In this interview, Anchor Group’s head of procurement, Iain Dawson, and Science Warehouse’s business development manager, Richard Porter discuss their joint implementation of a new e-procurement and e-invoicing system.
What were the reasons behind Anchor’s transformational change?
The driving factors were to make buying easier for our staff, reduce the internal costs of our ordering and payment processes and to help with the consolidation of our support services function. It was also about being more efficient; any savings we can make are ploughed back into the business so we can continue to improve our services for the older people living with Anchor.
How did Anchor approach this?
Part of this project identified the need for an electronic catalogue to complement our existing ordering process, using a standardised coding system which could be applied to all areas of supply, supporting electronic invoicing through ‘PO flip’ (the rapid conversion of a purchase order into an invoice) as a minimum, with integration to our ERP platform. The solution also had to include a supplier-neutral user interface to simplify the ordering experience for our end-users.
We investigated a number of IT suppliers, spoke to a number of other organisations who had similar solutions and invited a number of best-of-breed suppliers to competitively tender.
How long did the project take?
The first phase, covering the electronic catalogue, took around 10 months. This was longer than expected because our wider transformational project included extensive internal IT infrastructure changes and these took priority for our available technical resources. We also found that the availability of external technical resources was limited because a number of other organisations were carrying out similar implementations.
What have been the benefits of e-procurement?
Our spending data is now much more granular due to standardised categorisation. We have just finished implementing the second phase of the project, covering e-invoicing which will give us hands-free, per-line invoice matching for the suppliers on Science Warehouse’s eMarketplace, with detailed purchasing descriptions on each line of the invoice. Around 60 per cent of our front-line goods and services ordering is made on the platform and we expect over 80 per cent of invoices from those transactions to be automatically processed.
We’re planning to expand the solution with the addition of Science Warehouse’s eServices and eQuotes modules to ensure we get the best from eMarketplace.
Do you have any suggestions for other housing providers considering e-procurement?
My first suggestion would be to engage very early with your suppliers during the supplier on-boarding process, especially if they aren’t familiar with UNSPSC (United Nations Standard Products & Services Code) and working in a hosted marketplace. My second suggestion would be to take the plunge and fully embrace level 4 UNSPSC because you will gain incredibly accurate spending data to support your procurement function and it will greatly enhance your ability to have truly hands-free e-invoicing, which your accounts payable team can trust.
Iain Dawson is head of procurement at Anchor Group, and Richard Porter is business development manager at Science Warehouse.