The role of education procurement is evolving, and the pandemic provided a glimpse into one of the key drivers of the evolution – the importance of real-time information. For much-needed supplies, such as personal protective equipment, procurement must have real-time information about supply, sources, and prices to accelerate decision-making and collaboration. Delays or inaccuracy in such information can also lead to canceled orders, incomplete or delayed shipments, unwanted substitutions, and overpaying. The following are a few examples of how procurement is evolving the use of real-time information in day-to-day procurement.
Real-time Comparison Shopping Across Approved Contracts
As consumers, we have always comparison shopped – haggling for the best price has been part of the earliest markets. With the emergence of the internet, comparison shopping can now be instantaneous. Consumers can find the same products from different suppliers with just a few clicks and then choose the best price. Unfortunately, requisitioners at their work do not behave like consumers, and they tend to make the most convenient purchase. This convenience costs districts a significant amount of extra money each year. Artificial Intelligence technology now makes it possible to identify, in real-time, lower prices and substitutes for items prior to checkout.
Real-time Price Check
Purchase compliance verification is done after payment by conducting an audit of randomly selected invoices. These audits help to recover overpayments and mitigate the risk of further non-compliance. Although effective, price compliance audits are resource-intensive and not scalable. Real-time online price checks can proactively analyze thousands of contract price data points each day and identify discrepancies, enabling procurement to remedy pricing issues prior to purchase.
Real-time Evaluation of Invoices versus POs
Manually matching invoices to POs requires significant time to enter information and confirm pricing. If discrepancies are found, further time is needed to escalate the issue internally or reach out to the supplier. Automating the matching process eliminates manual steps and instantly feeds the invoice into the financial system. When issues during matching are uncovered, the invoice is sent electronically back to the supplier to correct and resubmit.
60 to 90 Day Implementation
Real-time procurement is a must for districts that want to streamline their procure-to-pay process and improve compliance and savings. School districts can see benefits quickly with applications that complement existing financial systems and can be implemented in 60 to 90 days. Often a return on investment can be achieved within a single fiscal year. By making informed decisions based on real-time data, school districts can quickly revert meaningful dollars directly back to the classroom.
Article first published on the Florida Association of School Business Officials (FASBO) Bulletin Board.