Procurement plays an integral role in fulfilling an institution’s mission and mandate, but is often constrained by limited resources — people, budgets and time. Vancouver Island University’s participation in BCNET contracts frees up staff time, saves the university money and delivers greater efficiencies and value for the university.
Like many university’s procurement departments, Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) office is challenged to meet growing demands across the campus. With four people supporting 2,000 faculty and staff, resources are often stretched, especially amidst major projects. We spoke with VIU’s Kathleen Hayden, Senior Manager, Strategic Procurement and Gary Gray, Manager, Procurement Operations, to talk about what collaborative procurement with BCNET has meant for their team and the university.
Q: Your department has had a busy year.
Yes. We have four major infrastructure projects on campus: we just finished construction on a new geo-exchange energy system, we’ve completed construction on our new Health and Science Centre, we’ve redeveloped our Marine, Automotive and Trades Complex and we’re preparing to implement a new core administration system.
VIU's Procurement team from left to right – Karmen Yee, Arshad Ashraf, Gary Gray, and Kathleen Hayden
Q: How has collaborative procurement influenced your job or activities?
Over the past two years, participating in BCNET contracts has allowed us to focus on these major projects while continuing to address our institution’s needs and delivering exceptional value to VIU.
Before BCNET, we struggled a bit with keeping up with the required procurement processes. When we run a single process, we require a minimum of three evaluation team members with expertise in the commodity for 3–5 months who are not always available. Our business units also struggle with limited resources. With BCNET leading procurement activities one resource is assigned to the project who acts on behalf of VIU.
"Participating in contracts alleviates the demands on us. We trust that BCNET is running the process the same way we would: it’s transparent, it’s fair, it’s open and it provides value for money. BCNET is an extension of our procurement team!"
Manager, Procurement Operations | Vancouver Island University
Q: What does collaborative procurement mean to VIU and how does it complement VIU’s goals and objectives?
We certainly see the value in participating in contracts. We have more buying and negotiating power and we can lower our procurement administration costs. We also have the opportunity to collaborate with other post-secondary institutions: we share information, and can understand each other’s requirements and how they are operating. In turn, we may be able to improve our processes and become more efficient from what we glean from other institutions. It pulls us all together.
[Participating in contracts] alleviates the demands on us. We trust that [BCNET] is running the process the same way we would: it’s transparent, it’s fair, it’s open and it provides value for money. BCNET is an extension of our procurement team!
Q: What do you look for in a BCNET contract?
There are six main criteria we look at...
Budget: We need to make sure that the contract aligns with our budget.
Cost savings: We compare the BCNET contract against our current arrangement (if there is one) to see if there is a potential for cost savings. Or research to see if it’s something we could do better with on our own.
Legal terms: We want to make sure our risk is minimized and that the appropriate legal terms have been negotiated in our favour.
Logistics: Being on the Island, we really have to make sure that the selected proponent can service us. Sometimes it’s more beneficial to engage with more local suppliers.
Implementation: The work involved in implementing the contract.
Value add: Anything over and above that will benefit the university.
"We certainly see the value in participating in contracts. We have more buying and negotiating power and we can lower our procurement administration costs."
Senior Manager, Strategic Procurement | Vancouver Island University
Q: Can you provide an example of a collaborative contract VIU participated in? What benefits and challenges have you seen?
Our contract for office supplies had expired and VIU’s procurement department had insufficient resources to lead a competitive bid process. Consequently, we decided to participate in BCNET’s contract with Staples Business Advantage (SBA), after first confirming the benefits to VIU. These benefits included an overall reduction in annual costs and shorter delivery times to our internal customers. Initially, the switch from our current supplier to SBA was challenging, due to the hundreds of VIU users who required training to be able to place orders on SBA’s website. Also, our IT department was heavily involved with their counterparts at SBA to ensure customized electronic invoices were in place at start up. Overall we had a smooth transition.
Q: Where do you see collaborative procurement in three years?
We see collaborative procurement still being very valuable on those larger spend contracts. Because of the growing emphasis on sustainability and social procurement, buying from local suppliers whenever possible is also very important to VIU, to our local economy, and improved community wellbeing.