years are behind us, procurement sourcing leaders remember the impact well. None of us want to be put in a position again where we struggle to get necessary supplies or have to pay significantly inflated prices.

Procurement leaders are lining up alternative suppliers to broaden the pool of potential vendors if needed. Proactively creating connections and establishing relationships can be a significant advantage in case primary suppliers are unable to fulfill your orders.

Building Better Supplier Relationships

While much of procurement sourcing and purchasing winds up in commodity transactions, procurement teams need to take the time to invest in building relationships with suppliers.

This goes beyond just talking to suppliers and understanding the goods and services they offer. Procurement teams need to understand the broader range of a vendor’s capabilities and look for areas where their objectives align with team goals.

Focusing on Sustainability

Most colleges and universities have formal policies on sustainability within procurement. Students, faculty, boards, and donors are increasingly demanding accountability to ensure goals are met. Procurement teams need to identify supplier practices to ensure suppliers take social responsibility seriously and deliver products that are eco-friendly and sourced with sustainable practices.

This requires a much deeper dive than just finding available products and pricing.

Sourcing Diverse Suppliers

Another area where higher education institutions are increasing mandates is diversity and inclusion. Procurement teams are being tasked with sourcing certified diverse suppliers as part of their solicitations.

Procurement teams need to actively seek out minority, women, veteran, LGBTQ+, and disability-owned businesses. This may require unbundling large contracts into smaller scopes of work. You can also require prime suppliers to report on their use of diverse subcontractors to demonstrate your commitment to diversity.

E&I Cooperative Services® Can Help

E&I Cooperative Services can help you stay on top of these emerging trends in a variety of ways. The only member-owner, non-profit cooperative focused solely on education, E&I offers its members competitively sourced, ready-to-use contracts to augment or replace current vendors. Through the bulk buying power of 6,000 schools, E&I can negotiate better pricing and terms that are customized to the unique needs of education. E&I offers more than 150 supplier contracts—about 13% are from certified diverse suppliers.

There is no cost to join E&I and no obligation to use any contracts.

E&I also provides a no-cost purchasing hub and eProcurement platform as well as Strategic Spend Assessments to evaluate your spend for potential savings.

As procurement sourcing continues to evolve, E&I enables you to stay on top of emerging trends. Discover the full benefits of becoming an E&I Cooperative Services member.


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