with Travis Henderson, Director of Procurement Services and Materials Management
Procurement Services and Materials Management will be launching two new initiatives over the summer and into the fall designed to make the University leaner, nimbler and smarter with its resources.
Starting in August/September, a new web-based travel and expense system, Concur, will be rolled out in phases, unit-by unit across campus and will eventually replace CABS and WebTravel. The new system automates the approval process, guiding travelers through step-by-step. Users may download the Concur mobile app to complete and track their reporting. Employees will have the option to take a photo of their receipts using the app instead of having to hold onto them until they return to the office and approvers can sign off via their own mobile phones. Finally, keeping up with allowances will be easier, as University policies are already formulated into the system, so users will be notified immediately if a submission is allowable or not.
In conjunction with Concur, frequent-travel employees or employees with frequent business entertainment expenses will receive a new Bank of America Visa Travel & Expense (T&E) Card that can be used to cover University-related travel and business entertainment expenses. In the initial rollout, departments will determine who among their staff will receive the card, which will be especially helpful to those who travel a great deal or are in development roles. Transactions made using the T&E Card will automatically feed into Concur Expense, allowing for easier reconciliation. Finally, the University will pay the bill on these cards and is liable for legitimate University business purchases, not the cardholder.
In addition to the Travel and Expense initiative, a new purchasing solution will soon improve the University’s purchasing power as well as the end-user experience. Starting mid-August, BuyCarolina will become a new marketplace, replacing the current ConnectCarolina eProcurement system. This new web-based solution will allow purchasers to comparison shop and make smarter purchasing decisions without having to “punch-out” to each vendor separately and start a new search. Instead of users having to perform separate searches across various vendors, the new system will return all similar products from different vendors onto the search return screen. Purchasers can then compare items and their prices and select from the vendor they desire.
Right now, the University has 26 vendors it contracts with, but BuyCarolina will eventually open up the marketplace to 50 or 60 vendors, which Procurement hopes to have onboarded in the next several years. As University buyers use the system, competitors will likely start to lower their prices, driving down costs. Likewise, frequent use of the system means a higher compliance on supplier contracts already in place, which will enable the University to negotiate better contracts with vendors moving forward.
Both initiatives are expected to drive higher purchasing and travel policy compliance and reduce fraud.
Travis Henderson, director of Procurement Services and Materials Management, talked about the process of bringing aboard these new initiatives.
“I knew when we started out that it would be important for us to get the voice of the customer,” he said. “For example, on the Concur and Travel card projects, we took a cross section of different types of departments from around campus – from academics, to athletics, to research – and we asked them what their true requirements were. Not, ‘What are you doing traditionally that we can help out with?’ but, ‘If we started with a blank sheet, what do you truly need to effectively manage employee travel?’”
Through meetings, webinars, and other research, his team was able to get a strong sense of where the University could most effectively use an update and what solutions would benefit campus the most.
“We had to learn to discern between what were true requirements versus what were just traditional ways the University conducted business,” he said. “I knew that if we simply replicated what we already had, that defeated the purpose, which is to get to a more effective and efficient system.”
One other thing his team recognized was that with the diversity of campus needs and use, the solution shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all option, but a fundamental option that can allow for reasonable ad hoc adaptions to the system without making it vulnerable to inefficiencies and scope-creep.
“If we have to solve for every last thing that could possibly happen, implementation becomes extremely cumbersome,” he said. “We have to be able to take appropriate risks, and then take appropriate actions to resolve issues when they arise.”
In the end, what his team hopes to achieve with these new initiatives is not only modernization and competitive pricing, but a better utilization of campus staff.
“The intent really is to make things as efficient as possible,” he said. “If we can automate processes, then business officers and campus staff can concentrate on the type of strategic work that really adds value. That makes a stronger University.”