Union implements PROACTIS Purchase-to-Pay to manage funds & control spend
NASUWT is the largest teachers' union in the UK, governed by its members. The union provides first-class legal and professional services through a high quality network of school-based representatives, local and national officers, staff and specialist legal advisors. These services include advice, support and representation, including legal action when appropriate.
The NASUWT is a campaigning union led by practising teachers. The UK is covered by 34 NASUWT
Executive Districts. The National Executive Members and Local Association Officers within those districts, elected by members, provide advice, support and representation for members. This structure is supplemented by a network of nine regional centres in England and a national centre in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Specialist staff at the NASUWT National Headquarters in Birmingham provide support across the UK. The Union provides an extensive programme of training and access to professional development opportunities.
Like any trade union, NASUWT must exercise great care in managing the funds it has available to support its members. An effective spend control policy is therefore critical to NASUWT, to deliver visibility on areas such as agency staff costs, stationery costs, the buying of refreshments, exhibition space or the booking of adverts. Coupled with this, NASUWT offers a wide range of services to its members, including publication subscriptions, training, advice and IT services - spending on which needs to be monitored closely. The association has also negotiated price lists with suppliers, which needed to be made available to all regional offices, to ensure hard fought for agreements are consistently used.
Previously, the association used manual systems to conduct its purchasing, overseen by just one person. This meant that orders often took considerable time before they were authorised and audit procedures required greater visibility. Importantly, the person in charge of procurement was unable to focus on the more strategic aspects of the role, such as supplier engagement and collaboration with other bodies.
Faced with these challenges, and persistent pressure on costs, Jane Smith, National Official (Finance) at NASUWT was tasked with choosing the most suitable eProcurement solution for the Union.
"We needed to be able to reduce admin, manage budgets more effectively and do things in the right order, for example authorise at the purchase order stage and not the invoice stage. With our ultimate aim of no longer keeping hard copies, being able to scan and hold invoices electronically was critical. Electronic documents also provide a more detailed overview of our spend and the ability to easily track and resolve queries relating to them," explains Smith.
NASUWT's staff are geographically dispersed, with 12 centres and further offices across the UK. As such it was important that the organisation chose a system that would avoid the installation headaches often associated with software implementations, and would allow the regional and head offices the appropriate freedom and control to ensure local suppliers were paid on time, every time. Importantly, the system needed to be easy to use, to ensure regional staff could be up and running in a short period of time.
NASUWT discussed its specific requirements with Alphagen, the business software solutions provider and PROACTIS partner, and assessed the feasibility of a specifically customised solution for its procurement needs. Alphagen reviewed a number of different systems and recommended PROACTIS, which offered the benefits of a standard off-the-shelf solution, whilst still being highly configurable.
While authorisation procedures had previously been a problem, purchases are now authorised at the right stage by the right people. As staff are led through the buying process by the system, the Purchasing team has an easier job in terms of ensuring spend is authorised and allocated to the appropriate suppliers. Equally, as invoices reach the head office faster, suppliers are receiving payment more quickly - the process is smoother and much more efficient.
NASUWT's responsibility to its members in terms of efficiency has benefited greatly from the PROACTIS system. "As a union we are always looking at more efficient and effective ways of working, specifically the swift payment for our suppliers, and the PROACTIS solution has enabled us to address this," says Smith.
The organisation has also seen the purchase ledger close in half the time it had previously taken - from ten days to five. Equally, PROACTIS' ability to integrate into any financial system has meant that it can draw on available data on the Union's financial system, such as supplier details, accounting codes and other financial information.
Smith adds: "While all staff had to place orders via the Procurement Officer in the past, they are now able to purchase directly, which frees up their time. The Procurement Officer is now able to deal with more specialist and strategic projects that might include looking at our supplier base and further eCommerce capabilities that will help us provide the best possible service to our members."