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Case Study

Arlington ISD Aims to Save Time, Money with New eProcurement Software

Arlington Independent School District (ISD) has completed implementation of its new eProcurement software. Arlington ISD worked with developer EqualLevel to implement the software with the goal of streamlining the district’s purchasing processes. 

About Arlington ISD

Arlington ISD is the 11th-largest school district in Texas. It is located in Arlington, Texas, 13 miles east of Fort Worth and 20 miles west of downtown Dallas. The district serves 60,000 students spread among 76 campuses including 13 high schools, 10 junior high schools, and 53 elementary schools. They are the largest employer in Arlington, with a staff of approximately 8,500 and an annual budget of over $550 million.

In February 2022, Arlington ISD contracted with EqualLevel to integrate its eProcurement software with the district’s financial system, Frontline TEAMS. Working with district Director of Purchasing Lisa Phillips, set-up was completed in May 2022 and implementation was completed in August 2022. The district has already started seeing benefits, including capturing immediate savings that are being redirected back into the classroom.

One Marketplace for All Approved Contracts

Arlington ISD’s new marketplace brings together the catalogs of 28 district-approved vendors into a single, user-friendly interface. The new system provides a consumer shopping-like experience for teachers and staff. They will now utilize a single search box to comparison shop across district-approved contracts from both local and national vendors and add items to their cart, where they can then be transferred to administrators to approve and execute the purchase.  Administrators no longer have to look up items for end-users, returning valuable time to their busy days.

Savings

Savings with the new eProcurement marketplace are projected to be significant for Arlington ISD. The system will put an end to non-compliant purchases and maverick spend by limiting purchases to only district-approved vendors. That alone will help them save by ensuring that every purchase is benefiting from contracted prices. However, the software also includes an AI-powered savings advisor, ELSA (EqualLevel Savings Advisor), that automatically identifies, in real-time, the lowest price for items, or best available substitute, from approved suppliers. Arlington ISD’s Executive Leadership is particularly excited about ELSA’s ability to uncover potential savings for the district.

Accounting

On the accounting side, seamless integration into the Arlington ISD’s financial system means requisitions and purchase orders will be automatically captured, eliminating the need for manual entry and thus freeing up district staff for more high-value tasks. The district is already processing hundreds of POs per month through their marketplace and plans to expand to service categories later this year. Leadership expects this number to grow as end-user adoption continues to increase.

Case Study

Purchasing Department Strives to Get More Done in Less Time

For years, the Purchasing Department at Mesquite Independent School District (ISD) had been searching for a way to maximize staff time and budget dollars with technology. The procurement process at district campuses included a mix of manual and electronic processes, and some requisitions even had to be handwritten and routed to several team-members for approval. It was difficult for staff to obtain multiple quotes for compliance purposes, much less comparison shop for best values. 

eProcurement: The solution they were looking for.

In summer 2021, Mesquite ISD’s Purchasing Department leadership, made up of Director of Purchasing Darci Hooten, and Senior Buyer Kelly Burks, met with EqualLevel to discuss its procure-to-pay compliance platform. Mesquite ISD learned EqualLevel could create a platform that would offer them easy access digitally to approved vendor partners, as well as commodity codes at the product level, all in one location. They quickly saw how EqualLevel’s platform could potentially save the district thousands of dollars in both time and money. 

“Seeing maverick spending reigned in would be huge,” said Hooten. “With the current system being so tedious and labor intensive, the marketplace could potentially speed up everything for everybody.” 

Other features

The district was also excited to learn about other features of the marketplace:

  • Compliance: The marketplace would drive end-users to the district’s approved contracts.
  • Community Inclusion: The marketplace would give end-users the ability to shop from local vendors so more budget dollars remain in the community.
  • Savings: The marketplace’s AI-powered EqualLevel Savings Advisor (ELSA) would identify the best price among all district-approved suppliers for users while they shop. 

In February 2022, the initiative became critical when a new district policy mandated the use of commodity codes on all requisitions and purchase orders. In a typical month the district was processing between 2,200 and 2,500 purchase orders. Hooten and Burks quickly realized campus staff simply could not absorb the additional coding work and faced the reality that the task would likely fall to their own overtaxed department. They were relieved to hear EqualLevel could sync the district’s commodity codes, automating the task and eliminating the need for any manual intervention. Now it was time for a decision: either automate to sync the codes, or hire a new team member to take on the extra work. 

Mesquite Chooses EqualLevel

In mid-2022, Mesquite ISD chose EqualLevel to automate its procurement process, including full integration with its Munis ERP system. “The ability to lessen the load at the campus level and execute the commodity code project were critical points in getting buy-in from our CFO,” said Hooten. With the commodity code crosswalk, the savings that would be generated, and the flexibility and ease-of-use at the campus level, procurement would be able to deliver on multiple district initiatives in one program. “We conservatively estimate 10 to 15 percent savings just in hard dollars. That doesn’t include all the soft savings associated with the time our departments and campus staff will be saving,” said Hooten. “It’s going to be a major game changer.”

Update

In fall 2022 EqualLevel developers began building the commodity code crosswalk for Mesquite ISD. Unfortunately, they discovered the district’s financial system, Munis, would not support passing the code. EqualLevel was able to quickly create a custom solution for the district so their codes could be converted into their system. This work-around allowed Mesquite ISD to still meet its target go-live date. 

Case Study

Small Business Sees Yearly Sales Increases Since Creating Their Punchout Site

Midwest Technology Products

There are not many businesses today that can claim to have employed five generations of people from the same family but, after being in business for over 113 years, Midwest Technology Products can say just that. Located in Sioux City, Iowa, Midwest Technology Products is a small (just under 20 employees), woman and minority-owned business that offers 11,000 products from 700 vendors. They work exclusively with educators worldwide to provide them with quality products, furniture and supplies for makerspaces and fab labs, as well as Career & Tech Ed and STEM instructional spaces. Through their unmatched customer service, they have built relationships with a broad network of school purchasers including teachers, administrators, purchasing agents, and curriculum directors.

Unlike a lot of their competitors, Midwest goes the extra step of providing consulting for the layout and equipment requirements of their clients’ projects. They have designed and installed hundreds of specialty workspaces filled with durable, trade quality tools and equipment and their project management team can see a project through from specifications to coordinated delivery. They also offer kits so customers have everything they need to make labs or makerspaces on their own. In addition, their products are unique; many of the items in their catalog cannot be found anywhere else online.

Midwest Partners With EqualLevel to Create eCommerce Site

In 2013, in an effort to take their business to the next level, Midwest Technology Products partnered with EqualLevel to create a punchout system for their 500-page catalog. EqualLevel’s catalog management software, EqualLevel GO, offers small OEMs or distributors who may have limited IT capabilities the opportunity to establish a punchout catalog store, or punchout store, that integrates with ERPs. This allows the products from small companies to appear alongside those of their bigger competitors in the eProcurement marketplaces of large-scale buying organizations such as purchasing cooperatives and school districts. 

To transfer their catalog, Robin Peterson, former President, was tasked with creating the line item data for Midwest’s 11,000 products including creating key words, sourcing images, and writing short- and long-form descriptions. The information was then sent to EqualLevel and through EqualLevel GO, they were able to create Midwest’s punchout system.

The punchout store has opened doors for Midwest that were previously closed to them due to their lack of eCommerce capabilities. They have been able to get in front of public sector organizations as well as other markets previously inaccessible to them. It has also improved their bottom line in other ways. Just through having all the specifications of their 11,000 products online, they have been able to reach more customers and make more sales. “Even when people don’t order through the website, and call in an order instead, our eProcurement marketplace has still served a purpose as a marketing tool. Most of the time the client will have used the site to learn and discover first, before picking up the phone to order.” 

Since engaging with EqualLevel to make the move to eCommerce, Midwest has not looked back. “Every year since creating our punchout system we have seen sales increase,” said Peterson. By utilizing EqualLevel GO to facilitate the creation of their eCommerce site, they now reach more customers in their target market than ever before.

Blog

Utilizing Technology to Decrease Bookkeeper Turnover in the Public Sector

In the U.S. today, employee turnover is rising while at the same time the number of applicants for vacant positions is falling. According to a 2021 study by NEOGOV, “about a quarter of all current public sector job postings are getting seven applications or fewer,” much less than the 25 applicants they need to land one hire, according to NEOGOV.

None of this is news to public sector business departments, who have long struggled with high turnover rates for bookkeepers. But with hiring prospects so bleak, shouldn’t agencies be considering ways to retain the staff they have? 

In a 2021 article by routefifty.com, it was reported that “public-sector organizations devote considerable resources to hiring, but they often overlook retention.” This despite the fact that the financial impact of training and replacing staff members can come with a high price tag for organizations. According to the same article, the costs associated with turnover can be as much as “150% of (an) employee’s annual salary.” 

Public Sector Bookkeeping

Bookkeeper turnover continues to be a problem in many public sector agencies. The manual entry involved in the job can be both tedious and time-consuming. It can leave bookkeepers with little time to perform other functions required of their position, and is often cited as a contributor to job dissatisfaction. 

Bookkeepers are expected to be knowledgeable of, and to follow, policies and procedures for purchasing goods and services (i.e., correct use of bids, contracts, supporting document requirements, etc.), as well as a host of other competing responsibilities. Among their numerous duties, ordering supplies sits close to the top of the list and requires them to follow specific procedures while at the same time, in a lot of cases, having to use manual processes to enter lengthy requisitions. This alone can take up a large part of their day and come with a high margin for error.

In many organizations, bookkeepers are also tasked with general administrative duties on top of their already overwhelming responsibilities. Despite the important nature of their work and the stress involved, in the United States, the average salary for bookkeepers is $45,560, below the national average salary of $51,480 reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Lean Six Sigma Project: Bookkeeper Burnout

In 2018, a team vying for the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification conducted a survey to uncover why bookkeepers employed at one of the largest school districts in the country were leaving. The turnover rate at 26 percent was significantly higher than the widely thought “acceptable rate” of 10 percent for turnover. 

Serving close to 100,000 students, the school district employed 85 bookkeepers working in 119 schools. The 26 percent turnover rate amounted to roughly 22 employees leaving their positions per year. The impact for the district in terms of cost of hiring and training, additional support needed after training, and purchasing errors and delays, was sizable.

The Lean Six Sigma team distributed a survey to the district’s 85 bookkeepers, of which 75 percent responded. Almost half reported that they had considered leaving their job, citing stress as the biggest issue they had with their position. 19 bookkeepers responded that they did not have enough time to complete their bookkeeper responsibilities each day, that the amount of work they were expected to perform was not reasonable, and that they did not receive adequate training.

April Marzzacco, a team member on the project, said of the results, “while suspected, the results were still shocking. The number of bookkeepers that were thinking of leaving due to job dissatisfaction was an eye opener for the district. We knew we needed to make improvements to increase their satisfaction, or face a hiring crisis.”

Technology as a Solution

In a lot of organizations, bookkeeper turnover can be traced back to the largely manual nature of the position. In many agencies still operating under a paper-based system, the procurement process is laborious, time-consuming, and error-prone. One of the solutions proposed by the Lean Six Sigma team as a result of their Green Belt project, was to implement new technology to automate purchasing at the district. Automating can lead to faster cycle times and improved productivity, while the elimination of paper and manual steps can free up time for employees to focus on more critical initiatives. “We discussed how using technology to automate some of the bookkeepers’ processes would allow them to spend less time on menial tasks and more time on value added projects. We believed that this would lead to greater job satisfaction and an increase in intrinsic reward,” said Marzzacco.

What is eProcurement?

An eProcurement marketplace is integrated with an organization’s ERP system and offers a single, seamless platform that facilitates all of the processes associated with the shop-order-pay transaction. Because an eProcurement system houses all vendors under a single interface, users are limited to purchasing from only those vendors that have been approved. This allows the eProcurement marketplace to be utilized by more employees, resulting in less reliance on bookkeepers for ordering. It also drastically cuts down on manual entry, allowing bookkeepers to focus on the more value-added duties of their position. 

After deploying an eProcurement marketplace in her own school district, Berea City Schools’s bookkeeper Becky Snyder reported the new system was straightforward, affordable, and required minimal user training. “It’s simple, just like we shop online at home,” she said. 

In order to combat bookkeeper burnout, organizations must consider automating procurement to eliminate time-consuming manual entry and allow other end-users to make compliant purchases. An effective eProcurement system can help with bookkeeper retention, saving agencies both time and money. 

Sources:

Blog

5 Myths About eProcurement Systems (And Why They Aren’t True)

While the benefits of eProcurement are well known, there are still a number of agencies that continue to utilize outdated and inefficient systems for purchasing. From increased transparency and productivity, to proven hard dollar savings, eProcurement offers a solution for many of the challenges organizations face. The question remains then, why hasn’t eProcurement become more ubiquitous in agencies?  

Even in those organizations that have adopted online bidding and purchasing procedures, many still have not addressed the administrative inefficiencies that exist. As such, even fewer local organizations have been able to achieve total automation and extensive supplier enablement, which are paramount to harnessing the full power of eProcurement technologies.

Five Common eProcurement Myths

Low adoption rates can be attributed to several pervasive myths surrounding eProcurement. Most of these myths continue to persist despite advancements in technology rendering them moot today. 

MYTH 1:

With upfront costs for hardware as well as licensing fees, the price tag for implementation can easily stretch into the six figures. 

FACT: Today’s cloud computing offerings cost much less than their predecessors. Without hardware or licensing fees required, only subscription fees, eProcurement is much more financially accessible than it once was.

MYTH 2:

It is costly and complicated to integrate with an organization’s ERP system.

FACT: Advancements in technology have made integrating with an organization’s ERP easier than ever. In an American City & County article titled Removing The Obstacles To E-Procurement Adoption they report, “The availability (and low cost) of new technology standards such as XML have largely alleviated concerns about integrating e-procurement with back-end financial systems.” In fact, the syncing with an organization’s ERP allows items purchased to be assigned appropriate commodity codes to ensure transactions are posted appropriately for accounting purposes.

MYTH 3:

For organizations with small or non-existent IT departments, management of an eProcurement platform is a drain on resources. 

FACT: Cloud-based systems that offer a multi-vendor marketplace should only need to engage an organization’s IT department at initial ERP integration. eProcurement providers can easily manage supplier enablement, even for those vendors without existing punchout sites, eliminating the strain on buyer procurement and IT departments.

MYTH 4:

Due to additional costs to suppliers and complex onboarding processes, large suppliers will stop selling to local governments that adopt eProcurement measures. 

FACT: Today’s eProcurement marketplaces integrate all of an organization’s current suppliers at no extra cost to the supplier. What’s more, they can seamlessly incorporate suppliers regardless of technological capabilities or chosen platforms. In fact, eProcurement can streamline supplier engagement with the agency and help reduce operating costs for all parties involved. 

MYTH 5:

eProcurement systems prohibit organizations from working with small local businesses because it is either too costly for them, or just not feasible. 

FACT: eProcurement systems now have the ability to integrate suppliers regardless of their size or technological capabilities. In fact, the creation of fully-featured eCommerce stores for local businesses, specifically designed to support punchout commerce, have been responsible for propelling countless local suppliers into the world of eProcurement.

About EqualLevel’s eProcurement Marketplace

EqualLevel’s mission is to enable more effective and efficient public sector spend management that helps agencies streamline operations and optimize spending. EqualLevel combines the best eProcurement marketplace and eInvoicing capabilities into a seamless solution that is easier-to-use, faster to configure and deploy, and more cost-effective than any other procure-to-pay platform available today. With deep domain knowledge in procurement, a best- in-class cloud platform, a fast-growing network of public sector buyers and sellers, and industry-first innovations like ELSA (an AI-powered savings advisor), EqualLevel is leading the way in helping the public sector to increase the value of every dollar spent.   

Source: https://www.americancityandcounty.com/2011/08/01/removing-the-obstacles-to-e-procurement-adoption/

Blog

Building a Case for eProcurement

By April Marzzacco – Strategic Sales Consultant, EqualLevel, Inc.

Purchasing departments across the country are reporting that they are busier than ever with staff shortages, budget cuts, and ongoing supply chain issues. It is not uncommon for agencies that are still limping along with manual entry to be struggling with the volume of purchase orders coming in and high bookkeeper burnout, while also dealing with maverick spend and non-compliant purchasing.

Whether it is these challenges or others that your department is facing, you may believe now is the time to find a solution that will streamline your purchasing process. Based on your research, and recommendations from other agencies, you may have already decided that implementing an eProcurement marketplace is just that solution. 

What is a business case?

Presenting a business case is considered the best way to introduce new initiatives to stakeholders. According to projectmanager.com, a business case is a presentation or document that outlines why a project should be executed, and how its benefits outweigh its costs. The goal of a business case is to convince stakeholders of a project’s value, and that the project you are proposing is a sound investment in which they should direct resources. To build a business case for EqualLevel’s eProcurement system, it is important to provide higher-ups with the information they need to understand both the importance of automating, and the return on investment (ROI). 

There are many recommended formats for structuring a business case but in general, it should cover the following five elements:

1. The Challenge

In this first section of your business case, you will outline your current process and the reasons why you believe change is necessary. Challenges you might include:

  • Manual entry is slowing down the purchase process
  • Manual entry causes more errors
  • Bookkeeper burnout 
  • Maverick spend
  • Non-compliant purchasing

You should also include the costs associated with your current system in this part of the business case. These could include any costs related to software, the wages paid to employees who manually enter requisitions and purchase orders, as well as the costs associated with continuing to overpay for goods and services. 

TIP: When tallying your current costs, if there is information you are not able to find within your organization, industry benchmarks should suffice. 

2. The Solution

In this section of your business case, you will present the solution you are recommending, namely, implementing EqualLevel’s software. This will be where you define what an eProcurement system is. Here is an example: “An eProcurement marketplace is integrated with an organization’s ERP system and offers a single, seamless platform that facilitates all of the processes associated with the shop-order-pay transaction. EqualLevel’s dashboard offers a consumer shopping-like experience where users can shop from all of their organization’s approved suppliers in one place. With this set-up, best value options are displayed and organizations report higher user acceptance and greater compliance.”

This is also the part of the business case where you will present how the software works. The best way to explain the functionality and capabilities of EqualLevel’s AI-powered software is to see it in use. EqualLevel creates customized software demos so you, and your organization’s stakeholders, can see the marketplace in action. The demos allow interested parties to get hands-on experience with the system and it lets them see how EqualLevel’s Savings Advisor (ELSA) locates savings in real-time, while a user shops.

3. The Cost 

EqualLevel is able to provide a worksheet to quickly calculate the results you can reasonably expect to achieve through deployment of its eProcurement marketplace. The worksheet divides savings into two areas: “soft” savings, where process costs will be reduced (the resources may be reallocated to other, more value-added, activities), and “hard” savings, where costs will actually be reduced (using ELSA). Once you have calculated your expected savings, you can subtract that from the cost of the marketplace software to determine your ROI. 

4. The Benefits

The next section in a business case should include the benefits your organization can anticipate from implementing your initiative. In this case the benefits of an eProcurement marketplace include:

  • Efficiency: Automating leads to faster cycle times and improved productivity. The elimination of paper and manual steps frees up time for employees to focus on more critical initiatives.
  • Cost Savings: With all approved vendors housed in one centralized location, best value products can be easily identified. 
  • Compliance: By automating the three-bid process and showing only contracted vendors, an eProcurement marketplace helps organizations comply with state and federal regulations.
  • Transparency: Robust reporting capabilities help ensure purchases conform to established policies. Real-time visibility into purchasing activities discourages maverick spending and provides leadership with valuable Insights.

5. The Timeline

Generally, an eProcurement marketplace can be implemented in 60 to 90 days and often a return on investment can be achieved within a single fiscal year. EqualLevel can provide a generic timeline for implementation to present to stakeholders or an estimated timeline can be created that is tailored to your organization’s unique situation.

Contact EqualLevel

A well-organized and thoughtful business case could be the difference between being able to implement an eProcurement marketplace, or not. Should you need help with this process, or for more information, go to www.equallevel.com.

April Marzzacco is a Strategic Sales Consultant for EqualLevel where she brings over 20 years of eCommerce and procurement experience to her role. Prior to EqualLevel, she served as a Business Process Analyst at the Lee County School District where she was responsible for production support, analysis, process documentation, training, and process improvement. She also worked in the district’s Procurement Department where she was instrumental in integrating both the EqualLevel marketplace and an eSourcing platform.

Blog

How EqualLevel GO “Levels the Playing Field” for Small/Disadvantaged Businesses

When making purchases, procurement professionals expect the same functionality they experience as consumers shopping online at home. They want a seamless experience between their purchasing or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, and their approved vendors’ most up-to-date product and pricing information. Because setting up a connection between a vendor site and an organization’s financial system can be a complex undertaking, public sector organizations often inadvertently favor larger, more sophisticated vendors. They usually have just a few catalogs from large vendors integrated with their organization’s ERP and those businesses get the bulk of their dollars.

HOW CAN SMALL/DISADVANTAGED VENDORS COMPETE AGAINST THE BIG GUYS, ESPECIALLY IF THEY DON’T HAVE AN ONLINE PRESENCE ALREADY?

EqualLevel GO gives small OEMs or distributors, who may have limited IT capabilities, the opportunity to establish a punchout catalog store, or punchout store, that integrates with ERPs. This allows small companies to appear alongside their larger competitors.

A punchout store is a web-based, supplier-managed catalog storefront. The punchout store can be custom built on top of an existing eCommerce site or, more commonly, managed for the supplier by a third-party solution provider. Buying organization employees can access the supplier’s punchout store directly from their eProcurement marketplace, also known as “punching out” to the supplier’s site, or “punchout.” Punchout allows the organization to maintain full control over order approval and payment.

HOW PUNCHOUT WORKS

The customer connects, or “punches out,” from their company’s system to a supplier’s eCommerce site. The punchout site identifies the buying organization and displays the appropriate products and prices. The shopper searches and selects goods they wish to purchase and adds them to their cart on the punchout site. At the end of the shopping session, the shopper checks out, which sends descriptions and prices of the goods placed in their cart to their ERP system.

BENEFITS OF EQUALLEVELGO

EqualLevel GO’s punchout commerce site is scalable, easy-to-use and administer, and  is provided at no charge to sellers when combined with EqualLevel’s buy-side eProcurement Marketplace solution. EqualLevel GO customers experience tangible benefits, such as:

Increased Average Order Value

A punchout catalog store, combined with up-selling and cross-selling, is a powerful combination that increases total and average order value. Suppliers can show related and complementary products in their punchout store shopping cart and can anticipate and make adjustments that will increase the average sale.

Greater Ability to Attract Big Customers

When it comes to gaining large customers, a punchout catalog store is a win-win. Big enterprises are often on the lookout for suppliers who can allow them to order directly through their ERP procurement system. For many large organizations, punchout is a ”must-have” for engagement.

Improved Sales Productivity

A punchout catalog store streamlines the sales process because it produces more accurate orders. This means less time is spent correcting orders, which improves response times and overall productivity.

Improved Customer Relationships

By simplifying the purchasing process, suppliers strengthen customer relationships by receiving and responding to orders more quickly.

Small/disadvantaged customers like Midwest Technology Products, GBEX, and El Paso Office Supply have implemented, or are in the process of implementing, EqualLevel GO to ensure their products are showing up in the search results of big buyers. “Every year since creating our punchout store, sales have increased. Even when a customer doesn’t end up placing an order online, more often than not they’ve visited the site beforehand to learn and discover, before picking up the phone to order,” said Robin Peterson of Midwest Technology Products.

Case Study

City Migrates to Best-of-Breed E-Commerce Solution, User Acceptance Soars

Boasting highly rated schools, low tax rates, affordable housing, and a dynamic parks and recreation system, the City of Sioux Falls provides its citizens with a great place to live, work, learn and play. It is no wonder that in 2020, the city was voted tenth among the 100 best places to live in the U.S. (livability.com). Situated in the middle of the Great Plains, the City of Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota, with a population of 180,927. Its progressive city government, with a 2022 operating budget of $281 million, is led by Mayor Paul TenHaken. The Mayor has continually pledged his commitment to investing city dollars into technology to improve processes. 

In 2021, despite having an end-to-end punchout system in place, the City of Sioux Falls’s procurement department was still processing thousands of purchase orders annually. The city’s punchout system was ineffective and therefore not being utilized by employees in the field. Not only was it clunky, it lacked functionality, it was hard to access, and users found the checkout process cumbersome. It was easier to send requisitions for purchases to procurement then to try to make purchases through the system they had in place. The city was also limited in the number of catalogs the system could employ, leaving options for products also limited. Additionally, the procurement department found running reports to be a lengthy process in their former system.

Purchasing Manager Scott Rust and Business Analyst Matt Newman knew that if they ever wanted to have a tool that made purchasing easier and that would be embraced by city employees, they would have to find one that was much more user-friendly. They set out to find a best-in-breed procurement platform that could provide an easy and effective shopping experience for end-users. 

Because user acceptance was the top priority for the city, they evaluated their options based on end-user needs. Rust and Newman created a list of features they surmised city departments would need in a new system. Then, they took that list to city employees to see if they were on the right track, and if there was anything that they may have missed. Based on the feedback they received they modified their list. “We listened to our end-users. We wanted them to be in the driver’s seat,” said Rust. Besides end-user acceptance, it was also important to the procurement department that the new system offer robust reporting capabilities. 

The City of Sioux Falls set out to find the “best-of-breed” eProcurement system. They conducted a formal evaluation of systems recommended by their counterparts at various schools, cities, and states. One system that was endorsed, the EqualLevel marketplace, seemed to check all of the city’s boxes. With its ability to provide users with an easy and effective shopping experience with unlimited catalogs in one centralized location, along with its extensive reporting capabilities, EqualLevel’s system seemed like a win for both the city’s end-users and the procurement department alike. During a demo, the city looked at every facet of the software to determine ease-of-use for the end-user. The checkout process was simple and seamless. On the administrative side, they found the workflow worked well for routing purchases over a certain threshold to procurement. They were also impressed with the system’s dashboard and reporting features.

Selling the product to the city’s CFO turned out to be an easy process for Rust and Newman. EqualLevel’s marketplace would cost less than their current product and it had a better ROI, making it a “no brainer,” said Newman. Having the ability to use a single sign-on through the city’s intranet, as well as the security certificate EqualLevel has in place, were selling points for the city’s IT department.

The City of Sioux Falls ultimately decided to partner with EqualLevel and signed a contract in fall 2021. The implementation process began with a kick-off meeting between the city and EqualLevel where the project was divided into stages and an aggressive timeline was established. The city supplied EqualLevel with the names of the suppliers that needed to be set up in the system. “EqualLevel worked closely with us and each of our suppliers. Some suppliers were more familiar with punchout than others. EqualLevel worked step-by-step with the companies that needed more help with the process,” Newman shared. In keeping with their timeline, the city was able to fully rollout the new system in April 2022. “The process was not too cumbersome at all,” said Rust. “We were surprised how fast it was adopted and how fast it earned a prominent spot on our city’s intranet.”

The City of Sioux Falls decided to launch its EqualLevel marketplace utilizing its pCard program for payment. Since the launch of the city’s new EqualLevel marketplace, there have been more orders, contract compliance has increased, and there has been less maverick spending.  “Now that we have been able to add so many more catalogs, the spend has gone up on contract considerably,” said Rust. In the three months the system has been in use, over $350,000 in spend has been executed through the marketplace. In the last 30 days alone, there have been over $30,000 in purchases. “EqualLevel was able to create an easy-to-use, Amazon-like shopping experience for the city. EqualLevel’s flexibility allowed us to create the system we need. The checkout process is seamless. From the field to the office, everyone can use it,” said Rust.

Today, with the implementation of the EqualLevel program, the city has removed over 600  purchase orders from the system. Buyers no longer have to wait for procurement department approval before making purchases. “Having 600 plus requisitions out of our system has freed up procurement employees to do other things. With supply chain issues and federal money that has become available, procurement is not getting any less busy. It truly couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Rust.

The city currently has 20 supplier catalogs onboarded with plans for more in the future. The fact that there is no limit to the number of catalogs that can be added equates to time savings for employees who can now utilize the procurement software as a one-stop-shop. Of the suppliers that have been onboarded, 12 have brick and mortar stores within city limits, allowing more of the city’s dollars to be kept locally. “Doing business with local retailers has been a priority for our city. With EqualLevel’s tool we are able to satisfy that goal,” said Rust.

On the administrative side, the marketplace’s dashboard includes reports that show up-to-date spend for the month or for the week, or by user. Easy-to-run reports and the ability to customize ad hoc reports means the product is not just a fit for departments in the field, but also for city administrators.

With 250 active users, the city has achieved a 70% user acceptance rate which is better than they had anticipated. End-users are taking ownership of the system including suggesting catalogs to add and providing ideas to make the software work even better for them. “With everything in one system, users are motivated to use it. People feel good about saving money with the built-in savings advisor, ELSA, and administrators like seeing their savings accumulate  through the ELSA reporting,” said Newman.

The ease of using the pCards through the marketplace has provided other benefits as well. “The rebate with our pCard program has grown exponentially through the increased use of the marketplace,” said Newman. “This additional rebate further increases the product’s ROI.”

Now that phase one implementation has been completed, Rust and Newman look forward to watching the marketplace continue to evolve and to seeing the savings achieved after the system has been in place for a full 12 months. Phase two plans are in place to add more catalogs and more users. “The system will continue to evolve and get better as we use it. The possibilities are endless,” said Rust.

The city sought to build a best-of-breed procurement solution for their community and they believe they have found it. “The product provides ease-of-use for both the end-user and the administrator. The analytics of the tool are amazing. We now have so much information at our fingertips.” Rust and Newman are excited about the future and the growing benefits that the EqualLevel marketplace will provide.

Blog

McKinsey Endorses Digitizing Procurement and Payables to Optimize Public Sector Savings

By Orville Bailey, CEO, EqualLevel.

Every year the state, local and education (SLED) procurement market spends a staggering $1.5 trillion dollars annually on goods and services. In 2018, after analyzing more than 700 procurement efforts, management consulting firm McKinsey & Company concluded that at 28 percent, the public sector has the greatest potential for savings of any other sector (How smarter purchasing can improve public-sector performance).  In round dollars this adds up to the public sector potentially being able to save $400 billion through optimizing procurement. 

According to McKinsey, online tools can reduce administrative burdens. And there’s no question just the streamlining of operations alone could save hundreds of millions in non value-added time. Procure-to-pay automation improves the efficiency and effectiveness of the procurement and payables processes by digitizing manual tasks and leveraging transparency to improve decision-making. The public sector has long been plagued by the inefficiencies and costs associated with manual requisitioning, ordering, invoice reconciliation, and payment processing.

Innovating with a best-of-breed eProcurement and eInvoicing platform optimizes execution across all processes associated with the rec-order-pay transaction. A well-designed solution helps procurement and finance to streamline operations. The benefits of eProcurement and eInvoicing are numerous:

Efficiency: Automating leads to faster cycle times and improved productivity. The elimination of paper and manual steps frees up time for employees to focus on more critical initiatives.

Cost Savings: With all approved vendors housed in one centralized location, best value products can be easily identified.

Compliance: By automating the three-bid process and showing only contracted vendors, an eProcurement marketplace helps organizations comply with state and federal regulations.

Transparency: Robust reporting capabilities help ensure purchases conform to established policies. Real-time visibility into purchasing activities discourages maverick spending and provides leadership with valuable insights.

There is no doubt “the use of modern technology can take a big chunk off of public-sector bills” (Now is the Time for Procurement to Lead Value Capture) and the time to automate procure-to-pay is now. By improving efficiencies, the SLED market has the opportunity to generate savings that can help to offset the impact of COVID-19 and other budget pressures they are facing. 

News

EqualLevel Congratulates 2022 NPI Achievement of Excellence in Procurement Award Recipients

EqualLevel is pleased to announce that five of its customers have been honored with the prestigious 2022 National Procurement Institute’s Achievement of Excellence in Procurement Award. We are proud to partner with each of these amazing procurement organizations. The value they deliver to their organizations and the public sector is unmatched, and their accolades are richly deserved.

The National Procurement Institute (NPI) is a non-profit organization that serves public procurement professionals. Their Achievement of Excellence in Procurement Award recognizes organizational excellence in public procurement. Recipients were selected based on five categories: innovation, professionalism, productivity, eProcurement, and leadership. The AEP is the premier award in public procurement.

EqualLevel congratulates the following entities on their important achievement:

NIP AEG Award Winners