“This was a very successful rollout. There was more positive feedback than I ever expected. The things that were added made the process easier for our employees. And, even though it was new, they were excited about it.”
Joliet Junior College transforms POs with ESM
Spend management solution streamlines process, cuts time, costs
Not that long ago, Joliet Junior College was spending thousands of dollars a year to simply process individual purchase orders. The workflow required six paper copies of each of those POs, which were then distributed by interoffice mail or snail mail and even, occasionally, fax.
Adding up the costs for paper, stamps, labor, ink and more, Roxanne Venegas, Joliet’s purchasing manager, estimates the community college in Joliet, Ill., was spending a whopping $85 to process each order.
But today, JJC has cut those PO costs dramatically, reducing them by more than 75 percent and stripping away the nearly seven days it took to process each one. For JJC, which serves about 30,000 students annually, the answer was ESM’s spend management solutions.
“This has been a savior for us,” Venegas said.
JJC first deployed ESM’s legacy system, Mercury Commerce, an eProcurement solution that ESM supports, but no longer updates.
In 2016, JJC upgraded to the newer ESM Purchase, a cloud-based spend management solution that features an online marketplace that looks no different than any e-commerce shopping site. To users familiar with the original Mercury Commerce, the migration to ESM Purchase looked like nothing more than an overnight system update.
But, for Venegas and her staff, ESM Purchase came with plenty of added benefits.
“In an institution of our size, initiating large-scale change takes time,” Venegas said. “That said, this was a very successful rollout. There was more positive feedback than I ever expected. The things that were added made the process easier for our employees. And, even though it was new, they were excited about it.”
“It’s really allowed us to capture our expenditures and see where there might be room to save money or discover vendors that we’re using more often than we realized,”
What’s making JJC’s users so happy? Here are seven things JJC is getting with ESM spend management:
ESM’s intuitive online marketplace guides users directly to Joliet’s approved vendors and negotiated contracts. What’s more, with ESM Purchase, users can track in real time what’s being purchased. So, instead of waiting on paper POs, the orders are now sent electronically. No longer do users have to wait and wonder whether their order has been approved or shipped.
“Overall, it’s much better day to day,” Venegas said. “The added technology has made our processes so much more efficient. Things are happening faster, which is allowing us to do a lot more.”
Automated checks and balances
Before ESM, JJC’s spend management system was challenging to use, and because it was a manual system,typos or incorrect account numbers were a common issue.
With ESM, Venegas has set up the college’s approval workflows based on account numbers that they were already using. Each account number is tied to an individual authorized user, who is in charge of their department purchases.
“Now, the person in charge is seeing the orders online as they come through the system,” she said. “And, if an approver doesn’t recognize it, they can ask questions before the order is even placed.”
The cloud-based solution makes it easy for Venegas to carefully track spend, flag any potential problems and uncover new opportunities to save.
ESM Purchase lets her search within the system for particular keywords, for instance, to ensure that spend is going to the right places. The solution also lets her easily follow where all of that money is going so she can pick up on trends and potential problems.
“It allows me to think outside the box to come up with my own ideas and solutions and to zone in on issues and make sure things are being done properly,” she said.
Everything was manual before JJC deployed ESM. Venegas’ director would actually look through each single purchase order to tease out mistakes. Not anymore.
“A lot of these things are getting caught by the system,” she said.
Now, instead of shifting through typos and illegible handwriting, JJC’s purchasing team can analyze spend reports that come through ESM.
“It’s really allowed us to capture our expenditures and see where there might be room to save money or discover vendors that we’re using more often than we realized,” she said. “Maybe we can sign on to programs that will allow money back or will allow us higher savings.”
Within the ESM Purchase online marketplace, shoppers are directed to an organization’s negotiated contracts and approved vendors. Users also can choose to add their Amazon Business account to the marketplace, guiding shoppers toward approved items and away from others.
JJC recently added Amazon to its shopping site. Venegas said she had noticed a growth in spend outside JJC’s marketplace, often small orders on P-cards. And, in many cases, the order was placed with Amazon. With the P-card, Venegas was only seeing those purchases after an order was placed, which allowed for no oversight or control.
“When we found out there was an opportunity to add Amazon at no extra cost as a punchout catalog, we jumped at the opportunity,” she said. “One of the greatest benefits of using Amazon Business as a punchout catalog is that we can approve P-card purchases before the order is placed.”
Now, with Amazon in the marketplace, JJC ends up with the cheapest price—either from Amazon or another vendor. If the price for a particular item on Amazon is cheaper than the price for the same item from an approved vendor in the marketplace, Venegas said she’ll approve the Amazon purchase. If not, she can redirect the order to a less expensive vendor, she said.
ESM Purchase isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but a flexible and configurable tool that is meeting the needs of all kinds of organizations. At JJC, with ESM’s support, the college has built a process for blanket purchase orders within ESM Purchase.
“It’s given us an opportunity to make sure that certain things don’t slip through the cracks,” Venegas said.
ESM Purchase can be integrated with any ERP. That includes the ERP that JJC relies on - Colleague by Ellucian. That compatibility was a key reason why the college landed with ESM originally. Today, the integration is a vital part of JJC’s spend management processes.
For Venegas, the move to ESM has been a no brainer. JJC is saving money and time, directing spend where it needs to go and getting a view of the big picture.
“We are extremely happy with the ESM Purchase upgrade. I particularly like the system’s flexibility in regards to approval workflows, reporting, shop page configuration, punchout catalog visibility, end user permissions and access and more,” she said. “It really is just a good product for us. It caters to just about all of our needs.”