UVa’s New Purchasing System Not Popular

UVa has launched a new purchasing system, Aaron Kessler reports in the Daily Progress, but it’s not going over very well. David Sewell writes in — speaking only for himself and not the university — explaining the difficulty:

It’s not just the double-whammy fee that’s a problem. The whole system, while facilitating simple orders like office supplies, makes it much harder for departments to order things like one or two copies of software produced by a small Eastern European company that’s not prepared to deal with the bureaucracy for registering as a UVa vendor. (Can you imagine if you were a tiny software shop and had to spend 15 minutes of your time figuring out Web registration forms from every public institution that wanted to place a $25 order? You’d be out of business fast.)

The folks I know in purchasing at UVa are trying to figure out how to circumvent the system entirely — it’s just too much trouble. And, as always, I’m not speaking for the university, either, even though I work for ’em, too, in a roundabout way.

5 Responses to “UVa’s New Purchasing System Not Popular”


  • Since sending Waldo the note with the bit quoted, I’ve made my first purchase using the new UVa Marketplace system. Nothing complex; my office needed a couple of computer reference books. I thought it might be entertaining to offer a comparison of how the old way and the new way of ordering differ.

    Ordering books, old system:Go online to Amazon.com or O’Reilly or whatever.
    Order books, using UVa purchasing card.
    Sit back and wait for books to arrive in the mail.Ordering books, new system:
    Go online to UVa Marketplace application.
    Choose local “Barnes and Noble” as vendor. They’re the one bookseller we know is set up to deal with the new system.
    However, B&N is not a catalog vendor, so choose “Non-Catalog Form” and fill in a separate line-item screen for each book.
    Click through three or for screens submit order for purchase order approval.
    Wait for departmental approver to approve order after she receives email notification that order has been submitted.
    Once a PO has been generated, send a faxed copy of the PO to Barnes & Noble.
    Wait for B&N to notify you that the books are in.
    Drive to B&N, as they don’t deliver books ordered via purchase order.
    Wait in line at the front for an available person. Pick up books.(Oh, and since B&N is a University contract vendor, the actual price for the books will not be the same as the listed price at BN.com. If you want to know what you will actually be paying, add step 2.5, “phone Barnes & Noble to ask how much the books will cost”.)The alternative is to use the university Purchasing Card for an over-the-counter purchase at B&N. But this means you don’t get the discounted contract price, and may have to make two trips to the store if the books aren’t in stock.
    No doubt the new system will work more smoothly as kinks are addressed, but at the moment it’s hard to see how this all amounts to savings in either time or money.

  • [Grr. Waldo, why does WordPress show HTTP “ol” and “li” tags working properly as you type and then strip them when the comment is submitted? Sorry for the ungodly formatting of the previous comment.]

  • Oops. Sorry, David. This is actually my fault — I have one plugin that provides the preview that cheerfully renders any HTML, even if WordPress is going to strip them out. I wish I could figure out how to set which tags WordPress will accept or reject. Lists seem like a pretty basic requirement, IMHO.

  • The purchasing system in place over the last few years was pretty bad as well. I’m frightened by the fact that the new system is worse.

    In short, there were so many hoops to jump through that I was more than willing to pay extra to work through contract vendors which operated without the hoops… So I really doubt the eVA is saving money for the state.

  • EVA is merely a way to re-capture revenue from state institutions. Vendors on the SWAM and EVA lists simply jack up their prices to the state to reflect the new vendor fees – basically this is a way of pulling money out of other state agencies to cover the costs of the new EVA system (and then some).

    The hassle is directly proportionate to how “commoditized” your buying is – yeah, if you can get a current text from B&N or somesuch, or run of the mill IT equipment, it’s probably not going to be a big hassle. If you work with even slightly esoteric vendors, it’s a nightmare.

    It’s not the convenience factor – it’s the cost. Those of us who do try to be efficient with state dollars and get as much as possible for the money are really undercut by this. I predict massive backlash after people realize how the various non-compliance fees add up and eat up budgets.

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