Amazon Business provides tools to help organizations overcome purchasing challenges
In a recent U.S. Communities on-demand video, Mario Marin, head of government sales at Amazon Business, spotlighted some of the challenges facing public purchasing professionals. The challenges include:
- Doing more with less
- Diversity requirements
- Budget limits
- Fraud prevention
- Managing contracts
- Local buy priorities and requirements
- Taxpayer expectations—cities must always get the best deal and efficiently buy
Another presenter in the video, Kirkland Wash.’s purchasing agent, Greg Piland, outlined how his city is using a cooperative contract to overcome some of those purchasing challenges. Kirkland’s procurement department utilizes the Amazon Business marketplace through Prince William County Public School’s contract with Amazon Business. The contract includes ten categories, such as office supplies, classroom and art supplies, audio visual and electronics, higher education scientific and lab equipment, clothing, animal supplies and food, and hard to find items.
“We strive to be totally transparent with all City purchasing, and Amazon Business has enabled our department to offer some process improvements in purchasing,” says Piland.
“We started using Amazon Business so we could get free shipping over certain dollar thresholds for purchases,” Piland says. In January, Amazon Business presented a new option for all U.S. Communities participating agencies – complimentary access and use of the Business Prime Shipping program through December 31, 2018. All users on an agency’s account will receive free two-day shipping on eligible items.
Using the Amazon Business marketplace gives the city’s buying team more control over purchases, Piland says. “Departments need the ability to purchase items independently, and the marketplace allows us to do that, while giving us a lot of tools useful in reporting out department and City spend. It also gives us the ability to invite city staffers who should be allowed to purchase [to use the marketplace] and exclude personnel who do not have a role in purchasing.”
No question, Amazon’s consumer website is user-friendly. People are comfortable and familiar with Amazon and its consumer marketplace and the prices offered,” Piland says. “Our departments were already buying from Amazon. What we wanted to improve through Amazon Business was the user experience.” Working with the Amazon Business team, the City was able to optimize the Amazon Business marketplace for government purchases and requirements needed for compliance.
The first Coop Solutions article on Kirkland, Wash., spotlighted the time-savings that can be achieved through cooperative contracts. One example: Savings in staff time since procurement personnel don’t have to go out for and process formal competitive bids.
Piland says cooperative contracts can also achieve savings during the audit cycle. “Most cooperatives have all the documentation posted on the site where the contract is explained. Staff can retrieve the information there quickly when an auditor asks about larger purchases.” Piland says that in the past, he and his staff had to request packages from storage and then sort through the files to get what the auditor was looking for. “Now that the cooperative stores information on the site, that speeds up the audit review time significantly,” Piland says.
The U.S. Communities contract with Amazon Business can help governments reach supplier diversity goals and mandates, and can help them succeed at good-faith outreach efforts, says Amazon Business’ Marin. “One purpose of the contract is to encourage local, small, minority-, veteran- and women-owned firms to participate,” Marin says. The contract gives governments access to thousands of sellers that are credentialed as minority- women- disabled- or veteran-owned businesses that sell to government customers.
The cooperative contract also provides governments with strategic-sourcing insights, Marin told on-demand video attendees. “Through the contract, any user that’s registered on our site has access to over 50 different reporting mechanisms to give you insight on what your agency is buying, who you are buying it from, who’s ordering it, how much, how often — a variety of analytics and tools to give you line-of-site to how your agency is spending taxpayer dollars.” Marin said the reports primarily cover indirect spend—the onesy-twosies, the one-offs or the spot buys. “Now you have guardrails to help you manage your agency spend,” Marin concludes.
In the on-demand video, Chris Freni told viewers how they could get started in the cooperative program. Freni is a government customer advisor at Amazon Business. “The first step is you need to create a free Amazon Business account. If your agency already has an account and is not a U.S. Communities member, you need to go to step 2, where your agency can register to participate in the U.S. Communities program.”
Freni told viewers that the third and most important part of the process for agencies that want to use this contract is that they need to connect with a dedicated Amazon Business representative. “This allows both parties to have a strategic conversation to understand how they can leverage the contract to meet the agency’s needs,” Freni says. He also encouraged agencies that are already participating in the U.S. Communities cooperative contract to reach out to their U.S. Communities program manager if they have questions.
Freni highlighted some of the key benefits of the contract for the public sector, such as:
- Tiered administration and centralized reporting
- Tax-exempt purchasing availability for organizations
- P-card management and approval workflow
- Robust category and search functionality for public sector buyers
- Efficient fulfillment and returns
If interested in learning more, view the on-demand webinar titled Compliant Purchasing Made Easy with Amazon Business.
Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County and the GPN web site. Contact: [email protected]