Operational Excellence Leads to Improved Procurement Process
The Procurement System Initiative is one of two Operational Excellence initiatives (the other is Strategic Sourcing) that Procurement Services is implementing. In this interview, Jim Fabian, Assistant Vice President for Procurement Services, talks about the forthcoming rollout of a new procurement system called SciQuest that is designed to make purchasing easier and more cost-effective.
Q: Why were you looking for a new procurement system?
A: Many areas of campus were dissatisfied with the procurement system we had been using, which relies on SUNY’s Central Web system, PeopleSoft, and the RF Oracle system. It was a difficult system to use. There were limited merchandise choices and it lacked a central portal where you could purchase items using all types of funds. It also was time-consuming to use, not completely automated, and involved many steps. So we did a search for a new system.
Q: How did Operational Excellence help move this initiative forward?
A: We’ve been looking at replacement software actively for the past five years. In conjunction with SUNY Central and the Research Foundation, we were already reviewing what products were being used at other institutions of higher learning and in the private sector.
The project was fast-tracked as part of Operational Excellence implementation. We submitted a business plan that made a lot of sense and it was one of the first initiatives to be given a green light to move ahead.
Q: Who in the campus community worked with you to present ideas and review options?
A: We got together with faculty, administrators, lab directors, and faculty chairs from all areas. End users wanted a much more user-friendly product, something they could use to shop. They wanted the ability to see what’s out there and make a selection based on pricing, instead of just getting a quote from one person. And they wanted the option to pay for product using multiple sources of funds.
Over a period of six months we met on a weekly basis to talk about the strong and weak points of the existing system and discussed our options, including the SciQuest procurement software product that was selected. The team members brought us their ideas and vision of what they wanted, and most of those ideas were eventually worked into the system.
Q: How will the new system save money?
A: Buyers will be able to select items from catalogs that display prices. That way they can shop for the best prices for the items they want. By automating the process, we will save people time and free our Procurement staff to do more value-added activities, such as obtain bids on additional goods, which will bring even more savings. Those savings will be seen campus-wide.
Q: Do you have feedback from users who have tried the new system?
A: Our office started using SciQuest in mid-November and has a pilot program rolling out that involves 16 departments:
- Campus Operations and Maintenance
- Campus Residences
- Capital Planning, Construction, and Design
- Dean of Students
- Department of Information Technology
- Molecular Biology and Genetics
- School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences
- Student Health Services
This rollout period also will be part of the ongoing test of the system, so we can determine what changes need to be made. We’ll get the glitches out. We are planning a campus-wide rollout in January that will run until June 30, 2012 – the end of this fiscal year.
Q: What is your overall goal for the new procurement system?
A: We want to be able to present a simple, intuitive tool, similar to what is used by Amazon.com and other online ordering systems. We’d like to see the campus community use a program that lets users charge funds from different sources all through one portal and provide the information they want in electronic form, eliminating the need to request hard copies or make phone calls.
December 1, 2011