East Central College

I would definitely advise doing it just because they’re not going to be doing any more updates of the Mercury system.

~ Melissa Popp
East Central’s purchasing manager

East Central moves from Mercury Commerce to award-winning eProcurement solution

East Central College has been a customer of ESM since the early days. The community college with five locations in the St. Louis, Mo., area automated its procurement processes with ESM’s original Mercury Commerce eProcurement solution more than a decade ago.

East Central now has migrated to ESM Purchase. Named one of University Business’ top products of the year for 2015, the intuitive eprocurement application helps campuses better manage spend, control costs and improve compliance.

“It’s really saved us a lot of time and some money in the long run,” said Melissa D. Popp, East Central’s purchasing manager, of the switch to ESM Purchase.

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Integration with Colleague

East Central signed on with Mercury Commerce because ESM was one of the few companies to offer a product that met East Central’s needs. That included an integration with its ERP, Colleague by Ellucian.

“ESM was the first company that teamed up with Colleague to offer this kind of online platform for requisition,” said Melissa D. Popp, East Central’s purchasing manager. “It really limited the playing field.”

The switch from paper to an automated workflow wasn’t immediate. A new comptroller eventually paved the way for digital procurement. “We started using it a lot heavier,” Popp said. “Not only did we use it for purchasing, we also started using it for our accounts payable system as well.”

Switch to ESM Purchase

About two years ago, as it rolled out ESM Purchase, the company made plans to retire Mercury Commerce. ESM staff continues to support the platform, but there are no more major updates to the solution. East Central leaders worried that they’d eventually lose the connection with Colleague if Mercury wasn’t updated.

“That would leave the product useless to us,” Popp said. “At that point, we were really using it a lot. We decided to bite the bullet.”

East Central signed a long term contract extension for ESM Purchase. It got off the ground in December 2015.


Sometimes it’s nice to get to review all of your procedures. You might get to change something and make it better.

~ Melissa Popp
East Central’s purchasing manager

Solution with benefits

Change can be hard, Popp acknowledged. ESM staff have helped East Central configure the solution to meet the system’s needs. “We were on Mercury for a lot of years,” she said, “and now we’re on a new system.”

Even in the first few months, Popp can tick off plenty of benefits. With ESM Purchase, Popp now can:

»  Make changes in any requisition to move the workflow along;
»  Give approvers permissions to edit orders;
»  Separate accounts payable from purchasing to ensure messages go to the right place;
»  Allow for ad-hoc review so employees who are not in the workflow can still follow the progress;
»  Use the forward function to move work to the appropriate person; and
»  Fill up a cart with items from different vendors. Once Popp or her staff transfers the cart to checkout, ESM Purchase separates the purchases into separate requisitions. “A lot of people really like that,” she said.

Better visibility

With ESM Purchase, East Central can see the bigger picture.

“You can open up and view workflow and see where it’s at in any situation,” Popp said. “They had that capacity in the Mercury Commerce system, but it wasn’t as readable. People weren’t able to comprehend it as well as they are able to with ESM Purchase.”

Major higher education institutions have implemented ESM Purchase, including Ivy Tech Community College, the California State University system, the University of Tennessee and many others. Popp recommends the move to colleagues elsewhere.

“I would definitely advise doing it just because they’re not going to be doing any more updates of the Mercury system,” she said. “You want to keep that communication line open to your online requisition system and your college system. There might be one critical upgrade that needs to happen for communication purposes and you’re out of luck.”

Even the exercise of switching to the new system has revealed some advantages. “Sometimes it’s nice to get to review all of your procedures,” Popp said. “You might get to change something and make it better.”