Virginia Tech and Amazon Business are collaborating on a new procurement platform and method that allows for the purchase of supplies, equipment, and goods directly through a university-dedicated Amazon Business portal.

The Amazon Business “punch-out” catalog – housed within HokieMart, the university’s official e-procurement platform – will provide university HokieMart requesters with the same look and feel of the traditional Amazon shopping experience, while transitioning from the usage of purchasing cards to a new pay-by-invoice model for Amazon Business orders.

Launched in April, this new platform has seen tremendous adoption across campus and offers a number of benefits. 

“This is a more efficient way of doing business, it’s a more secure way of doing business, and on top of that, it provides the familiar online shopping experience,” said Mary Helmick, director of procurement. “Moving from the old system of using purchasing cards to this new method of paying by invoice will ensure greater efficiency, transparency, and oversight of expenditures, as well serving as a best-practices model for universities throughout the commonwealth and the nation.”

In moving to the pay-by-invoice model, Virginia Tech became the first major higher education institution in Virginia and one of the largest research universities in the United States to implement such a program.  

“We are always looking for business practices improvements that will enhance our service to the colleges and departments of Virginia Tech, and I am eager to see how this fresh, innovative approach will help us do that,” said Dwight Shelton, interim senior vice president for operations and administration. “Our procurement capabilities include a variety of user-friendly platforms and tools to help the university secure needed goods and services, and I am confident the Amazon Business punch-out will allow us to continue doing that in a strategic, efficient manner.”

The punch-out’s April launch was the culmination of many months of discussions, planning, and piloting. A team from procurement had a series of meetings with Amazon Business representatives last year and into 2018 to determine the undertaking’s feasibility.

Previously, Amazon’s business model was predicated on processing purchasing card transactions from departmental employees. Once Amazon Business provided the functionality for universities to be invoiced after products had been shipped and delivered, the project began to gain momentum.

In March, the university began piloting the program with the College of Engineering. Results from the pilot process – as well as three subsequent townhall and virtual tutorial sessions – convinced rgw Pprocurement Department the time was right to roll the program out campus-wide.

“We were seeing people’s interest go through the roof with the training sessions,” Helmick said. “The demand was clear among our HokieMart users across campus.”

The punch-out catalog launched to tremendous initial success. Within two days, the number of users had grown from 25 to 160; that number is more than 700 today and represents around a third of all HokieMart requestors on campus. The platform is also available for use at all of Virginia Tech’s extended campuses and includes Business Prime Shipping, which offers free two-day shipping on all Prime product purchases, no matter the campus site.

The goal for the months ahead is 100 percent adoption throughout the university and the elimination of Amazon expenditures on a departmental purchasing card.

“We want to see this become standard practice across all Virginia Tech campuses,” Helmick said. “To be able to build this relationship with Amazon Business, and add it to the long-standing relationships Virginia Tech has with other campus vendors, it’s just really exciting.”

For those interested in learning more about the Amazon Business Punch-Out Catalog, please contact HokieMart Help Desk at 540-231-2020 or visit https://www.procurement.vt.edu/hokiemart/AmazonPunch-out.html