Midlands-based housing association, Midland Heart manages more than 33,000 affordable homes on behalf of 70,000 customers. Its IT team, which includes a team of 8 technical analysts and Technical Service Team Leader Rob Cross, supports more than 1,600 staff who manage this operation.
The IT team is under constant pressure to facilitate projects for the housing association, as well as ‘keeping the lights on’. It is also tasked with the job of helping staff to adopt modern working practices – such as enabling paperless working when operating in the field.
This requires the team to source a variety of IT products and services. Rather than simply deliver these items, the team also needs to achieve value for money. This has placed significant responsibilities on the IT team and its procurement processes.
Rob explains: “Procuring IT products and services can eat up a lot of time. Without preferred suppliers, we would need to go out to three different suppliers. And we needed a more efficient solution than that.”
Working with Probrand
To relieve this procurement headache, Midland Heart looked to the Probrand Marketplace which helps users save time and money by offering price comparisons on more than 300,000 products from over 2,500 brands and suppliers. All prices and stock levels are updated by-the-minute in a ‘live’ transparent environment which the Midland Heart team can access online at any time.
The Probrand Marketplace also provides Rob and his team with access to sector and technical consultants when needed. These advisors are helping Midland Heart source items and then employing Probrand’s own technical engineers to deploy them when required.
Probrand’s consultants also alert the team when market prices are at their lowest and when sector specific discounts become available to housing associations. If Midland Heart choose to buy at an opportune moment, they can then take advantage of Probrand’s Bonded Stock service which allows them to put items in storage until required.
The Probrand Marketplace can be configured to provide deeper procurement governance, by integrating with an organisation’s internal systems. The 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 won a Queen’s Award for innovation.
The ability to access IT procurement consultants and technical expertise has been a great help to Midland Heart, especially when they have needed to source obscure items or more complex solutions. This level of knowledge proved highly advantageous when the company wanted to deploy a HP Synergy infrastructure platform and modular storage array.
Rob said: “Having Probrand on hand to talk to, and being able to engage their tech team alongside that of a vendor’s engineers to ensure the spec is correct and installed properly, is a significant advantage. On a day to day too, it’s just great to be able to have conversations with them and trust the advice given is right. And when we can’t find something we’re looking for, they’re always able to help.”
“When it comes to researching prices and stock availability, my team now check the Probrand Marketplace daily,” said Rob. “We regularly benchmark to ensure we are getting the best available prices and about 85% of the time Probrand have the lowest.”
Midland Heart has also benefitted greatly from Probrand’s Bonded Stock facility, which is allowing them to buy products in advance of deployment.
“Bonded Stock has been essential for us. This was especially helpful when we bought 85 machines and monitors for a project which was delayed – we would have had nowhere to store them if it wasn’t for Probrand,” said Rob.
He added: “This can also be very handy if you buy ahead of time. Probrand know our purchasing patterns, so they will let us know when prices hit a low point. With the bonded stock arrangement we can buy now and deploy later.”