A group of eight Hampshire local authorities have teamed up to create a joint e-procurement system to improve efficiency and harness bulk purchasing power.
The Hampshire Marketplace uses the IDeA:marketplace online procurement system established in partnership by e-commerce specialist EGS and the IDeA local government improvement agency. The Java-based application is Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)-secured and uses XML-based technology to link to suppliers.
The Hampshire Marketplace partners
Hampshire County Council
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council
East Hampshire District Council
Fareham Borough Council
Gosport Borough Council
New Forest District Council
Rushmoor Borough Council
Test Valley Borough Council
Shaun Le Picq, procurement development manager at Hampshire county council, explained that an efficiency group bringing together local authorities across the county had for a long time been looking at e-procurement and the possibilities for collaboration.
Smaller district councils – without big Oracle or SAP systems - “were finding it difficult”, he said. “We wanted a cost-effective solution, but each authority was starting in a different place. Some in the group didn’t have a procurement expertise.”
The Hampshire Marketplace is designed to solve this problem by allowing each authority to plug into it in the most appropriate way, whether they want to use it for the entire purchase-to-pay process or as a link to suppliers that channels into their own enterprise systems.
Hampshire County Council had been running a SAP system for seven years. “We’d managed a catalogue of goods and services in-house. But we wanted an electronic link to suppliers. We’d never been able to achieve that with SAP, we didn’t have the resource,” Le Picq said.
The county council has now connected its own SAP system to the online Marketplace, which acts as an electronic interface with suppliers.
Basingstoke and Deane approached the project from a very different starting point, said procurement manager Janet Barrett.
“We came to Marketplace because our financial system didn’t have a fully functioning e-finance module,” she explained. The council hit on the idea of using the IDeA Marketplace system on a purchase to pay basis – giving and was discussing it with suppliers.
The authority then joined the Hampshire efficiency group in order to tap the potential for collaboration – and possible economies of scale. The Hampshire Marketplace gives its member authorities visibility into each other’s deals.
“We can now access Hampshire county council contracts that we need and even Office of Government Commerce contracts,” Barrett adds. “We’d been struggling for years for a collaborative tool. This gives us a platform to aggregate spending [across the group of authorities] in future.”
The e-procurement system has brought efficiency savings as well, she adds. “There’s an £81 decrease in costs per transaction.”
The partner councils each have their own contract with EGS, paid on a periodic basis, rather than according to volume of use – a consistent and regular billing system makes it “easier to make the business case to councillors”, Le Picq said.
“Everyone owns their own bit of the system and collaboration is a management arrangement,” Barrett added.
All eight local councils are expected to be live on the Hampshire Marketplace by the end of the year.