During the workday, how often do you get caught up on the price of a product you’re working to procure? There’s no fault in your attention to detail and tendency to spend too much time on transactions. Your dedication is valued as your school or organization relies on you to manage purchase orders, RFPs, invoices, delivery schedules, and all involved documentation, even when you might not have enough time or resources.
Procurement leaders are proving there’s more to gain from dedicating your precious time and resources to reviewing key opportunities to pursue activities that will add value, such as leveraging a cooperative purchasing organization. The cooperative not only cuts your cost but adds a deeper level of subject matter expertise and buying power than you’d have on your own.
If you haven’t taken a step back in a while to ask yourself, “how can I approach this process in a way that benefits our entire organization?” then it’s a great time to think about this perspective shift. Not only are you focusing on attaining a better price from suppliers, but you're incorporating a long-lasting, holistic view of the procurement function’s route to success.
We interviewed two leaders in public procurement to learn the ways they’ve leveraged a cooperative purchasing organization to adopt a more strategic mindset for success.
Purchasing Perspectives Across Nation
New York Education Leader
The transactional to strategic shift involves changing your perspective from the day-to-day toward a longer-term approach. It’s a method that Bob Schneider uses while serving as Executive Director of the New York State School Boards Association.
Schneider says New York was one of the last states to adopt cooperative purchasing, and now over 500 school districts are registered to use the OMNIA Partners cooperative contract portfolio. K-12 schools are ramping up the use of cooperatives there, especially after the pandemic, which brought a larger focus on people, safety training, and mental health services, such as adding guidance counselors and school psychologists.
Schneider shares his point of view on how he’s working to encourage his team to achieve a strategic mindset.
Schneider says in the current climate New York schools are leaning on a cooperative to help focus their spend on customizing education for each child, adding IT protection solutions, and overall technology needs, such as student laptops and hotspots.
Over the course of 17 years in procurement, OMNIA Partners Regional Manager and former CPO Felix Alvarez leveraged cooperative purchasing to perfect his roadmap from transactional to strategic purchasing.
Alvarez shares the steps he took while in your shoes, most recently as a CPO in Texas, who transformed the mindsets and practices of his procurement team for a more successful operation.
“Why are we issuing 7 or 8 bids for flooring contracts? Why are we issuing 200 purchase orders for paper products to 6 different vendors?” Alvarez asked his colleagues while pointing out they should consolidate by "identifying our best vendors and manage only one or two of them to reduce burden and avoid wasted time on extra tedious work.”
In an effort to break down barriers within procedures in place for years, Alvarez told his team that he wouldn’t judge their performance on how many purchase orders or RFPs they completed.
Instead, he encouraged taking a holistic approach and determining where to add and drive value while also saving on cost. Quality, not quantity. This was the start of their evolution from a transactional to strategic way of doing things.
“I wanted to drive the overall mission and value of our organization and see how procurement could contribute to its growth,” says Alvarez. “My team was proactive. We engaged all our departments to discuss solutions and talked to end users to fully understand their needs. It really strengthened our relationships.”
The collaboration between CPO Alvarez, his team, their stakeholders, and the CFO’s vision created a recipe for an inclusive alignment on new strategies and priorities. The organization’s goals were met, and colleagues within different departments became champions for procurement.
Throughout this process, Alvarez leaned on his cooperative purchasing organization as a supportive advisor.
“I treated the cooperative as my partner," says Alvarez. "They worked as my team member and consultant to provide value to our organization’s programs."
Leverage a Cooperative to Achieve Strategic Approach
While the tasks you complete are undoubtedly critical, the value you add elevates your team’s impact on your school or agency. Focusing your efforts on strategic procurement consists of reviewing the analytical components of your organization, including sourcing evaluation and supplier relationship management.
You can perform this analysis even more seamlessly by collaborating with your cooperative, which takes care of strengthening your supplier partnerships and making sure you’re getting the best value and price. It’s a great opportunity to demonstrate how the procurement process can influence your organization’s overall growth.