By, Emma Schwartz
There’s room for error in the procurement of information and communication technology (ICT). The process takes time and requires layered decision-making. The challenges presented by different time zones and a variety of key stakeholders are further amplified by the urgent nature of NGO mission work.
ICT procurement doesn’t have to be complicated. For the past 25 years, Planson International has helped NGOs and government organizations get the technologies they need to maximize efficiency.
Last year, NetHope member International Rescue Committee (IRC) partnered with Planson, who has been a supplier to IRC 2009, to develop a portal to simplify their procurement process and meet their unique requirements.
Formed in 1942, IRC has helped more than 17.6 million people whose lives and livelihoods have been shattered by conflict and disaster. To better support this mission, they wanted to optimize their procurement process to satisfy the IT equipment needs of offices in over 40 countries worldwide.
Working with Planson, IRC’s IT department built an exclusive, standardized catalog of goods, accessible by staff all over the world. The web solution enables the very fast turnaround on quotes and is fully customized to fit into IRC’s approval workflow.
Getting started as a user is easy. Individual staff members receive a unique organization code to register on the portal and, upon logging in, can view the catalog of products complete with specifications and prices. IRC has added descriptors to help users decide which system is most appropriate for their work. Assigned administrators monitor the system and view and approve multiple users’ orders. The portal was recently updated to include real time order process tracking functionality and an automated notification system so users are kept up to speed with what stage of the process they’re in. The portal also facilitates direct contact between users and Planson staff (only routine messages are automated).
“The procurement portal is not a silver bullet, but it automates and securely corrals staff actions and decision-making, freeing up valuable time for mission critical work,” shared Planson Account Coordinator Jeremy Hammond in a recent Solutions Center webinar with Planson and IRC. “Between January and June of this year and the same sixth month period last year, we’ve seen a 49% increase in procurement requests from IRC., which we have handled efficiently without significantly increasing staff resources dedicated to the account.”
Sherif Blaku, Procurement Officer at IRC, emphasized the efficiency gains and the unanimously positive feedback received from staff on how easy and useful the portal has been.
Other features in the pipeline for IRC that may be employed by other organizations include:
The portal is “infinitely scalable” and can be customized to fit any NGOs’ specifications and needs.
“The strength of the portal is not only the portal itself, but also Planson’s in-house developing expertise and the flexibility of the software,” said Jeremy. “The procurement portal is not a canned pre-built web source solution – it is built from the ground up with our partners and customers in mind. There’s really no limit to what can be done technologically.”
While the portal is meant to simplify procurement, there is still an inevitable learning curve. Planson works with organizations throughout the entire transition process. For IRC, Planson developed a written user guide with easy-to-follow instructions on the portal’s use, and IRC staff can contact Planson directly with questions. The team is open to all training schemes to ensure trainings go as smoothly as possible for other stakeholders.
Interested in talking with Planson about building your own customized portal to meet your organization’s needs? Contact Jeremy Hammond at firstname.lastname@example.org.