E-business innovation: Salford E-commerce Solutions

The university impressed the judges with its Higher Education E-Procurement ‘The HEeP Marketplace’ initiative. The aim of HEeP is to be the primary internet marketplace for e-procurement activity in higher education. The sector comprises more than 170 universities and colleges, with a combined annual spend of £4.5bn.

Existing procurement processes are typically manual and paper-based – transaction costs are estimated at between £35-£50 per purchase. For institutions working to tight budgets, figures such as this are unworkable. Through the initiative, these costs can be radically reduced by avoiding the need to repeatedly key in the same data to different systems. So far more than 30 universities and more than 30 suppliers have joined the marketplace since its launch earlier in the summer.

The HEeP marketplace was designed in collaboration with purchasing professionals and advisory bodies within the higher education sector. By delivering the framework to support real-time electronic trading between institutions and their suppliers, the sector can realise huge benefits and financial savings. It also reduces the chances of an institution contracting itself to maverick suppliers, as all members of the marketplace are guaranteed to be ‘above board’.

By providing a central electronic marketplace the sector can benefit further.

Management information regarding the acquisition of goods and services is easily accessible. This can mean, for example, that local contracts can be extended to regional or national contracts, which helps to deliver economies of scale. HEeP marketplaceås primary goal is to automate the processes by which institutions procure goods. This can be whittled down to five steps.

Firstly, it will identify suppliers contracted to supply specific institutions with products and goods. Secondly, it will locate the relevant areas on the supplierså e-commerce websites. It will then raise purchase requests on the institutionså own finance systems so purchases can be awarded final approval. Also, by automatically sending confirmed purchase orders to supplierså back-office systems, the despatch of goods can be initiated.

Finally, and conclusively, it will receive invoices from the supplier and upload them into the institutionså finance systems so that payment can be approved.

The system is a shining example of how XML can be used in modern business applications. All documents, including purchase orders, credit notes and invoices, conform to e-business XML standards, including eBIS-XML, the BASDA standard that is gaining more and more of a foothold in the business software industry.

Other shortlisted candidates:

  • Dragnet E-Business
  • SparesFinder

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