Northlands moves to 21st century procurement standards with iPOS.
"Prior to iPOS, there were twenty steps a purchasing clerk went through to generate a PO. That's been cut down to 3 steps with one concluding action: approve, return, or reject."
Orryan Schriver, Senior Manager for Procurement, Northlands
Edmonton Northlands ("Northlands") is a Canadian not-for-profit multiple-industry, volunteer-supported agricultural society with nearly 300 full-time staff excluding event staff and volunteers. Northlands hosts nearly 3 million people over a 160-acre site with 3 venues and generates an economic impact $355 million in direct spending and support over $1B in economic activity for Edmonton's capital region. Northlands supports the vibrancy of our community by investing in programs that have a meaningful impact on our city (Edmonton) & region (Province of Alberta).
Northlands' internal procurement leadership has helped reduce paper and lack of consistent PO utilisation. As part of the rationalisation of existing procurement workflow, use of iPOS has streamlined the link between POs and the main Infor SunSystems financial system.
The organisation is undergoing an on-going internal improvement campaign to introduce and embed best-of-breed modern procurement disciplines which are right sized for the organisation.
Lack of use of POs around requisitioning was leading to lack of visibility into the day-to-day cash position of the operation. PO generation was too manual, insufficiently rigorous, and not interfaced with the main Infor SunSystems finance platform.
Backdrop to some of the most important and exciting entertainment for citizens and visitors to Edmonton, Alberta, event management leader Northlands helps deliver a wide range of concerts, sports, trade shows, expos, weddings, races and other experiences as producer, partner, facilitator and host. Northlands attracts more than 3 million visitors every year. With a history dating back to 1879, Northlands, as a not for profit organisation, has a commitment to do everything it can to serve its community, as exemplified in its motto, 'Live a Lot.'
A drive to world-class procurement best practice
Around five years ago, Northlands decided that, in order to gain better visibility into its operations and to make every dollar serve the primary goal of its mission as a non-profit organisation, a move to global best practices in procurement, right sized for Northlands, was in order. That was a mission charged to Orryan Schriver, who came on-board not long after as Senior Manager for Procurement at Northlands. "We had a number of inefficiencies around procure-to-pay and too many manual and inefficient internal accounting business processes," he admits. "We knew we could do better, and while we haven't arrived at the end of journey, thanks to that drive and the use of right sized best practice standards we've made incredible progress."
Key to helping Orryan and his team of procurement professionals get there has been a conscious decision to introduce Contract Lifecycle Management disciplines. "Around 85% of our total spend is on services and are in contracts," he points out. "A huge part the problem was that organisationally we had less than compliant procurement practices, especially around requisitioning."
In practical terms, that meant two blockages to efficiency. One was that too few POs were being used or used in the right way. The second was that the workflow to generate a PO was cumbersome, dependent on a complex series of steps centered on an Excel template being emailed around. It was a very manual process, difficult to maintain, and we had insufficient audit around it," he says. "That adds up to a set of obvious flaws as a business process, of delay due to losing of attachments and paper being passed around - as well as the risk of data being lost or needing to be keyed in not just once, but multiple times," he points out.
To help with the first issue, Northlands' Finance executive and management teams began an enterprise-wide push to a "no PO, no Pay" purchasing regime. "That's really helped, but it has taken a while due to the scale of the change management needed," he notes.
The second issue - the inefficient PO generation process and procedures - has been more problematic, and Northlands has an especially high volume of transactions. "We use Infor SunSystems as our primary financial engine," he says. "But accessing PO data out of the system can be complicated and cumbersome for end-users," he observes. "And when you have 30 to 35 PO's that are now being issued a day, tracking them in and out of the database is a time intensive job, basically the equivalent of taking on a full time employee, we calculated."
A state-of-the art procurement solution
Northlands' Procurement team has solved these problems partly by a business process re-design of the procurement journey at Northlands. A lean methodology re-think has prioritised the accurate use and recording of PO's, new ways of monitoring spend, supported by the use of modern business technology for each of these steps.
Having reviewed options, Orryan and his team decided that the iPOS eProcurement solution from Professional Advantage was the best way forward. With its easy to use graphical user interface and administrator console, as well as mobile approval functionality which means staff can still make decisions while working remotely, Orryan felt confident he could get much tighter control and overview of the entire Northlands procurement process.
It's important to note this wasn't an overnight decision, he confirms. "We knew we needed to get a better handle on internal processes around purchasing; and we didn't want to get into third party middleware or put significant resource burden on our internal IT team, which has so many other priorities."
Those factors, plus the seamless integration iPOS offers natively with Infor SunSystems, as well as Professional Advantage's deep expertise with that platform, meant the software met all of Northlands' needs.
In particular, the Professional Advantage consultancy team was able to tightly integrate the product with the core SunSystems financial system so as to allow the iPOS routing mechanism for requisitioning, approvals, good receipting and invoicing. That also meant Northlands could also manage internal orders from a centrally stocked storeroom/warehouse using the requisitioning function. This move doesn't have an impact on the financial or inventory ledgers, but still grants Northlands the facility to easily leverage off its important inventory system and use one workflow.
A fully-compliant invoice process
Since the twin drives of better internal processes around purchasing and the on-boarding of iPOS started, Orryan says Northlands is a very different environment when it comes to procurement than it was even a couple of years back.
"We've gone from 2,200 requisitions a year having a PO; now, it's up to 5,000," he says. All these fully-compliant invoices are tracked and visible inside SunSystems via the easy-to-use iPOS management console too, he adds. "We can just use the iPOS approvals matrix to add users and permissions on an as-needed basis now, while the internal culture's come round to the importance of this way of working with our finances," he says.
Nearly 200 Northlands staff use the iPOS-powered procure-to-pay system daily, while in return on investment terms alone, apart from highly-improved efficiency and visibility into cash flow, Orryan believes the chance to avoid hiring an additional full time employee to deal with the PO processing administrative inefficiency has meant the purchase cost of the iPOS solution will be recouped inside 18-24 months.
The system has been central to a huge simplification of what has been a cumbersome, error-prone PO creation approach. "Prior to iPOS, there were twenty steps a purchasing clerk went through to generate a PO. That's been cut down to 3 steps with one concluding action: approve, return, or reject."
Looking back on this journey to procurement best practice success, Orryan says he owes a lot not just to iPOS but to the company behind it. "I have been very impressed with the support we have received from our consultant and relationship manager, who have always been very thorough and attentive," he states. "We've had a lot of great advice from Professional Advantage, and I have always believed they were very happy to work with us every step of the way.
Summing up, "I would characterise our relationship with Professional Advantage as nothing other than excellent," he concludes.