One of the key factors in the continued growth and success of National Buying Group (NBG) in recent times has been its proactive and progressive approach to developing innovative IT solutions. At the heart of this programme is the aim to reduce partner workload, promote effective communication and speed up the collection and distribution of rebates.

We talk to the team behind its development to find out how the system is working to improve efficiency for merchant partners and suppliers alike

The NBG team is:

Mike Maclellan: GPH Builders Merchants
Stephen Queen: South Lanarkshire B S
Glynis Catteson: Simpson & Allinson
Mike Bennett; Hale & Co
Matt Green: NBG

NBG is growing organisation and, as such, requires a modern, focused business platform if it is to operate effectively and efficiently. Its new Hub, the central system through which merchant partners and suppliers alike run their NBG affairs provides just that. The NBG Hub is now the central online focal point of the organisation and handling 100% of NBG rebates, unique in the merchant trade.

The beauty of the NBG Hub is that, by streamlining the organisation’s work flow and diverting the admin grunt work away from NBG’ Category Management Teams, they can now focus fully on negotiating deals and deal management. NBG aims to give its partners and suppliers a hassle-free, accurate experience of doing business and the Hub is central to that.

When the NBG hub was first conceived, the group had just forty partners and a hundred deals. With the successful growth of the group these figures have snowballed and the existing paper based admin systems were beginning to bog the group down. “There were just simply too many opportunities to make mistakes with the old system,” says Glynis Catterson. “There were so many emails it was impossible to keep up and difficult to tell if we were using the latest versions of the deals or the most up-to-date offers and promos so there was always the danger of missing a trick.”

In 2007 NBG’s Joint Regional Council (JRC) made a decision to find an IT-based solution and make the investment in the Hub system. This long term investment in innovation and technology is one of the things that sets NBG apart from other buying groups and the resulting system now offers partners massive time savings on everyday tasks such as sourcing up-to-date price lists, the latest deals and offers and, importantly, calculating rebates and managing orders.

“The system is easy to use and intuitive,” says Mike MacLellan. “It is so simple to correlate information and use the system to manage rebates and orders to hit rebate brackets – and because the information is all real-time and calculated accurately, there is very little scope for error or mistakes. It is even possible to calculate future rebates so that partners can manage their business going forward – it’s an excellent planning tool.”

One of the key benefits of the NBG Hub is the way it has freed up the category Management Teams to concentrate on what they do best – negotiating great deals for NBG partners. “Previously the CMT spent a lot of time looking at disputes and issues around trading deals,” says Stephen Queen. “We wasted far too much time prepping for the CMT meetings and discussing admin tasks. Now we can easily pull up reports by suppler, by category, by period so we can spend time negotiating better deals instead of being bogged down in admin.” This versatility has not only freed up the CMT’s time for negotiation, it has also allowed the group to achieve its industry-leading levels of compliance.

The benefits of the Hub are not, however, purely for merchant partners. Supplier members are also using the NBG hub to manage business through the group better. “Suppliers can see, at a glance, where spend is up or down and where there are any anomalies so they can target their sales efforts more effectively,” says Mike Maclellan. “Suppliers know that their price lists, deals and new product launches are right there in front of the key people that matter so it is a really effective sales and marketing tool for them too.”

As with all successful systems, the Hub will continue to grow and evolve – there re already plans for adding process management and tendering to the Hub in the near future as NBG continues to invest in systems and technology to make NBG membership not only profitable, but hassle-free too.