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Customer Stories

Championing Diversity in the Higher Education Procurement Space

By TealBook


In this case study, Mary Helmick, Director of Procurement for Virginia Tech University, dives into how a status quo mindset led to difficulty sourcing diverse suppliers and an inability to quickly meet diversity goals within her institution. When a partner introduced her to TealBook, Mary and her team were able to quickly identify new, diverse suppliers and enhance their current vendor master to gain new confidence in their data.

The Story of Virginia Tech University

Virginia Tech is reimagining how education and technology intersect. This approach transforms the ways they teach and learn, perform research, and engage with communities around the world. They collaborate with diverse team members and cross the traditional lines between fields and disciplines to tackle global-scale problems. They push the boundaries of knowledge in order to make a difference in the world. 

Members of the Virginia Tech community have a clear vision of how they can serve in their personal, professional, and civic pursuits. They are a force for positive change, driven by their motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).

The Challenge of Diversifying Their Suppliers

Historically, procurement teams at Virginia Tech relied on personal and professional relationships in order to determine which suppliers they could and should work with. It was a “do business with those we’ve always done business with” type of mindset. Mary Helmick knew that Virginia Tech lacked a supplier management tool and was looking to implement one over the next year or so. They needed a way to enhance their vendor master and enhance the information they had from current suppliers.

Additionally, Virginia Tech had a lot of expectations at the federal, state, and university levels for meeting diverse vendor utilization percentages. Mary and her team were individually meeting with large departments to help them look for opportunities with diverse vendors, when they were traditionally working with the same majority companies, and, while Mary knew there were diverse vendors in those spaces, it wasn’t always easy to vet those suppliers. They needed a better way of introducing those vendors and meeting goals.

“Everything they showed us… [and] was demoed on that day has come to fruition, and I really appreciate that with TealBook.”

Mary Helmick, Director of Procurement, Virginia Tech

Why Virginia Tech Chose TealBook

Mary Helmick first heard of TealBook from some of her peers in higher education procurement. After speaking to several colleagues, she then was introduced to TealBook directly through her account executive at JAGGAER, right as the two companies were finalizing their partnership. She became very interested in what the TealBook business model was and what it could provide for the institution.

Once Mary met with her sales representative and they began discussing TealBook’s capabilities and scheduling an industry-specific demo, it became very clear that TealBook’s supplier data platform could greatly help Virginia Tech procurement teams meet their goals.  

Mary also felt that, compared to some other contracting processes, finalizing Virginia Tech’s contract with TealBook went very smoothly. They were able to close their contract with TealBook in less than two months, which greatly assisted in getting the product implemented into Virginia Tech’s systems sooner. 

Since they benefited from another public university having already worked through their own contract with TealBook, Virginia Tech was able to leverage the existing master services agreement. The cooperative contract, which included a simple, two-page contract that has been vetted by larger higher education institutions, benefitted Virginia Tech as it has (and can) other universities.

Lastly, any time the school purchases a new product, Virginia Tech’s IT department runs a full security review of that product.  Upon reviewing TealBook, the IT Team found TealBook’s security compliant and allowed the procurement team to swiftly finalize the contracting process, which enhanced the team’s confidence in the supplier data platform!

How TealBook Responded 

From the very start, TealBook team listened to the concerns that Mary had and designed a demo that demonstrated solutions for her team’s specific needs. Mary spoke of the process saying, “Everything they showed us… [and] was demoed on that day has come to fruition, and I really appreciate that with TealBook.”

Upon the first pass of the data enrichment, 70% of the suppliers matched to real-time diversity certifications and other key data points relative to company overview, NAICs codes, locations, and contact information.

The Results

Since implementing TealBook, Mary and her team were able to provide large schools and other departments within the university with the diverse suppliers they challenged them to find. 

Transformed Sourcing for the College of Engineering

In a specific instance involving the Virginia Tech College of Engineering, Mary recalls: “When we were challenging the College of Engineering to increase their diverse spend, they immediately turned back to us and said ‘Well, you have to tell us who are the competitors for the diverse vendors for the vendors we have always used.’ That was on procurement, and we’ve used TealBook for that.”

Improved Outreach Opportunities

The team is also now able to encourage their vendors to pursue diverse certifications that apply to their state. “ We can say ‘Okay, here are companies we’re doing business with, and we can see they have a federal diverse certification…but they’re not registered with Virginia as a certified diverse vendor. We can now outreach [to ask them to] go through our Virginia certification so we can recognize you as a Virginia diverse vendor.” 

This has helped them build stronger relationships and opportunities with their current suppliers since they’re amazed that Virginia Tech had done the research and pursued them to certify. Thanks to TealBook, Mary and her team have the data needed, right at their fingertips, to know their efforts are worth it.

TealBook leverages state-of-the-art machine learning concepts to deliver supplier data light years ahead of self-reported, manually collected and maintained data feeds. Unlike supplier data sources that repackage manually inputted data or depend on supplier self-reporting, TealBook uses a 5-step process to gather and refine supplier data through AI and machine learning. 

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