PROACTIS Resources

University of Surrey

University achieves savings through best value purchasing & eInvoicing
University of Surrey

The University of Surrey is one of the UK’s leading professional, scientific and technological universities with a world-class reputation for excellence in teaching and research. The University has risen to sixth position in The Guardian newspaper’s rankings of UK universities. Surrey also achieved first place for employability in a separate report, with 96.9 percent of its graduates finding work (or further education) within six months.
The University has 15,000 students and a recurring non-pay spend of about £50 million per year across a diverse range of products and services. The process of placing individual orders with suppliers is largely devolved to faculties and departments, using UNIT4 Agresso as an integrated finance system. However, the end-to-end process is closely co-ordinated to ensure that goods and services are ordered and invoices paid promptly.


Surrey has a procurement strategy and an established framework for planning and decision making, contract management and measurement. The University’s Procurement department is responsible for ensuring that the best long-term value for money is achieved for all goods and services.

With greater savings as the main driver, the University began to look for ways that its purchase-to-pay (P2P) process could become more efficient and attuned to best practice. The introduction of electronic invoicing (eInvoicing) was identified as an objective. Surrey also recognised that it could drive more value from its UNIT4 Agresso finance system if its users could ‘punch-out’ to the online catalogues and websites of preferred suppliers.

Why Proactis?

The University selected EGS, now a PROACTIS company, as its procurement partner. “Their solution worked with UNIT4 Agresso, it was used widely in the higher education sector and the lifecycle cost was attractive to us,” explains Robin Hunt, Director of Procurement at University of Surrey. “We could also access their solution through an existing framework agreement for universities, plus we could benefit from funding assistance from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).”


Surrey decided to use PROACTIS to deliver ‘punch -out’ access from its UNIT4 Agresso to online supplier catalogues where users can access products, services and prices approved by the university. It would then receive the resulting invoices electronically via XML, system-to-system connections, the purest form of eInvoicing. Volumes would increase steadily, generating more savings over time.

It was important to Surrey that its users were encouraged to purchase this way from preferred suppliers. “We wanted a ‘carrot’ rather than a ‘stick’ approach, by making it easier to purchase from preferred suppliers using the catalogues,” adds Robin Hunt.

  • Integration with UNIT4 Agresso has been seamless. Users can ‘punch out’ to the products and services of 15 high-volume suppliers. “All our buyers see is UNIT4 Agresso and the suppliers’ websites – nothing technical in between,” says Robin Hunt. “The ‘go shopping’ functionality is now so easy to use that we call it the ‘Amazon experience’.”
  • The University has enabled almost 30% of its orders to be placed through its eMarketplace using PROACTIS. The ‘carrot’ approach is working and has reduced leakage from preferred suppliers, which has enabled Surrey to get better value for money
  • The University has also achieved its first year target of 10% of invoices being received via XML and has since increased that figure to 17%. These 4,000+ invoices per year no longer need printing and scanning manually, saving hours of time of admin staff. “Each invoice now costs us at least £6 less to process,” says Robin Hunt
  • The streamlining and automation of the PROACTIS solution has also been an enabler for Surrey to restructure its entire Finance team and reduce headcount, so staff could be better employed on other tasks
Looking Ahead

The University is aiming for the volume of orders placed via ‘punch-out’ catalogues to increase to 40% – with the resulting rise in eInvoices increasing overall savings. “We’re focusing on supplier adoption and management to advance our strategy and we’re receiving active support from PROACTIS,” says Robin Hunt.
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