Business and Financial Services brings ease of procurement to FAS
Procurement needs across the FAS portfolio vary greatly from unit-to-unit. Each purchase has its own set of requirements that can present challenges to individuals who are unfamiliar with the process. Business and Financial Services (BFS) makes navigating the process of procurement much easier on its FAS clients by bringing the FAS core values of service, stewardship, teamwork and integrity to the procurement process.
With a staff of nine dedicated procurement employees, each possessing a wide breadth of expertise, BFS brings its extensive knowledge of the rules and regulations behind procurement for UT Austin, said BFS Associate Director Marcus Grimes. BFS works with other FAS teams to provide its service. Together they ensure customers are good stewards of its resources while making purchases that follow university guidelines. Because many purchases require going to bid, BFS is also able to bring integrity to the purchases that they make, helping ensure its FAS clients make sound decisions and follow proper protocol.
Grimes explained that BFS processes approximately 700 purchase orders (POs) a month to support FAS, some of which are straightforward, while others require BFS to meet with individuals to sort concerns or issues that may arise. Grimes and BFS Purchasing Manager Loren Hinkle usually handle the intake, while other BFS procurement staff, known as buyers, work on different assignments. Once Grimes and Hinkle sort through procurement needs, they then delegate the purchase to specific buyers.
“I’m your consultant,” Grimes said. “I am here to consult with you on how to do things that you may not be aware of. I can be that liaison between the Purchasing Office and the customer, and I make sure we’re all aligned on how to approach a specific purchase.”
Grimes cited the example of when the university’s Information Technology Services (ITS) recently used BFS expertise to strategize on future purchases of equipment for the statewide network managed by UT System’s Office of Telecommunications Services (OTS). As assistant vice president for ITS, Trice Humpert shares executive responsibility for OTS with UT System. BFS’ role was to better understand the product so they could help with the department’s overall procurement strategy.
“By understanding the product and the department’s needs, we were able to articulate to Assistant Vice President for Procurement and Payment Services Roy Anasagasti the details and plan for future bid requirements that will meet both the bid policies and the department’s technical needs,” Grimes said.
Another example of BFS providing its expertise occurred when Customer Support Services Director Susan Roy came to Grimes with the need to deploy a new technology for customer support in areas around UT Austin.
“This purchase will present challenges because it is not your typical bid requirement due to the number of vendors that can provide this type of service,” Grimes said. “BFS and ITS discussed how to scale the purchase to something more manageable. The group must look at their strategy for this technology, and the method of purchasing will factor into the plan. We wanted to get ahead of this a little bit so that we were ready to deploy it and set the right path for the service moving forward.”
BFS also stepped in to help Project Management and Construction Services (PMCS) Team Lead John VerShaw when a piece of equipment broke after the February winter storm. This required BFS to process an emergency PO. Grimes explained that when something in the construction and maintenance areas needs replacement, it often means the value will require additional approval levels. For POs beyond $15,000, BFS must route them to the Purchasing Office for final approval. Nevertheless, BFS was able to guide the process to get the PMCS purchase done quickly, taking pressure off of the project managers.
“I have worked with Marcus on a wide range of purchases from a $300 box fan to $1 million in electrical switch gear,” VerShaw said. “Marcus was one of the first people I contacted because I knew he could help me procure the equipment we needed in a timely manner.”
Grimes emphasized that BFS is dedicated to supporting its customers.
“We’re part of your team,” Grimes said. “Any groups we work with in FAS, we’re part of their team.”