By Valérie Michaud-Lal and Natascha Vigneault
Although procurement sounds like a dull subject, it involves much more than saving a few bucks by buying pens and paper in bulk. How would you go about buying a treadmill for a mouse? Or a GPS for a bee?
The University of Ottawa’s procurement team knows about such things.
Just take a second to look at all the stuff around you. That chair you are sitting on, that mouse you are clicking, the pen in your hand, the notepad you’ve been scribbling in. Have you ever wondered how they ended up in your office?
You might be surprised to know that uOttawa has a team that is responsible for negotiating contracts and making sure that the University gets the best quality products and services at the best price.
The role of procurement
Procurement plays a vital role in ensuring that the University of Ottawa, an organization as big as a small city, can keep functioning day-in and day-out. The team works closely with every client, whether they are a researcher, a professor or a support staff member, to really understand their needs and requirements, and this active listening helps the team respond better to the client’s needs and add value to their purchase through savings, equipment upgrades or extended warranties.
Procurement at this scale is quite the undertaking, given that uOttawa deals with over 4000 suppliers and spends more than $120 million each year on a variety of goods and services ranging from stationery and maintenance services to more specialized items, such as scientific instruments.
And given the growing number of research projects at uOttawa, the need to purchase specialized equipment is also growing. This is where a dedicated procurement team can really shine: by helping to find the right supplier from whom to purchase the right tools, whether the product is an everyday essential or a piece of highly specialized equipment.
A new system to simplify purchases
Keeping track of suppliers and managing purchases for a University is no easy task either. Fortunately, to help manage the growing list of suppliers, and comply with provincial procurement regulations, such as the Broader Public Sector Accountability Act of 2010, the University has acquired new purchasing software called SciQuest. This system will be like our very own Amazon-like website, but customized to fit the unique uOttawa environment. SciQuest will provide:
- A one-stop online shopping experience for every support staff member, professor, and researcher
- The ability to easily search and compare a wide range of products, such as lab supplies, office equipment and computer products
- The ability to track purchases from order to payment
- Automatic invoicing
Since June 1, 2015, three pilot groups within the Faculty of Medicine, the Faculty of Science and Financial Resources have started using SciQuest. The software will be released in phases across campus until it is fully deployed in the spring of 2016.
By adopting this best practice, uOttawa is joining hundreds of North American universities currently using this system, including a number of other Ontario universities, namely York University, Wilfrid Laurier, and Western University.