Procuring Time

Sometimes, it is the small jobs that add up to swallow a big chunk of IT time. If your team gets to the end of the day and wonders where the time went, chances are they were doing something involving procurement.

Time-Poor and Over-Skilled

That’s all very well if you have generous staffing levels – but who does nowadays? As organisations tackle the bigger issues like digital transformation, IT staff are busier than ever. Realistically, when you’re working on high-level plans, the last thing you need is for your team’s time to be sucked into preparing and providing devices like laptops.  Besides, negotiating prices and dealing with procurement admin is hardly getting the best from those heard-earned technical qualifications.

Because of that busy environment, there is little chance to stop and assess procurement. It can be a fascinating part of our work; we get to be there when IT leaders draw breath for long enough to find out just how much time and energy their team spends on a task they are typically over-qualified for, and how much overspend is happening when they have little capacity to negotiate pricing.

How Much Time Can a Procurement Framework Save?

Sometimes it is half a day a week, others it may be equivalent to a full-time job. Our assessments can be a real eye-opener. It isn’t just resource time that comes to light either – the more overloaded the IT team, the more likely we are to help them identify overspend and inconsistencies, where multiple staff solve requirements as quickly as they can before getting back to those high-level tasks.

The benefits of handing over procurement management are quickly felt, which makes it ideal for the busiest IT departments. It is important – after all, users are more productive if they have the right tools – but it is not seen as a strategic function.

How Does Transforming Your Procurement Framework Help?

While there are different options available, getting help with transforming procurement usually involves a relatively small time investment. Our customers use our Transact processes, effortlessly negotiating best prices with Australia’s leading manufacturers such as HP. We support long-term customer relationships with a transparent, open book pricing strategy – it makes sense to let customers see that they are getting consistently competitive pricing, and a single point of procurement without margin creep over time.

Once we have secured the best possible pricing through open book pricing, we work with you to create a catalogue of standards, ranging from equipment bundles and laptops to state-of-the-art point of sale (POS) equipment –pretty much anything that your organisation frequently buys. Using our Techflow portal, you may set additional purchasing rules and workflows, in effect getting to design your own procurement workflows. In fact, you design your own processes to reflect or improve on your existing internal practices, but without having to do the leg-work every time a user needs a new desktop.

Zerotouch

The procurement story doesn’t end at the acquisition stage. Typically, when a machine – let’s say a new HP laptop – arrives, it goes through several administrative processes, and someone in the IT team finds time to set up an image, asset tag it, and box it back up, ready to go to the user.

It is another of those tasks that is usually done by over-qualified, time-poor IT staff – but it doesn’t need to be. When we recognised the time drain our customers potentially faced in this stage of acquisition, we developed our Zerotouch services. For a very low price per machine, we handle imaging and asset tagging processes in our Melbourne facility, sending the device straight to the end user, domain joined, asset tagged and complete with end user instructions to get them working straight away. As the IT department must increasingly commit to service levels to deliver assets to the rest of the organisation, IT managers are telling us that having a contracted time and delivery schedule takes away much of the stress.

Real-World Advantages

How does that work in the real world? Of course, it will vary according to industry, and a consulting firm may choose different rules than a non-profit or a retail franchise organisation. Let’s say you’re at a school, and you want parents to purchase from a pre-approved list of devices that are part of your BYOD program. You might, for example, add the new HP EliteBook 1030 x360 laptop to your catalogue. We give you a link that parents can use to order the machine for themselves, through a portal with your own school or diocese branding. We field any queries, guide them through the procurement process, and even provide the machines fully configured and ready to go, within a few days.

Technology is increasingly a selling point in schools, with security, pricing and quality the key considerations for parents. Each of the parents, even in multiple schools, get access to the same group pricing deal. They get better machines for their spend. Meanwhile, you can ensure that all laptops are chosen with consistent operating system and configuration, reducing support time in the school. You can choose the same or separate equipment for teaching and administration staff, with separate rules for configuration as needed.

The Time Advantage

The outcome for many organisations has been profound. We hear most often about the resulting time saving and consistent cost saving achieved through open book pricing.

Maintaining and controlling equipment standards and purchasing processes is difficult for a busy IT department, and having those elements provided as a service results in efficiency gains that benefit the entire organisation. With deployment from purchase to end-user delivery often reduced from 3-4 weeks down to 2-4 days, the IT department becomes more responsive, and provides a better service, while skilled resources can deliver greater value on other projects. Whatever kind of organisation you’re in, that recovered time is inevitably the best return.

 If you want time to tackle the apps, services and automation that help your organisation get ahead, our Procurement Transformation Framework may give you that opportunity. To try our free procurement assessment, contact the Next Technologies team.

 

Who’s Your Phil?

There are moments in meetings that just stick in my mind, and this was one of them. A customer’s IT leadership team was talking about procurement challenges – some familiar, and some unique to their organisation. The IT manager clearly had something particular on his mind, and I wondered what it was, and how I could help.

Reinventing Procurement

We discussed the benefits of having procurement managed as a service, of how the IT team was thrust into negotiating terms with vendors, of how margins with their partner tended to creep after that first deal, and how processes had become more complex and impractical. Still, though, I could tell there was something more. Then one of the IT team – let’s call him Phil – popped his head round the door to ask for sign-off on some laptops for the marketing department.

A Productivity Drain

The IT manager looked uncomfortable. It was, he said, wonderful to increase purchasing efficiency and gain access to consistently low margins from vendors, but the story didn’t end there. Receiving machines and preparing them for users was still necessary – but it was taking a lot of Phil’s time. At a level 2 tech salary of around $90,000 per year, the IT manager would prefer Phil to be doing something else.

Phil emphatically agreed. After working hard to get the right qualifications and some solid experience, he was itching to spend more time on a project to improve productivity in the customer service department. Phil was clearly busy, but I asked him about the process he was following.

SOE Process

A group of ten HP desktops had just arrived after a three week wait. Phil was about to collect them from the warehouse, then carry them up to his third-floor desk. He was hoping the trolley would be available, so he could do it in fewer journeys. When he got the machines to the IT department, he would unbox each and switch on, then set up a standard operating environment (SOE) on each. Given the available space, he could do four at a time – an improvement, he said, on his previous job, where this was done in pairs.

It would, said Phil, take an average of around two to three hours per device to set up the desktops. He would then have to asset tag each one, and then box them back up. Because the users were in branch offices, Phil would have to take the boxes back to the warehouse, and work with the staff there to get each box sent to the right location. Once delivered, he would then guide users in the branch offices through any set-up concerns.

Doing the Math

When we added together Phil’s box-moving, unpacking, set-up, re-packing, more box-moving, and discussions with the warehouse, plus user support for set-up, it took him close to 40 hours to complete the process. The users, meanwhile, got operational machines after almost four weeks from when they ordered them. The rest of the team looked at Phil with a mix of sympathy every time he left to go and carry boxes. They were short on IT resources, and all this time, they had a skilled person carrying boxes.

I introduced the group to our Zerotouch service, where we do every step of Phil’s process for a nominal fee per machine, and they didn’t take long to do the math. Put together with our Techflow portal service, with agreed standard equipment and bundles available through a portal branded for their own organisation, users are receiving fully set-up equipment in days. All without Phil having to do a thing.

Better Use of IT Resources

Phil turned out to be a hidden gem. Freed from procurement duties and box carrying, he set about a series of productivity projects with gusto. All those visits to the warehouse did come in handy, though – he’s been working on transforming shipping processes to improve customer satisfaction.

Visits with other customers made me realise that there are a lot of Phils out there. In fact, almost every organisation is holding their own Phil hostage in a web of procurement and deployment duties that he’s over-qualified to do. There is a real satisfaction to knowing that our as a service models can have a ripple effect that empowers our customers to do more. We are providing an alternative that works.

Time to free your own department and meet service levels on procurement without tying up skilled resources? Request an assessment from our Zerotouch team today.