Cooperative purchasing: Your contracts are ready

Editor’s note: This Q&A comes from Sourcewell, a corporate partner of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). Corporate partner articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of AACC.

As we enter late summer and early fall, many higher education institutions are planning how to manage and maximize their budgets while still getting what they need to ensure student success. Whatever the need – big or small – Sourcewell (formerly National Joint Powers Alliance®) likely has an awarded vendor on contract who can help you place an order faster than the traditional procurement process.

Chris Robinson

“We exist to serve our members,” says Chris Robinson, Sourcewell procurement manager. “For our Procurement Team, this means conducting national solicitations on behalf of our members to save them time, energy, and resources once they’re ready to buy. Our focus is on bringing our members the best solutions possible so they can focus on what matters most – their students and staff.”

Sourcewell achieves this by working with the best vendors. Below, Robinson shares insight into how the cooperative purchasing organization ensures this.

How many awarded vendors work with Sourcewell?

Sourcewell has over 300 contracts with 260+ awarded vendors who provide everything from pencils and pens; to technology, turf, and even vehicles. Sourcewell also has nearly 250 Indefinite Quantity Construction (ezIQC®) contracts in 15 states, allowing colleges and universities of all sizes and types to save time in the construction procurement process.

Our number of contracts and awarded vendors continues to grow as we add resources to our team and can better respond to member needs and inquiries.

Does Sourcewell initiate the relationship, or do vendors have to apply?

All prospective vendors compete for contract award in response to a Sourcewell solicitation. In addition to posting it on our own website, Sourcewell advertises our Requests for Proposal (RFP) in national and regional print and online publications, and on select e-commerce sites. On multiple occasions recently, Sourcewell has opened RFP responses from 20-plus prospective vendors in a single RFP category.

We feel that the level of competition is very high, and that allows Sourcewell to award those vendors that have demonstrated the ability to deliver strong value to our members.

How do you “vet” a prospective vendor?

Prospective vendor proposals are reviewed and evaluated by the Sourcewell Evaluation Committee using criteria outlined in each RFP. The primary intent of the evaluation process is to identify and award those vendors that can provide solutions nationwide, offering opportunities for Sourcewell and our member agencies to purchase quality products, equipment, and services as desired and needed.

Our weighted scoring system gives primary importance to a prospective vendor’s pricing proposal, but considers factors such as life-cycle costs, total cost of ownership, quality, and service capabilities. Vendors are expected to demonstrate the offered pricing levels are reflective of the potential and collective volume of Sourcewell and the nationally established SOURCEWELL membership base.

Sourcewell gives additional consideration for vendors with “green” and/or Disadvantaged Business Enterprise statuses.

What oversight to the sale and service process does Sourcewell provide?

Once awarded, every vendor is connected with a Sourcewell contract administrator, with whom the vendor will work very closely throughout the duration of the contract. The Sourcewell Contract Administration team utilizes an annual planning tool to outline specific goals and performance measurements with each awarded vendor, communicates at least quarterly with each vendor in evaluating progress toward achievement of the plan, and conducts a formal annual review.

In addition, Sourcewell members play an active role in monitoring the accuracy and validity of vendor contract quoting. Members routinely communicate with Sourcewell to validate pricing received from vendors. The Sourcewell Contract Administration team can quickly access the awarded contract pricing database to rapidly verify the accuracy of a quote.

Members are never alone when they use our contracts. We’re here to help and advise them – before, during, and after the purchase or service acquisition.

What might cause a vendor to lose its contract with Sourcewell?

If an awarded vendor fails to live up to the terms of its proposal and contract, Sourcewell reserves the right to terminate the contract before the end of the term or take other remedial measures.

However, because of proactive contract administration efforts, Sourcewell has rarely had an awarded vendor whose performance has resulted in the early termination of the contract.

How can I find out if a product/service or vendor is on contract with Sourcewell?

Members can search our awarded contracts and find all contract documentation on our website. Visit www.sourcewell-mn.gov to browse contracts by category, see an alphabetical list of vendors, or use the search navigation box to type in keywords or a vendor name.

Sourcewell’s Membership Team is also a great resource. Reach the team by phone (877-858-9706) or email: membership@sourcewell-mn.gov

About the Author

Daily Staff
CCDaily is published by the American Association of Community Colleges.