21 June 2001 | Robin Parker
Buyers at the UK's largest charities have launched an investigation into the potential benefits of collaborative IT procurement.
The Charities' Consortium IT Directors' Forum, which includes members of 55 charities, has formed a sub-committee to examine the potential for savings in bidding jointly for suppliers and services.
"We wanted a broad idea of whether we were providing value for money for our organisations, which is naturally crucial in the charity sector," said Graeme Steele, forum treasurer and IT director at Oxfam which, along with Christian Aid and Action Aid, is on the six-member sub-committee. It will hold its first meeting this month.
The forum promotes joint benchmarking as an alternative to using external consultancies. "We will see if it is feasible and of interest to members to get somewhere near a standardised offering," said Steele.
"There is significant pressure on IT managers," added Brendan Major, IT director for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC). "We have a savings target of 10 per cent on our buying costs, and need in particular more value from our intranet infrastructure and e-procurement system."
While the review was initiated by IT executives, it need not be confined to computer purchasing, said Major. "I will be surprised if the review doesn't broaden out to other areas."
Steele agreed that procurement in general needed to be collaborative. "Some of our offices are in the poorer areas of the world. It can be expensive to set up in disaster zones and this will help us all to share resources."
Belinda Turner, procurement manager at the NSPCC, said she was grateful that larger charities were involving their general procurement managers in the project. She added that smaller charities, with less bargaining power, will gain significant leverage from the initiative.