Thursday, April 20, 2017

Innovative Research & Development RFP Process Presented at Regional Conference

At this year’s National Association of Educational Procurement’s Annual Meeting, conference attendees were treated to a breakout session given by Kristin Floyd, Senior Buyer in Procurement and Supplier Diversity Services (PSDS). 

Kristin Floyd, Senior Buyer, PSDS
Floyd’s session, “Research RFP: Procurement Collaborates with the Research Community,” detailed the unconventional Request for Proposal (RFP) issued by UVA to research and development (R&D) vendors in April 2016.

Floyd shared with a packed room how, a year ago, she solicited responses from R&D vendors in various categories of goods and services, and, rather than awarding a contract to a single vendor, UVA sought to award contract vendor status to as many vendors as possible.

The aim of the innovative approach was to reduce the administrative burden on departments, to eliminate single-source documentation, all while satisfying competitive requirements and automate vendor setup in the e-commerce Marketplace.

During her presentation, Floyd shared the reasoning behind the novel approach.

“We realized we were receiving so many sole source justifications for research because the items researchers need are so specialized, often custom made. There just weren’t enough existing contracts to satisfy researchers’ needs,” she said.

And, since the sole-source justification process is rather convoluted, especially from a principal investigator’s perspective, PSDS decided to be flexible, accommodate the needs of researchers, and add value to purchasing services. They streamlined both the documentation and award process and required vendors to provide a high level of customer service, a warranty/guarantee on goods and services, and meet discount guidelines.

Results of the new approach have been excellent, as PSDS has seen a steady increase in the percentage of spend with R&D contract vendors, corresponding with a steady reduction in cost per transaction with those vendors.

As a part of her session, Floyd found herself giving an impromptu lesson on Lean concepts, as she shared with the audience how she used some of the skills she learned in her UVAFinance Lean classes to work on this project.

Many of the audience members shared with Floyd that they considered doing the same thing, but that they hadn’t figured out how to execute the process, and how to collaborate with peers, as UVA had with the Virginia Higher Education Procurement Cooperative, to allow for enhanced negotiations and cooperative access to contracts.

Conference promotional materials touted the session as an opportunity for listeners to “learn from someone who dared to reimagine their procurement process.”

As for Floyd, she says she’s glad the message resonated with the audience.

“Doing business with all vendors is a different mindset than we’ve historically had, but it’s worth thinking about how we can do things differently to serve our stakeholders better,” she said.

For more information on PSDS’ R&D Program, contact Kristin Floyd.

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