Alton Campbell, co-author, serves as vice president, higher education for OMNIA Partners, Public Sector. He leads a national team of regional managers who bring strategic contract solutions to colleges and universities.
Utilizing cooperative purchasing empowers participants to access and leverage immense buying power to achieve more value, time, and cost-savings. It’s no wonder why the higher education space partners with cooperative purchasing organizations such as OMNIA Partners, the most experienced cooperative and free connector to drive excellence and meet strategic goals, particularly in a time when the pandemic has squeezed budgets.
We have witnessed a growth in higher education spending, largely accelerated by the pandemic, in information technology, air filtration, and furniture. When it comes to investments in these major categories, OMNIA Partners has an extensive portfolio of suppliers who offer solutions.
Between budget and staffing constraints as a result of the global pandemic, education has transformed as we know it. Ultimately, if higher-ed institutions cannot obtain the products and services when they're needed at a price you can afford, your budget is limited to the scope of innovations available to students and faculty alike.
Fortunately, relief is at hand. Universities can fill the gap by looking to cooperatives and companies like OMNIA Partners to leverage the portfolio of contracts we already have.
On the IT front, OMNIA Partners is getting more calls from procurement offices for solutions to support virtual learning, and more specifically, cloud storage and cybersecurity.
Distance learning has become the new normal.
With the CARES Act funding, fortunately, we have seen cases where universities were able to utilize this and leverage the OMNIA Partners cooperative purchasing IT contracts to deploy and ship devices to students for remote learning.
Providing students with e-learning devices, though, necessitates the demand for enough storage and security against cyber-attacks. Supplier partners of OMNIA Partners, such as Carahsoft Technology Corp., deliver solutions in multi-cloud and cybersecurity, working with leading education agencies, such as Region 4 ESC, to ensure robust solutions available at value-added pricing.
Air filtration, another category spend driven by the pandemic, isn't limited to traditional HVAC solutions. These days, facilities operations are investing in more sophisticated, "smart" systems that provide remote monitoring and operations, essential for settings where staff are squeezed for time and remote work is just as probable as on-campus work.
Finally, there's furniture. As students are back in school, institutions are looking for innovative ways to position learners with physical distancing in mind within the classroom and in common areas. They want furniture that can easily be moved and assembled. They also want pieces with accessibility to power, for those environments where there may not be an electrical outlet on the floor or the wall. Outdoor furniture and gym equipment has become a trend, particularly, in those states with warmer climates. Those schools are looking at their outdoor spaces and asking how they can better use exterior settings to give students more options for studying and congregating in common areas.
Two Speed Bumps: Budgets and Staffing
Deciding to buy is easier than the buying process itself. There are procedures and regulations to follow, and nobody understands this better than public procurement.
Higher education institutions are seeing their budgets squeezed due to reduced student enrollment and virtual learning, resulting in less income received in — student housing, meals, parking, technology fees.
The second area is staffing. Schools have had to lay off staff or lost them through employee attrition. This staffing shortage has hit all over campus, including the purchasing department, where a diminishing number of people are handling ever more bids and RFPs and getting the requisite number of quotes, all while managing day-to-day operations.
The Free, Intelligent Connector
OMNIA Partners, Public Sector uses cooperative contracts to reduce the cost of goods and services by aggregating the purchasing power of public agencies nationwide. That means a college doesn't negotiate based on individual knowledge in its own purchasing division or regional consortium, but based on the collective talent and expertise of state and local government agencies, the largest systems of higher education, and the most sizable K-12 districts throughout the country. The service costs nothing for the institutions that participate, which may be why more than 87,000 agencies have used at least one of our contracts, including — in the last year — nearly 97% of public colleges and universities.
In the rare event where a contract doesn't already exist, our business development team will do an evaluation to understand the scope of the need, working with channel partners such as Carahsoft. In cases where demand is sufficiently broad, we'll work with a lead agency on putting out a solicitation on behalf of the category or product.
Even as learning and teaching have been energized in the last two years, other innovations on campus have lagged simply because the process of acquiring goods and services has slowed them down. Let this be a time when procurement rises to the challenge of accelerating the processes of purchasing to meet the needs of people all over campus.
Participants of OMNIA Partners are able to access Carahsoft’s industry-leading catalog, which specializes in IT and leverages the expertise of Carahsoft’s manufacturer-specific sales teams around their particular offerings and capabilities. Carahsoft works to on-board both established and emerging technologies so that higher education institutions can procure the latest solutions to meet their needs.