April 22, 2010 By Hilton Collins
A government procurement department's job may seem simple in theory - buy the goods and services a jurisdiction needs - but anyone involved in the process knows it's much more complicated. When employees must repeatedly input duplicative information for each purchase, the task becomes laborious and error-prone.
St. Petersburg, Fla., dealt with that challenge in the Purchasing and Materials Management department, the city's office for buying supplies, services and construction. Department employees felt that procurement methods could be made more efficient.
"We had a purchasing system, and it would process your requisitions and create purchase orders. But then to pay for those products, you had to manually enter the same purchase orders into the finance system because the two did not talk to each other," said Christine West, the city's Oracle e-business solutions manager.
That method left the process vulnerable to human error. Someone could accidentally type information into the finance system differently than it had been typed into the purchasing system. "There was no integration to be able to reconcile the two systems," West said.
St. Petersburg wanted to eliminate paper processes and the errors that came with them, improve employees' ability to analyze department activity and streamline the requisition process. In 2005, West and her colleagues achieved these goals by automating purchasing procedures with Oracle Advanced Procurement, an applications suite.
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