Time-saving procurement benefits the University of Amsterdam

The University of Amsterdam and Amsterdam Hogeschool jointly maintain one central buyer department of 12 spend advisors. Together they have about 90,000 students, 10,000 employees, and a purchasing spend of around 350 million euros. Mercell is their procurement software provider.


The purchasing department is a support service for all other departments. In addition to the purchasing department, the university has a contract management department that mainly manages facility services contracts.

We spoke with Luke Mackaay, Purchasing team leader, and Michiel Zeldenthuis, purchasing advisor and functional manager. About 6 years ago, they chose Mercell (then Negometrix) as procurement provider. Luke Mackaay: “Before that, all tenders were sent via TenderNed, with physical folders in six copies that were delivered to the counter, handwritten official report, etc. We were moving, and the purchasing archive was huge, you would find six folders for each tender. So many trees we devoured in that time.”

At that time, the main reason for the switch to Mercell was the obligation of digital procurement. “At the moment we mainly focus on archiving files, so you can easily look up things afterwards. ‘Why did we make this decision in the procurement process?’ By properly archiving everything, you have the entire procurement file in order, in one system. Good archiving is extremely important; we have an audit where you have to show purchase files for a certain contract. For older contracts that is quite a search, but if everything is online in one place, it is a lot easier.”

The aim is that all tenders are assessed in Mercell. You now notice that reviewers often want to assess in their own document and are not always open to digitization in the assessment process. Carrying out the assessment properly and in a structured manner remains a challenge.”
Michiel Zeldenthuis - Spend Advisor & Manager - University of Amsterdam

A method that will soon help with this, is single sign-on, especially for educational institutions. With this, users log in only once for all applications that an organization uses, including Mercell Source-to-Contract. This lowers the barrier for assessors to log in and get started.

Luke: “Internal users don't always want to work in the software right away. We have to convince them of that. The switch from Negometrix3 to Mercell Source-to-Contract has helped. The first users thought it was so much better, which made it a lot easier. If reviewers don't want to rate in Mercell, we run the risk of people being less likely to do things the same way. Alignment works better in a system than in an Excel file, because they can't just 'leave a box empty'. With evaluations in Excel, you run the risk that is becomes incomplete, or that you forget someone in a larger team. That can have major consequences.”

University of Amsterdam is able to convince  users to give a good assessment by means of good texts. Luke: “It's great that you want to participate in the assessment group, representing 90,000 students and 10,000 employees. Your input also determines which supplier is ultimately allowed to work for us”. Tips are also given for assessment and the importance of motivation is explained. In doing so, we hope that they provide good reasons for their assessment and that they take the assessment seriously. We show them how easy it is: log in, open my tasks and rate. Done!"

A full cycle source-to-contract platform has advantages far beyond the tender itself. “For example, Michiel asked what conditions apply when setting up a mini-competition under the Audio Visual Resources tender. Because the tender contains all final versions of the documents, it is easy to find the right information.”

“You shouldn't use the system to just upload your files. Then you might as well stay with TenderNed. Instead of documents, you let everyone fill out forms the same way. You thus create a fixed structure around a tender. This way, nothing can get 'hidden' in the registrations of suppliers, such as conditions that you only discover by reading documents carefully. When everything is included in the Mercell questionnaires, all agreements and conditions are clear and insightful.”

Educating the new generation of buyers with Mercell's software

“In addition to tendering, we as a department contribute to education in various ways. Including guest lectures, boot camps and student assignments. Part of this is writing a quote. Students register for a European tender via Mercell Source-to-Contract, just like suppliers do.”

“A nice side effect for us is that as a department we can recognize young talent at an early stage and offer an internship. Sometimes that even leads to permanent employment, such as Michiel.”


In addition to the structure surrounding a tender, Luke is happy with the reporting options.

“I want to be able to show the number of purchasing advisors compared to what I need for projects. Just like the duration of our tenders. How much has been completed, planned or is still active? The system provides insight into the workload and helps to manage staffing levels, possibly by hiring  extra people. But also what risk we run if we cannot tackle it in time.”

“We want to experiment with framework contracts and mini-competitions in which we gain insight into the numbers and the winners. If you see that the same supplier always wins all mini-competitions, you can consider whether you can arrange the process in the same way for the next tender. It all starts with data. The trick is to make sure that the right data comes out and that you do something with it.”

“In addition, we also want to automate the award letters and documents, containing templates that automatically copy the results. This allows us to automate the 'standard' work even more.”

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