Carolina People: Travis Henderson
‘If we can make business processes more efficient, faculty and staff spend more time on their important research or instruction.’
Director of Procurement Services and Materials Management
3 years at Carolina
What is your role as director of Procurement Services and Materials Management?
My organization is responsible for the acquisition of goods and services, stocking and distribution of products, tracking capital assets, managing the University’s payment card and travel programs and the development of business processes that seek continuous improvements in efficiency, effectiveness and user satisfaction. To summarize, we are responsible for the procurement cycle of all goods and services required to sustain, foster and support the education and research missions of the University.
You are in the middle of two major new initiatives involving Concur Expense, a travel and expense management system, and BuyCarolina, a web-based marketplace. How has your work on these programs changed since working from home?
The pandemic and work-from-home environment have had different impacts on each. For Concur Expense (the travel expense management system), we had planned to deploy this solution in conjunction with a new travel credit card program for three campus units as a pilot program in April. Due to the suspension of the vast majority of University travel since March, we have postponed the launch several times since then, with a current projected pilot launch date of late January 2021. The delay has given us additional time to refine solution configuration and training materials, which should yield an even more positive experience for our University customers/travelers.
BuyCarolina is a solution within ConnectCarolina that allows people to comparison shop for supplies they need from common vendors. The contract with the solution provider was signed in early April, and the implementation project was kicked off immediately afterward. We executed the entire project, partnering with the vendor and ITS, in a remote work environment as we successfully deployed the new BuyCarolina solution on August 17.
What do you and your team hope to achieve with these new initiatives?
BuyCarolina should deliver an enhanced user experience and contribute significant improvements to process efficiency. Previously, in order to purchase something in ePro, users would have had to “punch-out” to each individual vendor one at a time. Now, if those vendors are part of the marketplace, they can search for the product and add it to their cart directly from the marketplace. It should also drive people to make better purchasing decisions and stretch their dollars further by being able to compare different prices across vendors on the same screen.
ConcurExpense will allow people to make requests and secure required pre-trip approval when they travel for work. In conjunction with the new University corporate card, it will also allow them to submit their travel expenses on the back end of their trip without requiring employees to front personal funds for travel expenses or manually add things like airfare or hotel stays. It should save time and be more efficient.
What has been the biggest challenge in working on these projects from home?
Working from home has not significantly impacted our ability to manage the Concur Expense project. By utilizing the collaboration and meeting technology tools available at Carolina, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, we still would have been able to launch the pilot in April, if it would have been necessary.
The remote working environment presented more challenges at the beginning of the BuyCarolina project during the discovery and project planning phases, as these activities generally occur in person and are usually more efficient that way. Generally with these types of projects, the supplier would come in for a few days to get everything done, but we had to manage all that through Zoom. Therefore, we had to be extra careful with communications to ensure the project plan and requirements were clear. We were much more deliberative in making sure that we reviewed things thoughtfully on our own and then consolidated any comments and thoughts prior to finalizing the project plan. It felt like we took it to the next level working remotely because there wasn’t as much ability to have back and forth discussion on topics with this medium.
My staff, ITS, Finance Communications and Finance Change Management have done an amazing job leading and supporting both projects.
How are you and your team maintaining a sense of cohesiveness and community while working on these initiatives remotely?
I have a standing bi-weekly staff meeting with my direct reports as well as weekly one-on-ones with each. I encourage my staff who are supervisors to do the same as much as possible, even if it is simply to check in to see how folks are doing.
How do you think these programs will support the University’s mission?
By delivering process efficiency and savings, these new solutions will allow those performing research and delivering instruction to focus their efforts on more strategic and meaningful endeavors and stretch their financial resources further. Processing receipts and other administrative tasks after a business trip is not necessarily what faculty is being paid to do, so if we can make these processes more efficient through these solutions, it allows faculty and staff to save time and focus on the very important research or instruction that are their primary objectives.
What do you like most about your work?
In addition to the great people I have the pleasure of working with, my three years at Carolina have presented quite a few opportunities to improve processes to drive efficiency for both campus customers and within my organization. My extended Procurement Services team deserves a lot of the credit here, as I have folks who really took the lead and spearheaded these projects.