Page 16 - CT Innovation in Education, November 2021
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Innovation in Education | OMNIA PARTNERS – learn more at
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Efficient Purchasing
It doesn’t matter how innovative your campus wants
to be. If you can’t get the products and services when they’re needed at a price your institution can afford,
those innovations will remain nothing more than good ideas.
necessarily the first place you might think to look
for proof of big change in higher education. Yet, the signals are there. Aside from the obvious investment in personal protection equipment (PPE), we’re witnessing dramatic growth in three other categories that the pandemic has definitely accelerated:
ƒ Information technology ƒ Air filtration
ƒ Furniture
On the IT front, we’re getting more calls from procurement offices for solutions to support virtual learning in general and specifically, cloud storage and cybersecurity.
Air filtration, another category where a pandemic uptick makes sense, isn’t traditional HVAC. These days, facilities operations are investing in more sophisticated “smart” systems that provide remote monitoring and operations, essential for settings where staff are squeezed for time and remote work is just as probable as on-campus work.
Finally, there’s furniture. Because of how students will be interacting with one another, institutions are looking for innovative ways to position learners with physical distancing in mind within the classroom and in common areas. They want furniture that can easily be moved
and assembled. They also want pieces with accessibility to power, for those environments where there may not be an electrical outlet on the floor or the wall. Vendors are coming up with creative applications for batteries associated with furniture and workstations.
Another area where we’re seeing a lot of activity is outdoor furniture, particularly in those states with warmer
Alton Campbell
Vice President, Higher Education OMNIA Partners
climates. Those schools are looking at their outdoor spaces and asking how they can better use exterior settings to give students more options for studying and congregating in common areas.
2 Speed Bumps: Budget and Staffing
However, deciding to buy is sometimes easier than the buying itself. There are processes and procedures with regulations to follow, and nobody understands this better than the procurement office.
Yet, as an outcome of the pandemic, higher ed buying has hit two speed bumps. One is the limited amount of spending allowed. Student enrollment is down; students aren’t necessarily on campus, and the related fees they aren’t paying — housing, meals, parking, technology fees — is hitting the bottom line, squeezing budgets.
The second area is staffing. Schools have had to lay off people or lost them through employee attrition. This staffing shortage has hit all over campus, including the purchasing department, where a diminishing number of people are handling ever more bids and RFPs and getting the requisite number of quotes, all while managing day-to- day operations.
Fortunately, relief is at hand. Universities can fill the
gap by looking to cooperatives and companies like OMNIA Partners to exploit the portfolio of contracts we already have.
By leveraging OMNIA Partners’ resources, higher ed augments its staff efforts during a time of great need while gaining efficiency in obtaining the products and services required.
The Free, Intelligent Connector
OMNIA Partners, Public Sector uses cooperative contracts to reduce the cost of goods and services by aggregating the purchasing power of public agencies nationwide. That

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