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Unimarket Collaboration Channels: Taking customer collaboration to the next level.

As a customer, Julie loved Unimarket’s commitment to collaboration. That’s why when she joined Unimarket, she wanted to create even more ways for customers to connect.

When I worked at Duquesne University as Assistant Director of Procurement and Payment Services, one of my early responsibilities was overseeing the rollout of the Unimarket eProcurement solution.

As we previously had a paper-based procurement process, we knew automation and digitalization would really help us offer a much easier purchasing experience for our users, plus save time and improve compliance. But a major benefit we didn’t expect came from being plugged into a community of like-minded professionals that faced the same challenges as us.

Going to Unimarket customer events like Unimarket NOW and Day of Collaboration and connecting with other customers was beyond valuable as we looked to continuously improve. I always returned to campus with tips and tricks or a new perspective on how we did things. And if we ever wanted to tackle a particular issue or improve how we did something, our account manager was great at connecting us with other Unimarket customers who had been where we were and had fantastic insights to share.

The Unimarket community became a great resource when it came to my eProcurement-related questions, and it also provided a wealth of information when it came to other challenges and pain points that higher education institutions face.

It was both comforting to know that others were dealing with the same issues that I was and reassuring to have support from others in my shoes that could guide and help me based on their experience and knowledge. So, when I joined the Unimarket team, I knew I wanted to create even more ways for our customers to connect and learn from each other.

Putting collaboration front and center

What I really loved about Unimarket as a customer was the importance the company places on collaboration. They know being a great eProcurement solution provider is about more than just software — it’s also about Unimarket and its customers working together to constantly improve and overcome obstacles.

That’s why over the last 18 months we’ve been working with our customers to create our Collaboration Channels — three ways for our customers to connect, share ideas, and discuss issues and challenges they face.

These are:

Connect – an online forum

Connect is an online forum for Unimarket customers to ask the community questions, respond to polls, and share ideas for better ways of working.

We’ve found that it’s been a great way for people to solve problems and learn new ways of doing things. The community spirit of our customers is really showcased on Connect.

Circle – a monthly customer catch-up

Circle is a customer catch-up that I run with our US-based customers on a monthly basis. The topics are 100% driven by our customers. They can submit any topics, even non-Unimarket related ones, and we spend an hour going through those topics to share thoughts and ideas, ask questions, and learn from one another.

Topics we’ve covered so far include ways to reduce the number of invoices being paid without a purchase order upfront, ways to better manage suppliers, P-card program management, accounts payable best practices, and strategic sourcing, to name a few.

Our Circles are consistently well attended and we love to hear the great feedback from customers on the value they receive from the sessions.

Exchange – a quarterly virtual roundtable

Every three months, we take a deep dive into a topic that might be an industry-wide challenge or a problem that a number of our US customers are trying to solve. Whatever the topic, Exchange is about sharing ideas and advice and brainstorming solutions that can benefit the entire community.

I’m looking forward to our upcoming Exchange workshops on fiscal year-end best practices. It’s such an important time for so many organizations and I’m eager to see how we can work together to make things easier for everyone.

The Exchanges are also well attended and they have brought about excellent conversations, new connections, and idea generation amongst our customers.

Pushing for better, together

At Unimarket, we are always looking for better ways of doing things, and it’s no different with our Collaboration Channels.

The response from our customers has been outstanding and I’ve had some great feedback on how we can make the channels even better. Our community is incredible for coming up with new ideas and improvements and they’re helping shape what our Collaboration Channels will look like in the future.

Improvements we’ve made so far include the introduction of a regular email that highlights the top posts and most recent points of discussion we see through the Connect online forum. Plus before each Circle video meet-up, all participants now receive an agenda outlining the topics of discussion for that month.

One customer also suggested a short poll about how organizations are doing things already related to our agenda topics for that month, and that’s been a great way to get those conversations started.

While the Circle and Exchange Collaboration Channels are currently only available to our US customers, we have just rolled out Unimarket Connect to our Australia and New Zealand customers as well. It's very exciting to bring our wider customer base together so they can share and hear new perspectives and learn together on a global scale.

A bright start

I’ve worked in higher education and I know it can sometimes feel like you’re the only one dealing with a particular challenge. Our goal through our Collaboration Channels is to show our customers they are not alone and that there is a whole community ready and willing to work together to overcome those challenges.

It’s early days, but the enthusiastic response and the level of participation from our community has been great so far and I’m pleased to see how open everyone is to sharing insights and experiences. We’re seeing our customers learn a great deal from each other and I’m excited to see how these channels grow in the future.