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EqualLevel Unveils Exciting Opportunities with the Launch of its Preferred Partner Program

[January 2024] – EqualLevel, a leading provider of procurement and purchasing solutions, is thrilled to announce the official launch of its Preferred Partner Program, a strategic initiative aimed at fostering collaboration and mutual growth with a select number of eligible Partners.

The Preferred Partner Program is designed to provide unique advantages and opportunities for promotion to partners. The initial launch includes two distinct tiers – Silver and Gold – with plans to incorporate additional tiers as the program grows, allowing the program to be accessible to suppliers of all sizes.

EqualLevel’s Preferred Partner Program is a testament to our commitment to fostering collaborative success,” says Alana Bailey, EqualLevel GO’s Product Marketing Manager. “By joining our program, Partners open the door to new opportunities, increased exposure, and the chance to showcase their solutions to a diverse and engaged customer base.”

Benefits of a Preferred Partnership

Let US grow with YOU.  

EqualLevel’s Preferred Partner Program is founded on the principles of collaboration, growth, and excellence. By providing the tools and support necessary for success, Partners can expect to benefit from the efficiency of EqualLevel’s eProcurement solutions.

  • Marketing, Exposure, and More: Preferred Partners enjoy prominent placement in sales materials, demos, and marketing pieces, providing unparalleled exposure to an engaged and growing customer base. This strategic positioning allows Partners to showcase their offerings to a diverse audience, creating opportunities for increased brand recognition.
  • Highlights in Marketplaces and Demos: Preferred Partners receive highlights in customer marketplaces and sales demos, showcasing their offerings to potential clients. This dedicated exposure ensures that Partners can create a compelling narrative for their offerings.
  • Targeted Sales Meetings: Regular meetings provide a platform for Partners to discuss joint network customers and strategize on key accounts. These meetings foster collaboration, ensure alignment in our approach, and maximize the potential for joint success.
  • Enhanced Relationship with Marketplace Customers: Preferred Partners understand and stay ahead of market developments and are well-positioned to align their offerings with evolving market needs. This proactive approach provides insight into buyer behavior while establishing a foundation for meaningful engagement with potential clients.
  • Detailed Company Profile: A detailed company profile is made available throughout the entire application. This not only enhances visibility but also adds credibility to their presence in the Marketplace. Higher visibility, increased information, and the option to provide marketing materials and additional resources contribute to a robust profile that resonates with potential clients.

We strive to set EqualLevel GO apart from other systems as an accessible option which provides suppliers of any size the tools to create and grow their eProcurement presence,” adds Lily Potocko, EqualLevel GO’s Senior Product Manager. “I am very excited to see the additional benefits and differentiation we will bring to our suppliers with the launch of this new initiative.”

Navigating the Tiers within the Preferred Partner Program:

We believe in empowering our Partners and providing them with the visibility and support they need. 

Within the Preferred Partner Program, Partners embark on a journey tailored to enhance collaboration and unlock countless opportunities. 

  • Silver Partner: This tier provides promotional offerings, granting Partners eligibility for increased visibility, marketing, and buyer connections while uncovering net-new opportunities. This entry-level tier serves as a foundation for those beginning their collaborative journey with EqualLevel or looking to increase their reach.
  • Gold Partner: The Gold Partner tier, a step above Silver, offers all of the benefits of Silver and more. Gold Partners are distinguished by a proven record of deliverability and communication either in their GO Stores or while engaging with the Marketplace. With this, they will receive prioritized visibility, added marketing opportunities, and additional collaboration with the EqualLevel team.

This program is opt-in only.

All recommended suppliers must meet certain eligibility criteria. This program is an optional marketing initiative designed to increase the promotional opportunities for select suppliers. It is not required for participation within EqualLevel Marketplaces and is separate from EqualLevel GO.

For more information about the Preferred Partner Program and how to become a Partner, click here.

Why EqualLevel?

At EqualLevel, we believe in creating win-win scenarios.

This program will provide benefits to all of our stakeholders – our buyers will have an improved experience by having more access to supplier information and suppliers will have more visibility and insight into buyer decision-making.

EqualLevel is committed to empowering Partners and creating a collaborative ecosystem that drives success for all stakeholders. The Preferred Partner Program represents a significant step forward in recognizing and rewarding the contributions of Partners in the procurement and purchasing landscape.

With a commitment to innovation and collaboration, we stand as a leading provider of procurement and purchasing solutions. The Preferred Partner Program offers suppliers the platform to grow, succeed, and deliver exceptional value to their customers.

Further reading:

  • For more information on PunchOut, check out our blog post, or review our website punchoutcommerce.com.
  • Click here to learn more about EqualLevel solutions and how they can help you!

Our team of experts is always happy to help, contact us to get started.

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EqualLevel Reflects on a Year of Record Growth, Innovation, and Achievements in eProcurement

As the calendar turns to a new year, EqualLevel takes a moment to recount the dynamic journey that characterized its latest chapter. This reflective pause is not just a nostalgic look back, but an acknowledgment of transformative strides, conquered challenges, and achieved milestones. It signifies the start of a new narrative, with blank pages waiting to be filled with stories of innovation, collaboration, and shared successes.

Gratitude in Transformation

EqualLevel extends heartfelt appreciation to its valued customers for choosing them as partners in navigating procure-to-pay transformation. 

The trust, loyalty, and collaboration of these customers have been the foundation upon which EqualLevel’s journey has unfolded. The choice to embark on this dynamic expedition with EqualLevel is a testament to a shared commitment to progress, efficiency, and the pursuit of excellence.

Here’s Some of our Highlights from 2023:

Onboarded a Record number of New Customers:
EqualLevel expanded its community by welcoming numerous new customers in 2023, establishing mutually beneficial partnerships and contributing to client growth. Beyond numerical expansion, this initiative aimed at building meaningful connections, forging lasting partnerships, and creating an ecosystem where collaboration thrives.

Featured Recognition in Government Procurement Magazine and NCPP:
EqualLevel achieved a distinguished honor with a feature article in Government Procurement Magazine, highlighting the company’s significant contributions to procurement innovation and positioning it as a trailblazer in government procurement.

Expanded Requisition Capabilities from Punchout Marketplaces:
EqualLevel strategically expanded requisition capabilities from punchout marketplaces, creating a paradigm shift in how users interact with the procurement process. This initiative aimed at providing a seamless procurement experience by connecting requisition initiation and payment processes.

Administrative Control of Commodity Code Mapping:
In 2023, EqualLevel introduced administrative control of commodity code mapping, empowering users with a powerful tool for efficient management and customization in the ever-evolving landscape of procurement.

Introduction of the GO Video Library:
The GO Video Library, inaugurated in 2023, stands as a testament to EqualLevel’s commitment to revolutionizing supplier engagement and knowledge dissemination. It became a dynamic resource hub for supplier partners, offering visual aids and content for confident navigation of GO technologies.

To visit our GO video library, click here.

Enhanced EqualLevel User Community:
EqualLevel prioritized the user experience by revitalizing the EqualLevel user community, creating a vibrant and dynamic hub for shared insights and collective growth.

Knowledge-Packed Webinars:
Throughout the year, EqualLevel organized a series of knowledge-packed webinars, turning virtual platforms into dynamic arenas where industry experts explored diverse facets of procurement trends and strategies.

To see our webinars, click here.

What’s Next?

As EqualLevel steps into 2024, these milestones are guiding lights illuminating the path toward a future where procurement solutions are strategic assets empowering organizations to thrive. The commitment remains unwavering—to push boundaries, redefine possibilities, and provide unparalleled value to customers.

EqualLevel is ready to embark on a new phase of the journey, armed with insights gained, lessons learned, and enduring partnerships. Together with customers, EqualLevel looks ahead, ready to script a narrative of innovation, growth, and shared triumphs in the evolving landscape of procure-to-pay transformation.

Further reading:

  • For more information on PunchOut, check out our blog post, or review our website punchoutcommerce.com.
  • Click here to learn more about EqualLevel solutions and how they can help you!

Our team of experts is always happy to help, contact us to get started.

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What is cXML and Why is it Important?

What is cXML?

Commerce XML, also known as cXML, facilitates transactions between buyers and sellers’ systems. Much of cXML’s framework is influenced by EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), encompassing electronic purchase orders, invoices, and advanced ship notices. Punchout catalogs employ cXML as their primary communication standard, though alternative methods like OCI and xCBL also exist.

What is Punchout?

Examples of cXML Transactions:

  • cXML PunchOut
  • Order Message
  • cXML Order
  • Confirmation (Order Acknowledgement)
  • cXML Ship Notice (ASN)
  • cXML Invoice
  • cXML Quote Request
  • XML Quote

How does cXML work with PunchOuts?

Consider an example with:

  • A seller: Supplier Connections
  • A buyer: John Doe from Buyers Inc

Step 1: Initiation

When John at Buyers Inc. is ready to place an order for more supplies, he can log into the Buyers Inc. eProcurement system, and enter the Punchout store for Supplier Connections. Once inside the PunchOut store, John can browse the Supplier Connections products, select what he needs directly from the catalog, view real-time pricing and availability, and add items to his shopping cart.

Step 2: Checkout and Cart Transfer

When John is ready to check out, the cart’s contents are transferred back to the procurement system for Buyers Inc. This request notifies the Buyers Inc. procurement system and awaits requisition approval from the buyer’s manager or purchasing authority.

Step 3: Purchase Order

Once approved, a purchase order is generated and if Buyers Inc. supports electronic purchase orders the order is delivered to Supplier Connections by the eProcurement system via cXML.

Step 4: Order Confirmation and Shipment

Supplier Connections’ order fulfillment team will ship the order to Buyers Inc. followed by a shipment notification and an invoice. If Buyers Inc. supports advanced ship notices via cXML, the Supplier Connections system will send a direct electronic notification that the item has been shipped.

Step 5: Invoice and Purchase Generation

The final step in this process is receiving an invoice. If Buyers Inc. eProcurement platform supports electronic invoices, these can also be sent from Supplier Connections via our Punchout Catalog administration system with one quick click.

Contact us to learn more about how cXML purchase generation can help build your business.

cXML at EqualLevel

The integration of cXML facilitates seamless transactions between buyers and sellers. EqualLevel GO harnesses these capabilities to elevate procurement processes to new heights of efficiency and effectiveness. With cXML, buyers are empowered to checkout PunchOut catalogs with ease. The procurement journey, from initiation to invoice generation, is streamlined and transparent, fostering a seamless flow of information and transactions.

Through EqualLevel GO’s innovative approach, businesses can experience the transformative impact of cXML in a practical and user-friendly manner. The successful partnership between cXML and EqualLevel GO serves as a testament to the progressive evolution of eProcurement systems, exemplifying how technology can be harnessed to enhance connectivity, accuracy, and collaboration in the realm of business transactions. To unlock the full spectrum of advantages that the convergence of cXML and EqualLevel GO offers, we encourage you to reach out and explore how this dynamic duo can reshape and optimize your procurement processes.

Further reading:

  • For more information on PunchOut, check out our blog post, or review our website punchoutcommerce.com.
  • Click here to learn more about EqualLevel solutions and how they can help you!

Our team of experts is always happy to help, contact us to get started.

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The Power of PunchOut: Enhancing Your Sales Strategy with a PunchOut Store

As more companies embrace eProcurement, it is important to utilize and understand how implementing a PunchOut store can help you drive sales, improve customer satisfaction, and streamline your supplier business strategy. 

What is PunchOut?

PunchOut catalogs are eCommerce storefronts that allow institutions, government agencies, and corporate buyers to access and purchase a supplier’s products directly from their procurement systems. Similar to an online catalog where you would shop for clothing, PunchOut speeds the ordering and approval processes for issuing purchase orders.

PunchOut catalogs have specific requirements that make purchasing simple 

Traditional B2B or B2G purchasing methods can get time consuming and difficult to manage, requiring buyers to visit multiple supplier websites independently. By creating an integrated experience between buyers and suppliers, PunchOut ensures cost-efficient, error-free transactions and strengthens vendor relationships. 

Benefits of PunchOut

The PunchOut process brings numerous benefits to both buyers and suppliers. For buyers, having a unified storefront offers a user-friendly, streamlined shopping experience, reducing manual data entry and the risk of errors. Additionally, it ensures compliance with procurement policies and budget controls. For suppliers, PunchOut fosters closer relationships with buyers, leading to improved customer satisfaction and loyalty. It also simplifies the process of managing product catalogs and pricing, as updates are reflected in real-time on the buyer’s procurement system.

Step-by-Step PunchOut Process

Though it may seem complicated, the PunchOut process is actually very simple. Here’s the breakdown on how it works: 

1. Initiation:

The PunchOut process begins when a buyer logs in to their eProcurement system (e.g., an eProcurement platform like EqualLevel Marketplace, Ariba, Coupa, etc). From their dashboard, they initiate the punch out process by selecting the preferred supplier they wish to connect with. This session allows real-time interaction and data exchange between the two platforms. 

2. Shopping:

In order to shop, a buyer is “punched out” to their supplier’s website, seamlessly navigating to the catalog within the eProcurement system. With EqualLevel GO, supplier’s eCommerce websites become built-in extensions of their buyer’s procurement system.

Within the PunchOut catalog, the buyer can browse through the supplier’s products, view detailed descriptions, compare prices, and add items to their cart. All product information, including pricing and availability, is retrieved in real-time from the supplier’s database. 

3. Cart Transfer:

After the buyer has finished shopping, they add selected items to a cart within the PunchOut catalog. When they are finished, the buyer’s cart will be transferred back to their eProcurement system to await approval. 

4. Approval:

Back in the buyer’s eProcurement system, the cart content is reconciled, allowing their organization’s purchasing authority to review the order. 

5. Purchase Generation:

Once the cart is approved, the buyer’s eProcurement system automatically generates a purchase order using cXML coding language containing the information from the PunchOut session. This order is sent to the supplier to fulfill, completing the purchase process.

PunchOut with EqualLevel

PunchOut is a transformative technology that revolutionizes the procurement process for all businesses. By integrating a buyer’s procurement system with their supplier’s catalog, PunchOut enhances user experience, improves operational efficiency, and empowers organizations with valuable data insights to make informed decisions.

With EqualLevel GO, we ensure a seamless and user-friendly PunchOut shopping experience, enabling your buyers to easily access, purchase, and checkout from your catalogs within our system. Our platform has full PunchOut capabilities and empowers clients with unparalleled cost efficiency. Get set up with a personalized PunchOut store toexpand your connections with unlimited access to EqualLevel clients, automate andsimplify the purchasing process, eliminate manual errors, and reduce administrative overhead. Choose EqualLevel to promote your business’ eCommerce excellence.

Further reading:

  • For more information on PunchOut, including guides and other tools, check out punchoutcommerce.com.
  • Click here to learn more about EqualLevel solutions and how they can help you!

Our team of experts is always happy to help, contact us to get started.

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GPO Utilizes eProcurement Marketplace to Bring Vendor Catalogs Under One Umbrella

For GPO Catholic Purchasing Services (CPS), the use of PunchOut sites, where suppliers are responsible for their own product listings, is imperative. Handling the descriptions, photos, and other product details for their 200 vendors’ tens of thousands of products, on top of their other critical duties, would prove overwhelming for CPS’s seven employees. Instead, CPS utilizes EqualLevel’s eProcurement marketplace to bring all of their vendors’ catalogs under one umbrella. 

About Catholic Purchasing Services

Founded in 1988 and located in Newton, Massachusetts, CPS began offering products at a discount to their members via a printed catalog before moving their catalog online in 2010. While CPS’s procurement service is offered through the Catholic Church, membership is open to 501(c)(3) faith-based organizations of all denominations. 25 percent of the market share, which is comprises churches, schools, and nursing homes, are CPS members.

CPS brands and partners include KI, OSV, Smith System, National Public Seating, Staples, Xerox, Sherwin Williams, Slabbinck, School Health, Virco, Quadient, Root Candles, Cavanagh, Cintas, and School Specialty, among many others. 

EqualLevel’s eProcurement Marketplace

In 2019, CPS conducted a search for a robust eProcurement system that could be integrated with their existing ERP, NetSuite SuiteCommerce. The organization was impressed with EqualLevel’s partnerships with Staples and other large suppliers. The idea of leveraging EqualLevel’s relationships to offer more vendors and products to their members was appealing. “EqualLevel was by far the best value for the investment,” said O’Hara. “We looked at a lot of other sites that were more expensive and they could not deliver the connections that EqualLevel’s marketplace already had built right in,” she continued. “The technology behind their platform is sound. It gives us a sense of security knowing that EqualLevel is hosting everything and has robust security and connection.”

With just one click, EqualLevel’s solution gives CPS’s roughly 9,000 members access to hundreds of vendors and their products, at special contract pricing and with extended terms. “With EqualLevel’s PunchOut sites, we don’t need to host SKU’s–that’s all done via the suppliers. The marketplace largely supports itself so we don’t have to worry about anything except marketing the site,” said Mary Schell O’Hara, CPS CEO since June 2022. 

Growth

CPS’s site includes six critical vendors brought to the marketplace through partnerships with EqualLevel, including Staples. The ability to offer these vendors’ products at a discount to members has had a significant positive impact on the organization’s growth and draw. Since adopting the EqualLevel marketplace in 2019, CPS’s growth in numbers of transactions and dollars has been 25 percent year over year, even with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic factored in.

Sung Oh, EqualLevel’s Vice President of Technical Operations & Support, said of the relationship, “We have enjoyed our partnership with Catholic Purchasing Services and are proud of the tailored marketplace solution we have created to meet their needs. We’ve integrated with their WordPress and NetSuite SuiteCommerce applications for ease of access and a streamlined shopping experience for their members.”

Onboarding New Suppliers

CPS continues to work closely with EqualLevel to bring new vendors to their marketplace. They recently added a partner of many years, Regency Lighting, after receiving requests from members to add a lighting supplier to the site. CPS has been working with Regency Lighting and EqualLevel to connect the supplier’s PunchOut site to the marketplace. “Sung and his team are very easy to work with. We have had no issues with technical help and expertise. The support they have offered has been tremendous,” said O’Hara. Regency Lighting will go live on CPS’s site in early 2023.

The Future for CPS and EqualLevel

In the future, CPS hopes to take advantage of some of the marketplace’s other functionality, including the built-in approval workflow component. This piece allows members to analyze and control spend, as well as put approvals in place. “We are planning to grow the platform by adding new suppliers. We want to leverage EqualLevel’s partnerships and also bring on new vendors. We definitely have EqualLevel in our long term plans,” O’Hara concluded.

For more information on Catholic Purchasing Services, visit www.catholicpurchasing.org.

Click here to read how EqualLevel has helped other cooperatives and GPO’s.  

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Building Your Business Case to Drive Operational Procurement Savings With eProcurement

EqualLevel’s April Marzzacco knows how important it is to present a well-researched and evidence-backed business case when trying to garner approval to drive efficiency and process improvement in a difficult fiscal climate. Prior to joining EqualLevel, she was an entrepreneur and public sector change agent. In this article, Marzzacco outlines the five key elements she recommends you include to create a business case that maximizes your chances for approval.

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. 

Download April Marzzacco’s comprehensive Guide to Building a Business Case for an eProcurement Marketplace where the author goes even more in-depth on what is needed to craft a winning Business Case.

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.

A well-organized and thoughtful business case could be the difference between being able to implement an eProcurement marketplace, or not.  

This post was originally published on September 6, 2022 and updated on February 27, 2023.

April Marzzacco

About the Author

April Marzzacco brings over 20 years of eCommerce and procurement experience to her role as Senior Manager, Demand Generation & Partnerships for EqualLevel. 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.

April may be reached at amarzzacco@equallevel.com or via LinkedIn.

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Utilizing Technology to Reduce 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 bookkeeper turnover rates. 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:

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

While the benefits of eProcurement are well known, there are still many agencies today that continue to utilize outdated and inefficient systems for purchasing. Of those organizations that have adopted online bidding and purchasing procedures, many still have not addressed the administrative inefficiencies that exist. From increased transparency and productivity, to proven hard dollar savings, eProcurement offers a solution for many of the challenges organizations face. So why aren’t more agencies adopting eProcurement? Read on to learn about the eProcurement myths that persist today, and why advancements in technology have rendered them moot.

Five Common eProcurement Myths

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 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.

Further Reading

Click here to learn more about EqualLevel’s eProcurement marketplace.

 

 

Blog

Creating a Business Case for eProcurement

Procurement departments across the country are reporting that they are busier than ever with staff shortages, budget cuts, and ongoing supply chain issues. 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 organization’s procurement process. Based on your research, and recommendations from other agencies, you may have already decided that implementing an eProcurement marketplace is just that solution. Creating a formal business case for eProcurement is the best way to present this new initiative to achieve stakeholder approval.

What is an eProcurement business case?

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). 

The Five Elements of a Successful Business Case

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.

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.

About the Author

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.

Further Reading

Click here to learn more about EqualLevel’s eProcurement system.

Blog

eInvoicing: Why It’s So Important

For the past several years, the Federal Reserve System has encouraged businesses to switch from paper-based systems to electronic invoicing, or eInvoicing, to streamline payments across the nation. In a paper published by the Federal Reserve, The Strategies for Improving the U.S. Payment System, the agency called for businesses to implement the complete automation of transactions from the moment a purchase order is submitted, all the way through to payment and reconciliation. 

Benefits of eInvoicing

In many organizations still operating under a paper-based system, invoice approval and reconciliation are the most laborious, time-consuming, and error-prone steps in the procurement cycle. Paystream Advisors estimates $4 to $8 in processing costs can be saved for every paper invoice converted to an eInvoice. With organizations handling thousands of invoices, this adds up to significant savings. But processing costs are not the only benefit. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minnesota paper, U.S. Adoption of  Electronic Invoicing: Challenges and Opportunities, “while a business can accrue benefits from adopting electronic payments alone, materially greater benefits are gained in lower costs, cash management, fewer errors, risk mitigation and transparency when the entire process is electronic.” 

How eInvoicing Works

eInvoices are created, sent, and received in an automated, structured electronic format. This allows employees to quickly and easily approve suppliers’ invoices for payment, with or without a purchase order. Once approved, invoices can be exported or directly integrated into an accounts payable system. In the simplest terms, eInvoicing enables sellers to automatically generate and send invoices to customers digitally, and customers can in turn process and pay those invoices digitally. This results in increased control of overpayments, reduced data entry and document handling costs, and accelerated invoice approval. 

EqualLevel’s eInvoicing Software

EqualLevel’s eInvoicing software creates an efficient online system that integrates seamlessly with an organization’s accounting or ERP system. With the software, eInvoices are automatically entered into an accounts payable system where three-way matching processes ensure accuracy before payment completion. Through cXML, eInvoicing links internal financial workflows to payment systems for both suppliers and buyers. By integrating the two, organizations can make practical strides in their efforts to automate and enhance procurement. 

eInvoicing is essential for organizations looking to streamline their payment processes. Go to www.equallevel.com today for more information on EqualLevel’s eInvoicing capabilities. 

Sources: 

The Federal Reserve Bank of Minnesota paper, “U.S. Adoption of  Electronic Invoicing: Challenges and Opportunities” 

The Federal Reserve System paper, “The Strategies for Improving the U.S. Payment System.”

Further Reading

Click here to learn more about EqualLevel’s eInvoicing software.

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