Industry News

Destroy disruption with digitization in your procurement office

Institutions can build resilience in the face of future crises, meet more ambitious environmental targets, create better relationships with local communities, and push ahead to thrive in the post-pandemic world."

More than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, it’s clear that some education institutions have managed to weather the disruptions of the past year remarkably well, having put in place successful strategies to manage their supply chains and procurement processes.

A large part of this can be attributed to their digital infrastructure. Older supply chain models involving sole-sourcing or overseas suppliers managed to save dollars in the past, but buckled under the pressure of the pandemic, leading to major shortages for many institutions. And paper-based procurement processes or siloed information made it difficult for some institutions to pivot rapidly in the face of disruption.

By contrast, institutions using digital procurement systems to manage a diversified portfolio of suppliers, with regionalization of the supply chain and a focus on nearshore rather than offshore suppliers, gave institutions far more flexibility and resilience in sourcing and relationship management, greatly mitigating risks. These systems typically include simple, easy-to-use tools that can help institutions manage suppliers with ease, source new suppliers, manage risk, and help the procurement office manage processes more efficiently.

Here are some examples of how digital has helped some institutions handle the choppy waters of the pandemic.


Globalization has dominated trade for the last few decades, but the pandemic has revealed its weaknesses. Many organizations are looking for alternative solutions. For a long time, organizations have been reliant on singular overseas suppliers, securing cheap supply deals, but with manufacturing bases like China being disrupted, and with uncertainty over shipping, it is clear that regional trade can increase both efficiency and flexibility.

A regionalized model can involve onshore suppliers who are within the same country, or nearshore suppliers, who are in neighboring countries. Digital tools allow procurement teams to quickly seek local vendors who can meet changing delivery requirements and publish those vendors to their internal buyers via custom catalogs. Keeping production regional can also ensure relationships with local, small-to-medium-sized firms as opposed to anonymous suppliers who may not align with an institution’s mission and goals.

Ease of Sourcing

New sourcing challenges have prompted procurement teams to review traditional suppliers and seek out new ones. E-sourcing allows institutions to review past performance and deliver insight about which suppliers meet diversity needs, are flexible on price, or can deliver immediately during a time of necessity.

As well, questions like “Who is a key supplier that we need to maintain a relationship with?” can easily be answered. Data like these helped many institutions identify new areas of risk during the pandemic.

Predictive analysis

Predictive analysis has served to provide resilience by offering teams the ability to create contingency plans and prepare for the future. Predictive analysis can mitigate risk, decrease costs, and improve efficiency. It allows us to put contingencies in place for the downturns we know will inevitably happen. Without specialized predictive analysis, which considers past data and predicts potential outcomes with corresponding likelihoods, crisis preparation is based on human estimation, with unpredictable results. Digital systems create the backbone of any organization. They are far more accurate and can ultimately save significant amounts of time, money, and resources.

Achieve wider goals

Managing procurement more intelligently has broader benefits as well. Sourcing locally has wide-ranging environmental benefits, reducing an institution’s carbon footprint in a time of climate crisis. As well, with complete, accurate information about the supply chain and a better way to manage that information, institutions can not only more intelligently manage costs and respond to delays, but gauge environmental impacts more precisely.

By moving forward with advanced digital systems, more sustainable and regional procurement models, and deeper, more deliberate supplier relations, institutions can build resilience in the face of future crises, meet more ambitious environmental targets, create better relationships with local communities, and push ahead to thrive in the post-pandemic world.

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More case studies

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McDaniel College – From Paper-based to Automated and Digital

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Joliet Junior College masters supply chain uncertainty with ESM Source

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Western Washington University drives sustainability and diversity

Influencing buyer behavior to support University values

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