Westfield Arts College is a 4-19 special school in Dorset serving the needs of 180 children and young people with moderate to complex learning difficulties. The IT department at Westfield Arts College, led by Richard Gould, is responsible for purchasing all the necessary IT equipment for pupils and staff.
The procurement process for IT equipment at Westfield Arts College had become a frustrating, time consuming process. The team had to approach individual suppliers on a case by case basis – usually by email in the first instance – then sit back and wait for responses. As the college often makes purchases in relatively small quantities, little and often, repeatedly going through this process was a painful experience. It also was also common to have to negotiate on each and every purchase, as the initial price quoted was not always the best price available.
“An average purchase for us might include anything from an individual pair of headphones or a keyboard to 30 computers”, said Richard Gould, IT manager for Westfield Arts College. “We previously spent hours and hours waiting for suppliers to get back to us before we could even begin to weigh up the options. It was a complete nightmare.”
Richard found a solution in Europe’s largest IT marketplace for business users, the Probrand's marketplace. 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, staff at Westfield College see pre-approved framework discounts exclusive to the Education sector, including deals on projectors, classroom printers or USBs for example.
In a fast moving market, the Probrand's marketplace 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's Marketplace 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's marketplace 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.
Since adopting Probrand's marketplace, Richard and his team have managed to eliminate the tedium which was their previous IT procurement process. From an operational perspective, the benefits have been numerous:
Richard says it’s hard to put an exact figure on the amount of time the college has saved in its IT procurement process, but it runs into a number of days each month.
“It’s completely changed the way we work”, Richard adds. “The marketplace does all of the hard work for me – both in terms of finding me the best price and giving me the peace of mind that the price that’s showing is the actual end price.
“It’s highly unusual not to find what I need on the site, and everything that gets delivered is exactly what I want.”
“Because we purchase little and often I like the fact that I can keep adding things to my basket and then check out two weeks later when my basket’s full – and I’m not penalised on price if I just want to purchase single items.
“I also have the flexibility of going to my account manager if I want to make bulk purchases or need advice. I love the fact that I can do 99% of my buying on the marketplace but there’s a human being there for me to work with if I need to!”
Westfield Arts College is the largest special school in the south west and is linked to the Teaching Alliance of Dorset Special Schools (TADSS), an alliance of five schools that caters for a wide range of pupils with special needs and disabilities. Richard is hoping the Alliance will be able to work together in future to benefit from bulk buying discounts, as more schools within TADSS adopt Probrand's marketplace.