The new system cut the requisition to purchase order time from five days to 24 hours ©Northumbria University
The new system cut the requisition to purchase order time from five days to 24 hours ©Northumbria University

How Northumbria University implemented P2P

User experience and engagement was fundamental to introducing a procurement-to-pay (P2P) system at Northumbria University, its commercial director has said.

Introducing a new P2P system was one of the first things Mark Gill, commercial director at the university, was asked to do when he joined the institution. The organisation had already tried and failed twice to bring a new system in, and was still dependent on paper-based procurement systems.

Speaking via video link at eWorld, Gill said all 12 schools at the university were doing procurement differently and were “very reliant” on paper processes. It took five days on average for a requisition to be turned into a purchase order. “The majority of our invoices were all manually handled, so quite an archaic, reactive purchasing process,” he said.

After looking at why the last two attempts to introduce P2P systems had failed, Gill ran a procurement process followed by a university-wide rollout of a cloud-based system that concluded in April 2017. Purchase order times are now down to 24 hours after a requisition has been made.

Engagement and user experience were two of the biggest issues being raised by stakeholders Gill spoke to, so he had teams conduct supplier presentations and selection processes across the university. This allowed stakeholders to see the new system, engage with it and discuss it. The teams were “a bit of a mammoth task to coordinate”, he said, but it started to create change champions within the university.

Another issue highlighted by previous attempts to introduce P2P was that the university had tried to create a system that had too many unique processes. “Historically we let everybody define their own unique processes for buying,” said Gill. To prevent this being a problem again, he rolled out one clearly-defined purchasing process, applying it to everyone, and then looked to see what exceptions were needed.

It was also important for Gill to “own the system”, which is why he said he chose a cloud-based platform – something new for the university. He chose a system that allows his team to alter configurations.

“The ability to configure and be fleet of foot has been massive, and one of the key things for us that was going to be different this time round was making sure that I owned the system locally in my team. I have expertise sitting in my team, which has a degree of IT experience but also a degree of buying experience.” he said.

“We own that system, we make the configuration changes here because fundamentally it’s important we get that right.”

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