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Financial Management Systems Glossary

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A ChartField segment in NUFinancials that identifies the specific type of asset, liability, equity, revenue, or expense in each transaction e.g., accounts receivable, faculty salary, office supplies.

Accounts Payable (AP)

NUFinancials module used to request checks to pay vendors for materials and to reimburse employees for expenses. A voucher is entered into Accounts Payable to request a check. P-card transactions (transactions on an institutional credit card) are also tracked here.

Accounts Receivable (AR)

NUFinancials module that controls the maintenance, processing, and reporting of billed items and payments.

Ad Hoc Report

Formatted information created as needed by a user of a system.

All Funds Budgeting

A budgeting model that encompasses all resources including those that may be subject to restrictions, such as gifts or endowment income. It includes all areas of the University such as schools, revenue centers, academic and administrative support areas, and centralized or de-centralized managed areas.


A role in workflow 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 PPS, ASRSP, and Research Safety.
The responsibilities of the Approver role are:

  • Evaluate financial transactions for financial policy compliance, completeness accuracy
  • Approve, send back, or hold financial transactions (Approver cannot modify transactions)
  • Manage workflow in a timely fashion to leverage benefits of automated processing
    (e.g., requisition to PO on same day now possible)

See also: Workflow


Equipment, building, land, leasehold improvements or other improvements valued at $5,000 or greater with a useful life of longer than 1 year.

  • Asset disposal: retirement of an asset (sold, stolen, traded-in, scrapped, donated, returned to vendor, destroyed, transferred to external entity, cannibalized, recycled, or posted to surplus property).
  • Asset transfer:  a physical movement of an asset’s location from one NU location to another NU location.


Requester in the Shopper’s school/department to whom the Shopper assigns their iBuyNU shopping cart.
Recipient of a Shopper’s cart. A Requester who converts the cart to a requisition.


Automatic Purchasing Sourcing is an automatic process that turns a requisition into a purchase order (PO). Sourcing runs without the need for user interaction on a regular schedule in the background to identify requisitions that have been approved to become purchase orders. For multi-line requisitions that contain items from multiple vendors (as may be the case with requisitions originating from iBuyNU), auto-source splits a single requisition into multiple POs for the appropriate vendors.

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Batch Process

Batch processing is the execution of programs or jobs on a computer without human interaction.
Batch jobs are scheduled so they can be run to completion, usually at a time of non-peak usage such as overnight. This is in contrast to online or interactive programs that prompt the user for input, or automatic processes that are executed in real time without the need for user interaction.


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) 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 for approval through workflow.

BI Tool

Business Intelligence tool. A software product that provides a variety of analytic, reporting, and data consolidation functions with enterprise and local data. The BI tool allows viewing of reports defined by others as well as the capability to define ad hoc reports as needed. NUFinancials’ BI component is called Cognos.

BI Publisher

Formerly XML Publisher. Reporting software that utilizes a set of familiar desktop tools that users can use to create and maintain their own report formats. BI Publisher report formats can be designed using Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat. BI Publisher also allows users to bring data in from multiple data sources into a single output document.


A module in NUFinancials. The Billing module supports the creation of invoices for goods and services provided to customers, including research project sponsors. Among other things, this module creates invoices and creates LOC draw summaries. The Billing module is integrated with the General Ledger.


Blanket orders are 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 e.g., equipment maintenance (monthly payments), garbage pick-up (department specific service), coffee service (different amount each month, using a preferred vendor), rent, or utilities.

  • Blanket orders have a contract/agreement in place, reviewed and approved by PPS and/or OGC, or an established template was used.
  • Blanket orders cannot be used as an open line of credit or to facilitate phone orders. Blankets orders should also not be used to manage your budget.
  • All changes to blanket orders will be processed by Procurement and Payment Services

Budget Checking

Process of checking a transaction against a specified chart string or budget. When a transaction exceeds the available budget amount, the system either stops the transaction and issues an error notice or passes the transaction with a warning notice, depending on the processing rules specified by NU regarding control budget definition, budget attributes, and source transaction type definition. A budget check is performed by the Requester when creating a requisition.

See also: Commitment Control

Business Unit

A legal entity/operational subset of an organization in NUFinancials that has its own way of storing information and its own processing guidelines. Northwestern has one Business Unit, NWUNV.


A specific user role in NUFinancials that allows the user the ability to create and modify Purchase Orders, which are forms used to place an order with a vendor. Allowable actions for a user with the Buyer role are: create, edit, receive, initiate change orders and cancel a Purchase Order. May be a customer, school unit or department, or building charge—whichever account is being charged for the work.

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Cash Advance/Travel Authorization used to request a check or direct deposit for travel or research.

Catalog Requisition

A requisition that is initiated for items selected from vendors included in the iBuyNU Marketplace (web based ordering tool).

See also iBuyNU


Accounting codes that segregate and categorize transactional and budgetary data. The order and names are: Fund, DeptID, Project, Activity, Class, Program, ChartField1, and Account (most users will enter ChartFields in bold).

Chart String

Combination of ChartFields and the level at which accounting charges/credits are applied.

Chart of Accounts

The Chart represents the accounting structure for how NU gathers, stores, combines, and uses financial information. It is used to trace the flow of revenues, expenses, assets, liabilities, and equity.

Cognos BI

The product Northwestern has chosen as its Business Intelligence Tool. The BI Tool provides a variety of analytic, reporting, and data consolidation functions with enterprise and local data. Cognos will allow viewing of reports defined by others as well as the capability to define ad hoc reports as needed.

Commitment Control (KK)

A part of NUFinancials that controls various financial activities based on available budget or other budget rules. The Commitment Control Ledger consists of Expense Budgets, Revenue Budgets, Expense Actuals, and Revenue Actuals and enables you to control expenditures against predefined budgets.


In NUFinancials a contract is generated when an award is generated. For every award there is a contract. The contract stores the information that drives billing and revenue recognition.

Contracted Services Form for U.S. Residents

The Contracted Services Form for U.S. Residents is used to pay individual contractors and for honoraria
See also: Online Voucher.

Contracts module

The Contracts module in NUFinancials is used to manage revenue recognition and billing for projects. Its most common usage in higher education institutions is to store the parameters of billing arrangements with research sponsors. The Contracts module is integrated with the General Ledger.


A facilities management shop.

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ChartField in NUFinancials used for the organizational unit.


A ChartField segment in NUFinancials that identifies the lowest level at NU where you manage staff and/or control, secure, or report on budget/activity performance. DeptIDs are not the same as Department, which reflect NU’s organizational structure.

  • For appropriated funds: DeptID is the lowest level at NU where staffs and/or budgets are managed, controlled, and reported on.
  • For non-appropriated funds: a more general DeptID value can be used to link the entire department’s various Grants, Construction, Endowment, Gifts, Designate/Discretionary Projects, Student Loans, and Agency activity as the Project value or Fund/Project value will be the lowest level.

Direct Part

A part order for a specific work order.


Each vendor’s profile includes how they wish to receive purchase orders. Vendors may select fax, mail, or email. Purchase orders issued via fax will be sent through the University’s fax server (which is automated, with no manual intervention required). Orders to vendors included in the iBuyNU Marketplace will be sent through the Marketplace either electronically (CXML) or by fax server.


Disposal (Assets)

Disposal – A disposal is a retirement of an asset. Disposed equipment can be sold, stolen, traded-in, scrapped, donated, returned to vendor, destroyed, transferred to an external entity, cannibalized, recycled, or posted on the Surplus Property Exchange.

Donated (Assets)

Non-monetary transaction which must include Indemnification Agreement for Donated Items


DPR Form

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 e.g. rent, utilities, registration fees or dues, subscriptions, repairs (unplanned or emergency), independent contractor payments, research subject fees, student or visitor reimbursements. The Direct Payment Request process cannot be used to pay invoices for the purchase of products that should have been ordered using a Purchase Order.

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Effective Date

A method of dating information in NUFinancials so that historical data is preserved. Users can predate information to add historical data, or postdate information in order to enter it before it actually goes into effect. Effective dates allow users to enter a new value with a current effective date rather than deleting and replacing old values.


Funds that have been reserved when a purchase order is processed. Encumbered funds are no longer available for use in other transactions, but also have not been included in the Actual Funds balance because a payment has not yet been generated and the funds have not actually left the account. The purpose of creating an encumbrance is to avoid budget overspending.

  1. An encumbrance against the specified chart string or budget is posted automatically by the system when a requisition becomes a purchase order.
  2. Simultaneously, the pre-encumbrance that was created when the requisition was budget checked is relieved.
  3. An encumbrance is relieved and expenditure is posted automatically when a voucher is created for payment to a vendor.

See also: Commitment Control


Enterprise Resource Planning


Enterprise Staging Area. Used by InfoEd, allows user to bring profile data from other enterprise source systems into InfoEd.


The NUFinancials module where employee expenses are tracked. For example, reimbursements, checks, advances and expense reports.

Express Work Orders

Work orders entered after the fact of an event or emergency. These should not be used for any work requested by non-FM personnel nor charged to a department account (not a building). Note that there are some buildings where departments are charged for building work (e.g., Chicago buildings where the Medical School gets part of the building charge); express work orders should not be used for these.

External Transfer (Assets)

Change of ownership from NU to an external entity by means of physical movement of an asset’s location outside NU-owned or -leased property (for example, a professor leaves NU and negotiates for the transfer of his lab equipment to a new institution)


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Fair Market Value (Assets)

Estimate of the asset’s current value in the marketplace (eBay, book value, etc.)

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.


The screens, pages, or windows in FAMIS.

Fund Code

A ChartField in the NUFinancials chart of accounts used to segregate types of money. For example, State, Sponsored, or Endowment funds.

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General Ledger (GL)

The NUFinancials accounting module used to maintain financial postings to the University's "books." Expenses and Revenues are posted to the GL and financial reports are prepared using ledger data.


GENIUS is InfoEd's web based network that contains profiles entered and maintained by scholars and researchers at leading universities and research institutions throughout the world. It serves as a registry of scholarly and scientific expertise and provides a searchable resource for research partnering and collaborating. GENIUS stands for Global Expertise Network for Industry, Universities and Scholars.

Grants Management

The suite of modules that NUFinancials provides for the management of grant activities from award generation to closeout. The suite provides functionality to track awards, projects, high-level budgets, F&A process, cost sharing, etc.

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Hosted Catalog

A catalog established by Procurement and Payment Services on behalf of a preferred vendor included in the iBuyNU Marketplace. All item detail is sent to PPS in spreadsheet format and then posted as a catalog 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

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The iBuyNU Marketplace provides departments and schools with the most streamlined, cost effective web based shopping experience to order from preferred vendors. Departments and schools will be shopping on, in many cases, the vendor’s actual web site configured for NU. Orders can be dispatched electronically and invoices will be received by Accounts Payable electronically.


InfoEd is a software solution that addresses pre-award needs that are not a part of the NUFinancials Grants module. Northwestern will use the following InfoEd modules: Sponsored Programs Information Network (SPIN), Proposal Tracking, Proposal Development, GENIUS and SMARTS.


An interface is an exchange of data between two systems. For example, FMS exchanges data with Payroll through an interface. InfoEd, Northwestern's pre-award software, will utilize an interface to send data to NUFinancials, Northwestern's post-award software.

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See Commitment Control

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Maintenance Issue

A tracking number for transfers and receipts of parts.

Maintenance Project

A service request that will involve more than one crew.

Manage Requisitions

Page in NUFinancials that is unique for each requester, to provide them with a means to appropriately track all of their procurement transactions.


See also: iBuyNU


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. The system performs the following types of matches:

  • 2-way match
    • Applies to all catalog orders (items found in iBuyNU marketplace of preferred vendors)
    • Requires Voucher & Purchase Order (Receipt not required)
  • 3-way match
    • Applies to all non-catalog orders (items not found in iBuyNU) including blanket and service requisitions
      Requires Voucher, Purchase Order & Receipt

If matching is successful and within tolerance levels:
System sets status of voucher to Matched and voucher is available for payment in the next voucher posting process. Once voucher is paid, payment is posted and purchase order status is Complete (similar to Closed in CUFS).

If matching is not successful or is not within tolerance levels:
System flags exceptions. Match exceptions are workflowed to Accounts Payable for resolution. If a match exception is due to a missing Receipt, the Requester is notified via email that a Receipt needs to be created.

See also: Tolerance

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Non-catalog Requisition

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

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Online Voucher

The online voucher is the electronic submission of payment requests to Accounts Payable for the policy uses of the Direct Payment Request (DPR), Visitor’s Expense Report (VER), and Contracted Services Form for US Residents (CSF).  It features electronic submission of supporting documentation (for DPR and VER), workflow approval and system tracking.


Office for Sponsored Research

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Procurement Card

(also known as a p-card) A credit card with an institutional account number primarily for purchases less than $500 when the items needed cannot be purchased from a preferred vendor in iBuyNU. Specific examples include:

  • Registration fees
  • Subscriptions
  • Membership dues
  • Emergencies (products or services)
  • Internet orders (only when item needed cannot be found from any other source)

Please note that individual limits can be set by each department or school for each of their procurement card holders (both an amount per transaction limit as well as a monthly total limit). A p-card may be used in lieu of petty cash, is not to be used for travel. Contact Financial Operations for more information about obtaining a Procurement Card.

Payment Worksheet

An NUFinancials page used to apply payment(s) to outstanding AR items. Users can apply one payment to multiple invoices or items.


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). Northwestern's use of NUFinancials is also referred to as NUFinancials.


(also known as The NUPortal) A central web page from which users can access the NU administrative systems and data. The NUPortal provides a user-friendly way to access the data and perform business processes without NU having to modify the underlying enterprise systems.


Funds that have been reserved pending approval when a requisition is budget checked and submitted.

  1. A pre-encumbrance is posted automatically against the appropriate chart string when a requisition is budget checked successfully.
  2. A pre-encumbrance is relieved and an encumbrance is posted automatically when the requisition becomes a purchase order.
  3. An encumbrance is relieved and expenditure is posted automatically when a voucher is created for payment to a vendor

See also: Commitment Control

Preferred Vendor

A vendor with whom Procurement and Payment Services (PPS) has established a contract in order to secure better pricing. See the PPS web site for further explanation and list of preferred vendors.

Preventative Maintenance

A process of scheduling set maintenance tasks on a regular basis for specific equipment.

Procedure Library

A collection of common procedures containing information such as description, task list and prompt questions, maintenance types, used to assist in categorizing service request for reporting purposes.

Proceeds for Sale (Assets)

Monies received for the sale of an asset recorded by Cash Receipt Ticket (CRT)

Process Instance

When a process is run in NUFinancials, such as running a report or generating an invoice, a unique number is generated that identifies that process. This value is automatically incremented and assigned to each requested process when the process is submitted to run.


The ledger in NUFinancials that stores detailed transactions for all sponsored program activity including budgets, expenses and billings. Works in conjunction with the General Ledger and Commitment Control.


The Project ChartField is used to identify related activity. Grants, gifts, endowments, and designated activity will be assigned unique project IDs so that the specific activities can be tracked.

Project Costing

A module of NUFinancials used to track and aggregate project-related costs and facilitate project billing. It supports the processes of the Billing, Contracts and Grants modules, including the calculation of indirect costs. The Project Costing module is integrated with the General Ledger.

Proposal Development (PD)

InfoEd's module for the creation, review and submission of grants proposals. It includes a budget preparation tool, templates for all necessary federal forms on SF424, rules-based electronic routing, and electronic submission where accepted. This module will be implemented after the NUFinancials/FAMIS launch.

Proposal Tracking (PT)

InfoEd's module to track all elements of the proposal and the award. Tracks activity after submission that includes negotiations, communications and funding. Also has the ability to record NU basic information on proposals created outside of InfoEd.


Procurement and Payment Services, which is the single point of contact at NU for all central procurement activities.


An electronic catalog originating from a vendor’s web site, which is linked through iBuyNU, yet contains NU’s preferred pricing information. Orders are generally sent and received electronically.

Purchase Order (PO)

A form in NUFinancials used to place an order with a vendor. The form captures the details of an order for items and/or services. Purchase Orders are often created from approved requisitions, which are the forms used to initially request the items and/or services.


The NUFinancials module in which requisitions are created. A requisition is a form used to request items and services.

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An NUFinancials module for looking up financial information. Queries allow users to request specific data from the database. Results are returned in list format that can be downloaded into Excel and manipulated using sorting, filtering, and pivot tables.

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A specific workflow role in NUFinancials that allows the user the ability to create and modify Requisitions, a form for requesting items and/or services. Allowable actions for a user with this role are: create, edit, receive, initiate change requests and cancel a Requisition. Requester is one level up from the Shopper role.


A purchase request subject to approval based on NU workflow rules. When a requisition is created and submitted by a Requester, the system generates a requisition ID number, which begins with REQ. Once approved, a requisition becomes a purchase order (PO) and the system generates a purchase order ID number, which begins 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).

Revenue Recognition Process

A NUFinancials process that runs to determine contracts revenue information for entry into the General Ledger. The process is run in a batch.

Role User ID

An NUFinancials Workflow user. A person's role user ID serves much the same purpose as a user ID does in other parts of the system. NUFinancials Workflow uses role user IDs to determine how to route worklist items to users (through an email address, for example) and to track the roles that users play in the system.

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The software that is used to power the iBuyNU Marketplace.

Scrapped (Assets)

Asset(s) destroyed, cannibalized, recycled, or stolen


A facilities management shop (or account that will get revenue for the work).

Service Request

A request in FAMIS (facilities management system) from a customer for a service or estimate. It can be created in self-service and forms. A service request initiates the process and is turned into a work order.


A role in iBuyNU for those that do not have security as a Requester. It allows anyone with a NetID to conduct web-based ordering from preferred vendors. The functions of the Shopper role are:

  • Shop for items in iBuyNU
  • Create cart in iBuyNU
  • Assign cart in iBuyNU to school/department Requester


Space Information Management System is the system of record for identifying campus, building number, floor, and room

Single Sign On (SSO)

Single sign on allows users to access multiple applications without entering another UserID and password.


SPIN Matching And Research Transmittal Service is InfoEd's electronic matching and funding opportunity notification system. It provides investigators with a direct link to available national and international research funding information. Matching is conducted on a daily basis and programs are automatically e-mailed to individual researchers.

Sold (Assets)

Monetary exchange which must accompany a bill of sale or invoice

Source Transaction

Any transaction generated in a PeopleSoft or third-party application that is integrated with commitment control and which can be checked against commitment control budgets. For example, a pre-encumbrance, encumbrance, expenditure, recognized revenue, or collected revenue.

Special Requisition Type

Blanket, one time service, or grant.


Sponsored Program Information Network is InfoEd's funding opportunities database. It is designed to provide up-to-date information on current national and international government and private funding sources. All data in SPIN are obtained directly from the sponsoring agencies to ensure the integrity of the information.

SSJ-1 Form

Sole Source Justification, a process to acquire goods or services from unique vendor. Situations that warrant use of SSJ include: a product/service that is unique or proprietary to a single company; the product/service must match or be compatible with current equipment; product/service required in conjunction with grant or contract; service is controlled/mandated by local utility or government; contract is for professional or artistic services. Form must be completed, submitted, and approved prior to the purchase order being issued. For more information, contact Procurement and Payment Services.

Standing Work Order

Similar to a blanket work order. Used in FAMIS for recurring work and for entries for vacation, jury duty, funeral leave, sick time, personal days. These should not be used for preventative maintenance.

Stock Part

A part held in a warehouse.

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Three-Way Match

The completion of three events/system transactions in NUFinancials that allow payment to be made to the vendor. These three events/transactions are: a completed purchase order, an invoice, and receipt of the goods.


Tolerance is specified to allow for an acceptable and reasonable price difference between the ordered price and the price on the invoice. For example, the price on the PO and invoice can vary by the designated tolerance amount or percentage and still be approved for payment. Freight, shipping, or fees associated with the transport of goods do not affect tolerance. Accounts Payable prorates such charges across all line items on the invoice when creating the voucher.

See also: Matching

Traded-in (Assets)

Exchange of an existing asset for a reduction or discount of a newly purchased asset

Transfer (Assets)

A transfer is the physical movement of an asset’s location from one NU location (building-floor-room) to another NU location (building-floor-room).


Trees are structures in NUFinancials that define various roll-ups by using levels and nodes. Each tree applies to a specific ChartField segment. Reports use tree nodes to define specific criteria and they use tree levels for roll-ups and subtotals.

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Visitor's Expense Report

Reimbursements for non-employees of the University who have incurred approved, business-related expenses, including transportation and lodging.
See also: Online Voucher


A document in NUFinancials that captures vendor invoice information and is used to initiate payment processing. Interchangeable with the term invoice.

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A location for storing parts for work orders. Formerly called storeroom, stockroom, or closet.


A listing of records which can be searched, duplicated, and customized by filters.


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.

See also: Approver

Workflow Inbox

Page in NUFinancials that is unique for each approver and includes only items that require their approval.


An online list of transactions in NUFinancials that require a user's action to be taken. The worklist can include several different types of items at once. For example, a manager might have entries that require his/her approval of employee expense reports and orders for supplies. From the worklist, the user can directly access the pages he/she needs to perform the next action, and then return to the worklist for another item.

Work Order

Once a service request has been assigned to a crew/shop and the billing verified, it becomes a work order by change the status to SCHEDULED. A work order is ready to be assigned to an employee for completion.

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