When facing a crisis, it helps to have the power of collaboration on your side. This became especially evident for B.C.’s higher education institutions at the start of the pandemic when they suddenly needed to source critical supplies that faced worldwide shortages.

Rather than being a single entity competing on the global playing field for scarce supplies, each of the 25 institutions were able to tap in to BCNET’s collective buying power. They were also able to draw strength from within the community by sharing tips, ideas and experiences.

“The power of the collaborative community is valuable in a time of crisis. We were able to leverage each other, to talk to one another and find out what others were doing, including sharing where they were finding scarce PPE. To pool our needs and do some collaborative sourcing for some of those products has been very valuable.”

SHELLY MORRISON

Senior Director of Financial Services and Strategic Procurement | University of B.C.

This time of crisis has given procurement professionals the opportunity to step up, cooperate and get creative to find new ways of doing things. Many institutions have done things they never could have imagined in normal times.

“We’re always going to remember this as an interesting historical time with unique challenges and many learnings,” said Morrison.  “I hope we all embrace our new knowledge and experience and take that forward into our recovery phase. It’s going to continue to be important to keep the collaboration and creativity going.”

 

Collective Buying Power

Working together through BCNET joint agreements has been hugely beneficial during these challenging times, says Xavier Serrano, Director of Purchasing Services at University of Victoria.

 

“As a sector, we carry much more weight than as an independent institution. By joining forces with other post-secondary institutions, we've been able to move forward and make progress on contracts and licenses at a speed that we wouldn't have been able to do on our own.”

XAVIER SERRANO

Director of Purchasing Services | University of Victoria

Procurement contracts arranged through BCNET included everything from sourcing PPE and touch-free hand sanitizer dispensers to arranging technology solutions that support remote teaching and learning.

“One unexpected and very positive aspect we discovered is how we, as an organization, were able to pivot with lightning speed from full face-to-face, in-person teaching, learning and working to distance learning and working remotely,” explained Serrano. “BCNET was instrumental in being able to quickly obtain the tools that we needed for that very significant change.”

 

 

"Group procurements have also led to better terms and conditions, added incentives and benefits that wouldn’t necessarily be available otherwise."

JOCELYN TEMPLEMAN

Buyer | Selkirk College

 

The Power of Community

While continuing to deliver value and gain access to items in demand are important, the sharing of information has also proved hugely beneficial. The bringing together of institutions through online webinars, forums and other networking opportunities has helped open new doors for shared learnings.

“The increase in virtual meetings since COVID has helped me out by being able to network with more people and benefit from their ideas and discussions,” said Templeman. “Keeping these collaborations going is fundamental to survival.”

“It also means that we don’t necessarily have to go through the time-consuming, intensive processes ourselves. Being able to benefit from them once they’re done is huge for us and to have the benefits that come with them in terms of pricing and service delivery, it’s a win-win,” said Templeman.

 

Collaboration in a Changing World

Lessons learned have helped strengthen organizations moving forward.

“I think the most important lesson to understand is that it is a truly global integrated supply chain and anytime something fails somewhere in the continuum, it has an echo effect on the whole supply chain,” said Serrano of UVic. “The other lesson is that we are resilient and communication has been key to building on that resilience and to work collaboratively to find ways of addressing those issues.”

The exchange of knowledge is key in a changing world, said Morrison of UBC.

“That’s probably been the biggest takeaway for us – the networking and sharing of information between institutions, allowing us to adapt based on the challenges and needs we face,” she said. “We’re sharing learnings and pitfalls, allowing us to learn quicker and respond to the changing dynamics.”

 

About BCNET Procurement

BCNET’s procurement team focuses on sourcing a wide range of categories that aim to meet member requirements, offer the best overall price, help minimize duplication and follow a process compliant with legislative and regulatory requirements.