“We felt like we were not a little fish in a big sea. Being a small school, sometimes with the larger companies, we’re not as important – (ESM) said, ‘We’re going to take care of you and make this happen.’ They are just a really good company to work with and I would definitely recommend them to anybody.”
~ Wendy Burchard
Strategic Sourcing Manager
University of Richmond
University of Richmond automates contract management with ESM
Solution consolidates workflow, offers accountability
Until the University of Richmond signed on to deploy ESM Contract Management, the procurement department was overwhelmed with last-minute signature requests as dozens of versions of individual contracts floated around.
On the private college campus, administration, faculty and staff have a lot of autonomy when they need to buy items for their departments - purchases valued at less than $5,000 can be processed without approval from the procurement department. Staff must seek three quotes for purchases between $5,000 and $25,000. The procurement department takes over for anything more than $25,000. But, a lot of autonomy can create a little confusion.
“A lot of people buy something every five years and they’ve never had to deal with the procurement department,” said Wendy Burchard, Richmond’s strategic sourcing manager. “They don’t know that we have policies. People have gone out and signed contracts on their own.”
Before working with ESM, even those who knew the institution had a procurement department didn’t fully understand the process. Burchard, who heads up a department of two, said her team often would get pulled in at the eleventh hour.
“Contracts were coming in from all different areas,” she said. “They weren’t sure who needed to review them. It was really a bit of a nightmare.”
Even if a department followed procedure, countless versions of contracts were flying among email inboxes as proposals bounced between Burchard’s department, the vendor, the legal department and elsewhere.
“It was a total paper process,” Burchard said. “There was no workflow. It was whoever got it.”
Burchard needed a better understanding of what contracts already existed and who had signed them. Her team also needed to make sure staff followed the official process for contract review and approval. So, Richmond turned to ESM to implement its contract management solution. The benefits have come quickly.
Cutting inbox clutter
With ESM Contract Management, when a contract is ready for review, the system notifies the appropriate parties that it’s time for a closer look. If a staff member has been on vacation, they don’t need to scroll through their email inbox to pull out contracts sent to them while they were gone. They simply go to the contract management tool to find out what needs attention.
Now, if a contract is languishing, Burchard - or anybody involved in the work - can go into the system to see who is holding it up. From there, they can email from within the system to remind colleagues that the contract needs review or a signature. “The bottlenecks are going away,” Burchard said.
The rollout also has given Burchard the chance to review contract procedures - and ensure they are followed. “Before this, we’ve communicated numerous times regarding contracting policies and procedures,” she said. “But, as with all institutions, not everyone ‘gets it.’ Now, it’s a requirement. Once the system is rolled out to their department, they have to go through the process.”
Creating one-stop shop
With ESM Contract Management everything related to a contract is together, all in one place. Within the solution, Burchard and her colleagues can find insurance liability certificates for every single contract, for instance, to ensure that vendors have provided all of the required paperwork. Contract templates also make it easier to create new - and standardized - documents.
It already has consolidated and made the workflow much, much better
~ Wendy Burchard
ESM Contract Management streamlined Richmond’s workflow, but that wasn’t the only benefit. Burchard noticed that one department had requested approval of dozens of contracts , often with the same company. Individual contracts, for instance, would be signed with the same vendor to complete work in different buildings.
After reviewing data from ESM Contract Management, Burchard put a plan in place for next year to consolidate those agreements into fewer contracts, saving staff time.
The solution also has allowed Burchard to better categorize various contracts, providing a more accurate view of the university’s spend. For instance, a contract for a moving company to remove furniture from a building under construction had been listed as a construction expense. “professional services” was a more appropriate category.
“It has just really organized our process and given us an auditable workflow that we need to complete a contract process,” Burchard said.
No little fish, big sea scenario with ESM
For Richmond, the choice to go with ESM wasn’t a difficult one. The price was right, Burchard said. The system is intuitive and easy to use. It also provided them with the capabilities they wanted. For instance, with ESM Contract Management, users can pull contract templates into Microsoft Word. With others, users must use the tool’s own software.
What’s more, in ESM, they found the support they needed for a successful deployment.
“We felt like we were not a little fish in a big sea. Being a small school, sometimes with the larger companies, we’re not as important,” Burchard said. “They said, ‘We’re going to take care of you and make this happen.’ And their support line has been great. … They are just a really good company to work with and I would definitely recommend them to anybody.”