Washington to buy online

In an effort to simplify and shorten the buying process, Washington state has joined an electronic procurement company and will soon buy its products online.

Washington will be the first state to join American Management Systems Inc.'s Buysense, an online marketplace that allows employees to search electronic catalogues and place orders for goods and services.

Washington will begin to use the product in late summer, after AMS customizes it to the needs of the state. After it is set up, more than 10,000 people will use the system to make an estimated 500,000 transactions, totaling approximately $1 billion.

Marsha Tadano Long, the director of the state's General Service Administration, said Buysense was chosen because it was the easiest to use. "We had the bidders come in and gave them five minutes to train people — those who'd used computers before and those who hadn't — and Buysense was the best."

Long said Buysense had the best access to unlimited catalogues, providing a wide range of choices that can be arranged in various categories. She said the goals of the new system are to find better prices for products and reduce administrative time and paperwork.

"We're eliminating the paper that needs to go from desk to desk, and it's amazing how long that takes," she said. In tests, Long said purchases took only 15 minutes on Buysense — 27 minutes less than digging through manual catalogues. However, both the people using the system and the vendors pay "nominal" fees to participate.

The "Ultimate Purchasing System," as the joint system is being called, will be integrated into the state's financial management system, thereby streamlining the payment process.

Buysense is powered by Ariba Inc., an e-commerce solutions company.

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