Refusing to settle for business-as-usual

Paul Mayne // Western News

Elizabeth Krische, Director of Procurement Services at Western, was recognized recently by the Canadian Association of University Business Officers with the organization’s Emerging Leader Award for her work with e-procurement and the Best Value Business Model.

Don’t tell Elizabeth Krische we have always done things a certain way around here.

“I love change,” said a smiling Krische, Director of Procurement Services at Western.

Almost everything the university purchases, from pencils to MRIs, is under her watchful eye. And how the university goes about such purchases has changed significantly in the eight years Krische has been at Western – all to the tune of millions of dollars in savings.

The Canadian Association of University Business Officers (CAUBO) recently recognized Krische’s passion for change with the organization’s 2015 Emerging Leaders Award. The award celebrates those who “promote excellence, collaboration, leadership and information-sharing in the field of higher education administration in Canada.”

Lynn Logan, Associate Vice-President (Finance & Facilities), said Krische is someone who is able to build great excitement and enthusiasm on any project.

“Elizabeth’s exceptional knowledge of procurement standards and outstanding negotiation skills has led to best-value procurement practices, solid vendor relations and a strong university procurement community, both within the province and beyond,” Logan said. “As a leader, Elizabeth understands the importance of focusing not only on business processes and systems, but also on the people side of managing change.”

In recent years, the Ontario Ministry of Government Services challenged the university sector to focus its attention on collaborative spending and set a target goal of 15 per cent collaborative spending by the end of fiscal year 2015 for all universities. Krische didn’t wait that long to make a significant impact.

In 2012, Western hit more than 22 per cent collaborative spending, compared to 10 per cent achieved by the rest of the sector. Last year, Western was almost at 24 per cent.

To facilitate this change, Krische led the implementation of a user-friendly, cloud-based e-procurement solution at the university. Well known in the industry, e-procurement eliminates the need to go to multiple vendor sites for purchasing.

“Before, you may have to go to 27 different sites, with different passwords for each,” she said. “E-procurement brings it all to one place and lets you shop easily within all those different sites and guarantees you Western pricing.”

Western’s e-procurement site, Mustang Market, went live last June. Krische said the benefits have been immediate.

“The selling feature was to get it out to the end users on campus. Now, purchases only come back to Procurement when it hits a certain threshold. Before, everything came to back to us, which really slowed things down. Now, we’re touching about a third of what we used to.”

There are also better deals to be had. That means savings for units, departments, faculties and the university.

“It pulls all the vendors in one place and it’s much more streamlined and faster than it used to be,” she said. “Vendors like it because it’s an automated process with orders and invoices. And, of course, we can now facilitate more deals and better pricing.”

But change was not limited there for Krische.

As part of the province’s Productivity and Innovation Fund program, through the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities, Krische brought the Best Value Business Model (BVBM) to Western, as well as created a Centre of Knowledge for the Best Value Business Model.

The BVBM is a procurement and project management approach for large-scale projects that Western wants to tender (mainly $100,000 and over) that supports the selection of expert vendors who identify and manage the risks of projects. Examples would include things such as the beverage contract with Coke, the new travel management company FCm Travel Solutions and the new pension administration for retirees with Sun Life Financial.

Working in collaboration with four other Ontario universities (Queen’s, Ottawa, Waterloo and Laurier), Krische led a project to transfer BVBM knowledge from researchers at Arizona State University to procurement teams at these institutions.

By using BVBM, Western officials anticipated savings between 5-7 per cent; the savings exceeded those expectations with 12 projects, so far, showing an 11 per cent savings – or $5 million.

Although the original concept was for the Ontario region, Krische expanded the BVBM initiative to include universities across in Canada, including Dalhousie, Manitoba, Alberta and Simon Fraser.

In June, the CAUBO honoured Western with second place in the 2015 Quality and Productivity Award for the university’s BVBM centre.

“These initiatives demonstrate Elizabeth’s willingness to collaborate and improve process provincially and nationally – a focus that expands well beyond her role expectations,” Logan said. “Great leaders have vision, spirit, imagination and passion. They motivate teams, generate ideas and collaborate freely. Elizabeth is truly an extraordinary leader, one that Western values tremendously.”