West Suffolk Council has 24 staff working within its customer and infrastructure, and business application support. These teams are responsible for purchasing IT equipment which supports approximately 1,800 users across the council and a number of service partners, including the East of England Local Government Association and Abbeycroft Leisure.
The team at West Suffolk Council had become aware that the task of procuring IT equipment for both council staff and its partners was taking up a significant amount of the team’s time.
As local authority procurement guidelines insist that purchases are unbiased – based purely on the requirements of the team rather than any particular brand loyalty – the team needed to compile a list of specifications for each purchase. This required them to carry out extensive web-based research.
In order to secure the best price for each purchase, the team would also conduct price comparisons by telephoning various suppliers. The task was often elongated by suppliers coming back with quotes for products that did not meet the exact specifications.
‘‘Typical purchases might include consumables, network cables and toner cartridges – items that are fairly routine or for everyday use,’’ said Andrew Brindle, unified communications support engineer at West Suffolk Council. ‘‘We purchase these items as and when we need to, and having to go through this whole process for a couple of network cables, for example, was really frustrating.’’
Andrew and the team were actively looking for a more efficient process that save them time but yet still achieve best value.
A decision was made for West Suffolk Council to utilise Europe’s largest IT marketplace for business users, Probrand. This digital marketplace helps users save time and money procuring IT by delivering price comparison across products from multiple suppliers, and personalised discounts to the customer’s sector direct from manufacturers.
Using a unique log in, West Suffolk Council automatically sees pre-approved framework discounts exclusive to the public sector, including deals on laptops, desktops and servers or printers, for example.
In a fast moving market, Probrand enables Westfield College to browse and buy direct from a catalogue of over 250,000 products from 2,500 brands, all updated with price and stock by the minute. Probrand conducts over 10 million automated price checks a day and saves users time over calling and manually comparing prices from 3 or more suppliers.
Advanced product search and list building facilities enable users to share buying lists with others, including finance, and digital advisers guide users through complex purchasing decisions to further streamline the procurement process. Probrand has been accredited for delivering financial benefits by the Institute of Chartered Accountants, procurement excellence by the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS) and innovation with a Queen’s Award.
By using Probrand West Suffolk Council has eliminated the need for the procurement team to ring around numerous suppliers for price and stock information – thereby streamlining the whole purchasing process and improving efficiency.
Within just a few months of using Probrand'Marketplace, West Suffolk Council IT procurement has calculated that it is now saving two team days per month. As a result, staff are able to spend more time on other priority tasks.
‘‘With Probrand's Marketplace, we’re confident we always get the best possible price – no longer do we spend time bouncing back and forth between multiple suppliers, sourcing and comparing prices,” said Andrew.
“Previously we would spend half a day each week compiling, emailing and phoning around; it now takes us about 30 minutes.
“It’s also proved incredibly efficient. We no longer have to raise multiple purchase orders for different suppliers. That level of convenience, knowing we can source everything from one place, is a major help.”
No hidden costs
As Probrand's Marketplace offers a fixed delivery fee regardless of whether buyers have one item in their basket or one hundred items, West Suffolk no longer has to pay out any unforeseen costs on purchases.
Andrew said: “This was a bit of a sticking point previously – we would either have to pay a delivery fee that was disproportionate to a relatively small purchase, or would have to spend over a certain amount.”
The help provided by Probrand's support team has also played a major role in providing reassurance to the West Suffolk Council’s procurement team whenever it is needed.
“The team is incredibly helpful,” said Andrew. “If we ever want to double check anything, we know we have a named person at the other end of the phone. Our account manager is very responsive – if a product isn’t in stock, he’ll suggest something that we may not have considered before. Having that trust on both sides is incredibly important.”