North Polk Community School District, Iowa
North Polk Community School District – 1,400 students across four schools – had been using a paper-based requisition-approval process in conjunction with its accounting software. To make a purchase:
- Staff members had to fill out a requisition form, and submit it to a supervisor.
- Then, the form went to the administrator’s office, via one-day interschool mail, for approval by the superintendent.
- Then, the form would be sent to the business manager, who would review the account code for each item.
- Then, Accounts Payable would enter each request into the accounting system as a purchase order – a process that only took place on Fridays, and often added a week or more to the process.
- Finally, the purchase order would be sent back to the requestor, so that the order could be placed with the vendor.
Aside from the long delays, the district faced other problems. “There was no way to know where the form was in the process,” says Elementary Technology teacher Ann Howe. “You had to call around to find out who had it.” After the order was placed with the vendor, adds Athletics Director Rob Sinclair, “The business office had trouble finding out if items had been received. Nobody would really know if anything came in. You just hoped it did.”
North Polk introduced k-Purchase at the start of the 2012/2013 school year. According to former Business Manager Deb Schroeder, most of the staff were able to learn the program on their own. “For the few people I had to sit down with, it only took about 10-15 minutes for them to learn,” Schroeder says. "It’s a very intuitive process – I had a brand new user entering 10 requisitions within her first hour of learning the program."
"k-Purchase has removed the redundant, time-consuming steps that constituted our former process," Schroeder says. "Right away, we noticed a dramatic increase in processing efficiency."
The benefits extend beyond just improvements in efficiency. “The clarity and organization of the system allows me to place internal controls on purchase requests, thereby reducing human error,” Shroeder says. “Additionally, our staff has more time for teaching, coaching, and everything else they have to do.”
“I came from a technology background,” says Superintendent Dr. Dan Mart, “so I was very interested in updating the paper-pencil process we had. But, other alternatives were just too time-consuming. This system has significantly increased the efficiency of our purchasing process. I’ve been telling people to go buy the product.”
The staff and administration say that the benefits vastly outweigh the small time investment required to implement the system. Elementary Technology teacher Ann Howe particularly appreciates the faster approval time when she needs items in a hurry. For example: “I put in a requisition for tennis skirts, and I got the PO two hours later. I’ve never had a PO in two hours. So, I was able to order the tennis skirts the same day I put the PO in. And, I don’t need to find all the addresses for companies I order from – they’re saved in the system.”