As part of our recent white paper ‘Smarter procurement: a practical guide to improving value and efficiency’, we posed a vast number of questions to respondents, including: how important is smarter procurement? The results were overwhelming, as all respondents agreed, it absolutely is.
The Schools’ Buying Strategy outlines a plan to make £1b in savings, on non-staff spend, per year by improving the approach to procurement with better support and information for schools. There are three main parts laid out in this strategy:
- Ensure buyers in schools have the right relationships and skills;
- Support schools to be smart consumers – providing practical help and advice on buying decisions and contract management;
- Ensure buyers have access to the best value every time.
As mentioned earlier, all survey respondents agreed that smarter procurement is important in making cost savings (51% extremely, 36% very, 13% somewhat important). Of course, the path to smarter and smoother procurement comes with its own challenges.
What are the challenges faced by School Business Managers?
There are multiple tasks that School Business Managers face daily, which can affect their ability to commit to improving their processes.
When our respondents were asked the question, “which areas pose the greatest challenge when it comes to procurement?”, 67% said that ‘comparing products or services to get the best deal’ was a huge challenge – we’ve often quoted SBMs in interviews citing the same fact. They are understanding but note that the job of finding three quotes per purchase is unsustainable and frustrating.
Over a fifth (21%) of survey respondents confirmed to us that the time the procure-to-pay cycle takes to complete is an issue, this feeds directly into the point made above. The remainder were divided between managing the paperwork (5%), the order process (4%) and getting orders signed off (3%).
There is an obvious issue when it comes to streamlining procurement processes but what about the considerations when it comes to the product or service itself? We asked the respondents this question and received a majority of 85% claiming the quality of the product or service was their key consideration. Cost (68%), the whole life cost (47%), efficiency of the procurement process (30%), environmental benefit (12%) and brand (3%) showed a variation in other considerations.
What can School Business Managers focus on?
From the recommendation of our report, a solid choice is to start by assessing the suppliers you currently use, what you are purchasing from them and how much it is costing your school. It’s good to benchmark before beginning to look out into the market for other options.
This can be a simple yet, clever step in many ways. It can lead to economies of scale as buying in bulk will often mean discounts, talk to local schools or other schools within your trust for collaborative purchasing and suppliers.
Finding a single, trusted supplier that you form a strong relationship with can also be beneficial in reducing paperwork, purchase orders and invoices – saving you time in the long run to focus on other, more important aspects of the role. The single supplier must always be able to be trusted when it comes to the best products at the best price.
You can read our full report, ‘Smarter procurement: a practical guide to improving value and efficiency’ here.