Bonfire and UNC Conference 2017

Highlights from Bonfire's panel discussion on the challenges facing educational procurement and how to overcome to achieve strategic goals. 

Earlier this month, the University of North Carolina held the 2017 UNC System Finance Conference in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. And Bonfire was invited.

In addition to getting to meet and speak with higher education procurement professionals attending from across the state, Bonfire was invited to participate in one of the conference’s panel sessions.

Alongside Sharon Loosman (Director of Materials Management at NC State University) and Allen Carnes (Director of Procurement, Contract and Auxiliary Services at the UNC School of the Arts), the panel session focused on the challenges facing education procurement offices and the keys to accomplishing strategic goals.

The panel discussion was enthusiastic and engaging. If you weren’t able to attend, here are the highlights from the panel:

Challenges facing educational procurement

As a whole, many procurement teams face very similar challenges. It’s not uncommon for teams to have limited time, resources, and insights to deliver on strategic sourcing goals. Many struggle with a physical submission process, or finding ways to streamline their activities.  Innovative solutions are required.

Procurement teams in education are no exception. Here are the main challenges we uncovered during the panel discussion:


  -   Shortage of space to properly store documentation - Document retention equirements can cause paper submissions to pile up.
-   Retrieving information is time-consuming and inefficient  - Rummaging through file cabinets for information takes up costly time.
-   Difficulty managing collaborative projects - Stakeholders aren’t coordinated or participating in a timely manner.
-   Bringing evaluators together, all at once, to review and evaluate proposals - Evaluators are busy - evaluating your project likely isn’t their first priority.
-   No metrics or data to measure performance - The right data isn’t captured or analyzed leading to potentially poor or misinformed decisions.
-   Shrinking administrative resources and support - Growing strategic goals with limiting resources means new solutions are required.

Keys to accomplishing strategic goals

After highlighting some of the challenges faced by education procurement offices, we explored the ways teams can help overcome these challenges and accomplish their strategic goals. Here are some of the key elements the panel discussed:



Next-gen tools to facilitate and accelerate complex workflows

Basic sourcing tools and physical processes requiring offline or manual administrative tasks aren’t well-suited to handling complex workflows.

Rummaging through file cabinets, finding storage for piles of paper, and manually entering data into spreadsheets - these tasks take up precious time and increases complexity.  This is time your team could and should be spending on the decision itself.

Next-generation sourcing tools are designed to eliminate offline or manual administrative tasks that don’t add value. These complex workflows are captured, streamlined and executed within the best of these tools.

The time savings associated with removing these tasks means more time for creating, evaluating and making decisions on your projects. This also frees up time for other value-added activities, such as setting up future procurement projects.

With modest administrative budgets, streamlining procurement processes is essential to meeting improved goals.



Improving collaboration to become more efficient and effective

Effective collaboration is the key to any successful project when multiple stakeholders are involved.

Without the proper tools, having all stakeholders collaborate and coordinate on sourcing projects in a timely manner can be a significant challenge.

For example, many organizations have some form of consensus built into their processes. In these cases, it’s already hard enough to bring all your evaluators into one room - it’s even harder still to gain consensus after only one meeting without clear scoring insights.

Next-generation sourcing tools allows the project manager to see the progress of their evaluators - keeping them on track. In-person meetings are minimized and more focused creating faster decisions.



The Importance of data and measuring results

If procurement teams aren’t capturing the right data, they run the risk of losing out on better strategic and cost outcomes (as well as a means of continual improvement).

When you’re not capturing and analyzing the right data, you’ll end up missing out on the benchmarking metrics and KPIs you need to measure your performance. Without this data, how can you know if you’re choosing the most optimal suppliers?

Capturing the right data at the start of the sourcing process is the best way to get the information needed to make better sourcing decisions. Modern sourcing software provides powerful and insightful evaluation and decision-making tools.

Good decision making is largely driven by the quality and quantity of data collected and analyzed.

Next stop - NAEP 2017

Bonfire will be attending the NAEP Annual Meeting in Reno, Nevada next week.  The conference runs March 26th to 29th, and we will be there as an exhibitor.  

Come visit us at Booth 721 to talk procurement, sourcing, and learn about how Bonfire is unlike any sourcing software you’ve seen.  We look forward to seeing you there!