Streamlining procurement workflow from 10,000 suppliers

Learn how NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde uses Zendesk Support to streamline their procurement workflow from 10,000 suppliers.

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NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) is the largest of 22 NHS Boards in Scotland. The Board serves a population of 1.2 million and employs 38,000 staff.

It provides strategic leadership and performance management for the entire NHS system in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area and ensures that services are delivered effectively and efficiently.

The board manages more than £2.5 billion of resources each year and, as a result, processes more than 500,000 invoices annually across 10,000 suppliers. As in many large organisations, the Procurement department makes an order and subsequently invoices come into Accounts payable, within the Finance Department. The team must then match the invoice details to the original order requirements before payment can be made.

“Due to the sheer volume of invoices we deal with, there are around 150 queries per day across our team of 40 part-time employees,” says Graeme Carmichael, Financial Accountant at NHSGGC. The majority of invoices are processed without problem but, of course, some have issues, explains Carmichael. “An invoice may not marry up with the order for a raft of reasons; it could be the price or that goods haven’t actually been received or were perhaps incorrect. In these situations accounts payable have to go back to procurement to look at the order and attempt to rectify anomalies, causing extra work, wasted time and payment delays.”

The first helicopter to land on New South Glasgow Hospital’s Helipad

Over time, Carmichael has worked hard to streamline the process as much as possible, “We tried lots of ways to make the system better before finding Zendesk Support,” he explains. “From sharing spreadsheets, which was nightmare, to annotating invoices with comments within the finance system. Even this still meant contacting procurement to alert them to a query. Also, there was no system of knowing which of the six groups within procurement we needed to work with or the status of a query.” They then tried another help desk product, “but it wasn’t really appropriate. It wasn’t sophisticated enough, it couldn’t interface with our financial systems and, again, end users couldn’t view a query’’s status.”

Carmichael decided to explore whether outbound focused software could help, “I stumbled upon Zendesk Support and decided to start a trial pilot,” he explains. “I was really drawn to the fact it could interface with our financial system. It provided a way to stop the team re-keying all the invoice information every time they had a problem invoice.”

Support now helps manage the invoice payment process by allowing a support request to be sent to the procurement department. Finance staff benefit from reduced re-keying query details and use Support to track the progress of queries. The procuring departments can manage and monitor queries and are better able to respond to finance staff through Support.

“The free trial means it is incredibly easy to get your hands dirty and get stuck into Zendesk Support,” enthused Carmichael, who values the upfront benefit of getting to know the software during the free trial. “Actually using the product as part of the decision-making process is most welcome but very rare. You know if Support is going to work for you or not before you actually buy!”

A few members of the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde team on awards night

The fact that Support is cloud-based means, “you get started straight away,” he said. “If it had needed a big install, it would have taken some time to deliver, but you can literally be up and running in minutes. That’s the fabulous thing with cloud-based software.”

“The business rules functionality ensures that a query ticket is always directed to the correct procurement group—we can get fixing the problem straight away, rather than trying to work out who to send it to! We also use business rules a great deal for prioritising, for example making sure high value and invoices with early payment discounts are sorted first,” he said.

“It has freed the team’s time in accounts payable, they can focus on other elements of their role, housekeeping and development work, etc. Day to day it is easier to manage the processes from both sides and, of course, we are paying our suppliers more quickly which is a goal itself!” Support has been very popular with both procurement and accounts payable. With no re-keying, for anyone, and procurement receiving standardised requests they can then manage easily, “The software is clean and uncluttered, it is straightforward to use and people actually enjoy using it!” Carmichael explained.

Zendesk’s company and product roadmap and team are also very important, explained Carmichael. “You have to buy-in to how a company will develop their software—otherwise you may be at the mercy of changes that distract from your particular usage. We don’t want a sudden change into a social media platform! Zendesk is developing the way we want and need. Plus they have an excellent team. Whenever we raise a query they are very good at responding. We’ve been impressed.”

“For many reasons, we can improve how we process invoices, but the time taken is falling steadily and there is no doubt Zendesk Support has helped streamline our workflow a great deal.”

– Graeme Carmichael Financial Accountant at NHSGGC

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