Purchasing Definitions

Account
An account is a ChartField segment in NUFinancials that identifies the specific type of asset, liability, equity, revenue, or expense in each transaction. For example, accounts receivable, faculty salary, office supplies. Similar to CUFS Object Code, Revenue Source, and Balance Sheet. Note that the term "account" in NUFinancials is NOT equivalent to "account" in CUFS. In NUFinancials, “chart string” is the new terminology for what is known as an "account" in CUFS.

Approver
A role in workflow that is granted to users as determined by their school/department. Depending on the transaction type, commodity, chart string and/or dollar amount, some financials transactions are also subject to approval by Approvers in central offices such as PRS, ASRSP, and Research Safety. The Approver role is configured by the NUFinancials system administrator. Find more information on roles in workflow.

BD-1 Form (Bid Documentation)
Purchasing Policy and Procedure at Northwestern University requires that competitive bidding be conducted for purchases of $25,000 or more (it is recommended for purchases of $5,000 or more). The Bid Documentation Form (BD-1) word icon (doc) is to be used by departments and schools to document how an award decision is made whenever a competitive solicitation is performed. It must be attached to the requisition so it can be approved by all approvers.

Blanket
Blanket orders are to be used primarily to make payments for the regular delivery of a consistent quantity of products or for services that are provided on a regular and consistent basis. Find more information about blanket orders.

Catalog Requisition
A requisition that is initiated for items that are selected from vendors included in the iBuyNU Marketplace (web based ordering experience). Find more information on iBuyNU or procurement methods.

Chart of Accounts
Represents the accounting structure for how NU gathers, stores, combines, and uses financial information. A chart of accounts is used to trace the flow of revenues, expenses, assets, liabilities, and equity. 

ChartFields
Accounting codes that make up NU’s chart of accounts in the NUFinancials financial system. ChartFields are used to segregate and categorize transactional and budget data.

Chart string
Chart string is the new terminology for what was known in CUFS as fund/area/org. Chart strings are used for purchasing, budgeting, and expenses. ChartField values are combined to create a chart string.

DPR (Direct Payment Request)
The Direct Payment Request process is a way to request a check to pay for something when the transaction does not warrant the issuance of an official purchase order to a vendor. Find more information on online vouchers.

Fax Server
Method of dispatching purchase orders directly from NUFinancials to a vendor's fax machine without need for manual intervention. Dependent on the vendor's ability to receive purchase orders via this method. 

General Ledger
Accounting module in NUFinancials that serves as the core of the financial management system. The General Ledger module is where budget journal entries are created and maintained. Various modules such as Purchasing, Expenses, and Accounts Payable feed into and receive data from the GL module.

Hosted Catalog
A catalog that is established by PRS on behalf of a preferred vendor that is included in the iBuyNU Marketplace. All item detail is sent to PRS in spreadsheet format that is then turned into a catalog that is placed in the Marketplace.

Features of a hosted catalog include:

  • Shopping experience is contained within iBuyNU
  • Retains the look and feel of iBuyNU
  • Searchable simultaneously across multiple catalogs
  • Can generate side-by-side product comparisons
  • Hosted items can be edited in cart until submitted for requisition

Orders to vendors that are included in the iBuyNU Marketplace using a hosted strategy will generally receive their orders via fax server. 

iBuyNU
The iBuyNU marketplace is a web-based ordering tool that provides departments/schools with the most streamlined, cost effective way to order from Preferred Vendors. In many cases, the department/school personnel will be shopping on vendor’s actual website configured for NU.  Orders can be dispatched electronically, invoices can be received by Accounts Payable electronically, PRS does not have to approve any requisitions for items purchased from vendors in the Marketplace, and many of these vendors will also be paid electronically. Find more information about iBuyNU. 

Matching
Matching is an automatic process that compares Vouchers with Purchase Orders and Receipts to ensure the timely payment of goods and services ordered and received. Matching occurs at the line item level. Depending on the type of order. the system performs a 2-way match or a 3-way match. Find more information on receiving and matching.

Non-catalog Requisition
A requisition that is initiated for items from vendors who are NOT included in the iBuyNU Marketplace (manual entry). 

Procurement Card (P-Card)
The procurement card is a very important component of the procurement environment here at NU. It is to be used primarily for purchases less than $500 when the items needed cannot be purchased from a preferred vendor in iBuyNU and when the purchase is low risk (the transaction doesn’t warrant the issuance of an official purchase order to a vendor). P-card may be used in lieu of petty cash. Not to be used for travel. Find more information on P-Card.

NUFinancials
Oracle-owned enterprise management software selected by NU for financials, including Chart of Accounts, General Ledger, Post-Award Grants, and Supply Chain (purchasing and accounts payable). PeopleSoft is currently used by NU for HRIS (Human Resources) and SES (Student).

Online Voucher
Module in NUFinancials used for the prescribed policy uses of the Direct Payment Request, Visitor’s Expense Report and the Contracted Services Form for U.S. Residents. Find more information on online vouchers.

Preferred Vendor
Preferred Vendors are those that have been awarded a contract by PRS for use by all departments and schools. Preferred Vendors are established via Contract or Pricing Agreement. See Northwestern's Preferred Vendors.

PRS
Purchasing Resource Services, which is the single point of contact at NU for all central procurement activities.

Punchout
For many vendors included in the iBuyNU Marketplace, PRS has decided that it is more advantageous to allow departments and schools to connect to the contractor’s actual web site catalog that has been configured specifically to NU’s contract (products available, pricing, etc.). Orders to vendors that are included in the iBuyNU Marketplace using a punchout strategy will generally receive their orders electronically.

Features of a punchout include:

  • Shopping experience links from iBuyNU to vendor website for shopping and cart creation, then cart is transferred back to iBuyNU
  • Punchouts have the look and feel, functionality, terminology, etc. specific to each vendor’s website

Purchase Order
Once a requisition is successfully budget checked, submitted, and approved, a purchase order is generated that is sent to the vendor and reflects specifically what is being ordered. Purchase orders are automatically issued and dispatched multiple times per day. A purchase order number is system-generated and begins with PUR. Vendors must have a PUR number before delivery of goods or services can occur.

Requester
A role in NUFinancials that is available to users as determined by the school/department and configured by the NUFinancials system administrator. Find more information on roles and workflow.

Requisition
A purchase request subject to approval based on NU workflow rules. Creating a requisition is the first step in the procurement process. A requisition is created and submitted by a Requester. When submitted, a requisition ID number (i.e., unique identifier) is generated by the system; requisition ID numbers begin with REQ. Once approved, a requisition becomes a purchase order (PO) and a purchase order ID number (i.e., unique identifier) is generated by the system. PO ID numbers begin with PUR. A REQ number cannot be used in lieu of a PUR number for purchasing. There are 2 types of requisitions: catalog (items found in iBuyNU) and non-catalog (items not found in iBuyNU).

SciQuest
The software that is used to power the iBuyNU Marketplace.

Shopper
A role in iBuyNU for those that do not have security as a Requester. It allows anyone with the Shopper role access to enjoy a web based ordering experience from preferred vendors. Find more information on roles and workflow.

SSJ-1 Form (Sole Source Justification)
This process can only be used if a single vendor is uniquely qualified to meet the department/school's procurement objective. The Sole Source Justification Form (SSJ-1) must be completed, submitted, and approved prior to the purchase order being issued. Download the Sole Source Justification Form word icon (doc). 

Workflow
Workflow is the process of routing transactions for approval before a PO can be issued or payment made. Workflow is triggered when a requisition or expense reimbursement request has been entered, saved, and submitted for approval. The approval path will ultimately depend both on the transaction’s dollar amount, chart string, and commodity type.