Based on UC San Diego’s success, Johnson envisioned a more comprehensive purchasing consortium. He worked closely with the University of California’s Office of the President (UCOP) and several other universities including UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz and UC Riverside to create the first higher education consortium of its kind. The consortium also shares a common purchasing platform, reducing the need for participants to duplicate their efforts on a wide range of administrative tasks, which were historically relegated to procurement.
With the purchasing consortium, UCOP now has a mechanism for making contracts, which reflect the buying power of multiple institutions, easily available and usable for users at the participating campuses. UCOP also now has greater visibility into spending that occurs through the contracts it puts in place from all participating institutions. Since the consortium went into effect, the amount of spending that goes through UCOP’s contracts increased dramatically. Suppliers now work with a single point of contact at UCOP, ensuring that all of the consortium’s participants have access to uniform information on their products and catalogs, reducing the amount of time and effort required of procurement personnel.
“It’s a good thing that in higher education we freely share best practices with other schools,” he said. “We’ve got 10 campuses. Why reinvent the wheel for each? We’re lucky to have visionary leadership. Their support is a key component in higher education. In private industry, they have more power to issue an edict. In this [environment] faculty and staff are not as likely to listen. The challenge is convincing academics and staff to go along. It’s unique: In the private industry system they have no choice; here, they do. It took a lot of effort convincing people this is what they needed to do.”
Johnson added that a big portion of this job’s responsibility is sales.
“I have a full-time marketing person on my staff whose main job is selling clients on the value proposition,” he explained. “I issue a heads-up six months before the change happens. One, it gives them a chance to comment; and two, we can use the time for training, for marketing materials and other things. It takes a lot of effort.”
Johnson’s extensive international experience in private industry has transferred well to the public education forum. After earning his Master’s Degree in International Management at the University of Tsukuba (Japan), he spent nine years in supply chain management with Hitachi, then joined Sony as Director of Global Integrated Supply Chain until joining UC San Diego five years ago.
“People often ask how I can be successful in a university environment,” said Johnson. “In consumer, I worked with engineers. Now it’s college professors, and they’re similar in personality.”