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PO System For Schools

  • By ProcureDesk
  • June 19,2023
  • 10 min read

PO System For Schools

Many schools struggle with purchasing compliance because they have manual purchasing processes. A PO system for schools can help.

If you are a K-12 school district or charter school accepting grants, it is your Fiduciary duty to meet the strict compliance requirements per your grant requirements. Especially federal grants that have strict requirements around purchasing controls and 3-way matching of invoices, purchase orders, and invoices.

Many schools try to meet compliance needs by implementing manual purchase requisition forms and having the AP(Account Payables) team map the incoming invoices with purchase orders and receipts.

The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t scale, especially when creating more than 50 purchase orders a month. It becomes difficult to track all open orders, what order has been placed, and what still needs to be processed. The purchase orders fell through the cracks.

A PO system for schools helps improve compliance and meets the requirements that generally come with Federal or private grants.

This article will provide a step-by-step process for implementing a PO(purchase order) system for schools. We will talk about the steps involved and how purchasing automation can help simplify the process for you.

Let’s get started.

Related: Don’t have a purchasing policy? Here is how to setup one

What Is A PO System For Schools?

A PO system for schools automates the purchasing process from requisition to paying the vendor for the service rendered. A PO system automates the manual purchase requisition process, eliminates the need for paper requisition forms, and automates the process of manually approving and signing requisition forms.

Here are the key objectives you can achieve using a PO system for schools:

  • Reduce the time teachers, and administrative staff spend creating and approving purchase requisitions.
  • Reduce the approval cycle time by at least 45%.
  • Automate the invoice matching process so that you can meet your compliance needs.
  • Provide greater cash flow visibility to easily track your spending and what is pending to be invoiced and paid.

In the rest of the article, we will focus on the steps involved in the purchasing process and how to automate the steps.

What Are The Steps Involved In Purchasing For Schools?

The basic purchasing process seems to be consistent across different industries, but here are the key steps in the purchasing process:

Step 1:Identify the educational needs

Begin by assessing and identifying the school’s specific needs, whether it’s related to supplies, equipment, or other educational resources. This can involve consultations with teachers, administrators, or department heads to identify the necessary supplies, equipment, or resources for effective teaching and learning.

Most schools have cyclical purchasing requirements. At the beginning of the school year, heavy purchase requirements and ongoing purchases support the day-to-day needs.

Step 2: Evaluating bids and supplier selection

Depending upon the nature of the purchase, this step might be optional. For example, if you purchase school supplies, you already have a set of preferred suppliers.

However, if you are purchasing furniture for classrooms, then that would need research and getting quotes from different suppliers.

Conduct thorough research to explore various suppliers and products that align with the identified needs. Consider factors like quality, pricing, warranties, and any specific requirements.

Reach out to the selected suppliers and request detailed proposals or quotations. Ensure that you provide them with complete information, including specifications, quality requirements, etc.

Carefully review and evaluate the received proposals and quotations. This evaluation process ensures the selection of the most suitable supplier for the school’s requirements.

Step 3: Determine the budgetary allocation and get approvals for the purchase

Once you have received the budgetary quotes, the next step is to get approvals for purchase and ensure that you have a budget before you make the purchase.

This generally involves getting approval from the Finance Director and Executive Director based on the purchase amount. Most schools have a rule that the Executive Director should approve everything over $5,000.

Related: Wondering how to optimize your procure to pay process? Here’s how you do it.

Once a supplier has been selected, issue a formal purchase order to them. The purchase order should include detailed information such as the agreed-upon terms, quantities, delivery arrangements, payment terms, and other relevant specifications. If necessary, negotiate and finalize a formal agreement or contract to ensure that both parties understand their obligations and responsibilities.

Step 5: Receipt

Once the product is delivered by the supplier, a receipt of GRN (Goods receipt note) is created by the person who is receiving the supplies. For example, it could be the purchasing buyer at a specific school location or teachers creating the receipt.

You should capture the packaging slip and provide proof of product delivery.

Step 6: Invoice matching

After the product is delivered, the supplier sends an invoice so that they can be paid for the product or services rendered.

However, before you can pay an invoice, it needs to be matched with the appropriate purchase order and receipt so that you can confirm that you are paying what you agreed to pay. This is a time-consuming process if you are doing it manually. However, a purchase order system can easily automate this for you.

Step 7: Payment to the supplier

Once the invoice is reviewed and approved, the vendor is paid using ACH, credit card, or check.

There are different payment options available for schools. For example, you can use services like Bill.com for payment or use the QuickBooks Bill pay feature or cut checks for your suppliers.

How To Implement PO System For Schools

Create Requisition Without The Paper Forms

Alright, let’s start by making the purchase requisition process a breeze. We all know that filling out lengthy forms and going back and forth with the purchasing team can be time-consuming for teachers or school administrative staff. That’s where our solution, ProcureDesk, comes in handy.

With the system, teachers can easily create purchase requests without any hassle. We’ve integrated punchout catalogs, so you can browse various vendors’ offerings and select what you need with just a few clicks. Let me walk you through it.

First, you select the vendor you want to purchase from. Imagine we’re purchasing art supplies from Amazon. Check out the catalog listing:

Now, the system takes you to the vendor’s website, where you can pick the specific items you want to purchase. Let’s say you need a set of paintbrushes.

Once you’ve selected it, the system prompts you to get approval for the purchase. Take a look at this:


And that’s it! The system automatically populates the selected items in your purchase request. No more copying website URLs or leaving notes for the purchasing team to decipher. It’s simple and efficient.

Get Quotes Quickly Without Emails.

One of the main requirements for compliance is having multiple bids before you purchase. Most schools are required to get 3 bids before you can make a purchase. This allows the school administrator to compare multiple bids and find the best value for the school.

But going back and forth on emails with the vendors could be cumbersome. Moreover, you have to maintain quotes for audit purposes, which can be difficult to manage.

ProcureDesk simply the process by automating the vendor quote process.

Creating a quote is a breeze; you select the items you want to get quotes for, select the vendors and then send the quote. The system automatically sends emails to the selected vendors, so you don’t have to send the quote requests manually.

Once all the vendors respond, you can compare the responses, cost, and other terms.

Here is an example of how the responses look in the procurement system:


You can easily convert a quote into a purchase request and start the approval process.

Automated Budget Check

We often hear from Finance Directors concerned about budget utilization. They don’t want to go over the allocated budget.

They want teachers and other staff to be aware of what budget is available to them so that they can make better purchasing decisions.

However, this is a challenge because the budget is set up in an accounting system like QuickBooks, and only the finance team can access the budget.

That means the finance team must manually check the budget for every purchase.

This process is not scalable!

That is why we have inbuilt budget controls. The system checks budgets in real-time so that the requester can see how much budget they have available at any time.

The system can block the purchase if the purchase amount exceeds the available budget or can inform another team to take appropriate action.

Here is an example of how the approvers can easily view the budget usage:

Approver view of the budgets

Approvals On The Go

Now, let’s talk about approvals. We understand that controlling costs and ensuring the right authorizations are crucial. That’s why ProcureDesk offers automated approval workflows.

With ProcureDesk, your purchasing or finance team can define the approval process upfront. You can set parameters like the purchase amount, department or cost center, different approvers based on the amount, or GL account-based approvals. Here’s how the approval process looks in your purchase request:


When you’re ready, you can submit the request for approval.

And as an approver, you have convenient options to manage the approval process.

You can approve requests through our mobile application, log in to the system to approve them, or even approve directly from your email without the need to log in. It’s designed to fit your preferences and make the process seamless. Check out this example of approvals using our mobile app:

Mobile app for approvals
Mobile app for approvals

Issue Purchase Orders Automatically

Creating and dispatching purchase orders manually can be a tedious task. That’s why ProcureDesk automates the entire purchase order generation process for you.

Once a purchase requisition is approved, the system can automatically generate a purchase order. Alternatively, buyers can convert an approved purchase request into a purchase order.

We even provide customizable purchase order templates so you can add your touch. Take a look at this sample template:

You can customize the template to include special supplier comments or standard terms and conditions. And when it’s time to send the purchase order to the vendor, the system supports multiple methods. We have electronic data interchange (EDI) through cXML for seamless transactions, or we can email the purchase order to smaller vendors. It’s all about efficiency and convenience.

Track Orders And Create receipts

We all know how frustrating it can be when purchase orders seem to disappear into a black hole. But with ProcureDesk, you can say goodbye to that uncertainty.

We offer enhanced order tracking to keep you in the loop. First, there’s the order acknowledgment process. Vendors can confirm they’ve received the purchase order and provide updates on the requested date of delivery. If a product is back-ordered or delayed, vendors can communicate that to you, allowing you to explore alternative sources of supply. We believe in transparency and keeping you informed.

Here is an example of a vendor acknowledgment:


Additionally, the system supports Advance Shipping Notices (ASN). Vendors can provide tracking information so that you can easily track the delivery status.

The system makes it easier by automatically tracking the delivery based on the tracking number. You automatically get an email notification when the status of the delivery changes.

Here is an example of tracking:


Once the purchase order is delivered, the vendor sends you the invoice. However, sometimes the invoice arrives before the product does, causing a challenge for the Accounts Payable (AP) team. That’s where purchase receipts come in.

With ProcureDesk, creating purchase receipts is simple. Employees have three options: they can use our mobile app, access the web app through a browser, or respond to the email we send when an invoice arrives without a receipt. Creating a receipt is just a click away.

Having a purchase receipt greatly helps with the AP process, including automation. It allows for a smooth 3-way match, ensuring the invoice matches the purchase order and receipt. The system simplifies the entire process, saving you time and avoiding confusion.

Here is an example of a receipt:


Automated 3-way And 2-way Match

ProcureDesk facilitates the 3-way or 2-way matching process. The system compares the purchase order, the receipt of goods or services, and the supplier’s invoice. It ensures that the quantities and prices listed on the invoice align with both the purchase order and the received items.

If there are discrepancies during the matching process, ProcureDesk streamlines the resolution. The system highlights the discrepancies and alerts the relevant parties, such as the purchasing team or accounts payable. The stakeholders can review the discrepancies, investigate any issues, and take appropriate actions to resolve them, ensuring accurate accounting and payment.

Here is an example of a receipt required discrepancy:

Once the matching process is complete and all discrepancies are resolved, the system automatically sends the invoice to your accounting system. There is no need to create duplicate data in multiple systems.

Better Cash Flow Visibility

The PO system streamlines the purchasing process and improves the cash flow visibility.

Since all purchase is in one place, you can easily track your overall spending with different vendors and answers questions like:

  • What are we purchasing?
  • Who is purchasing?
  • Who are our top suppliers?

Here is an example of a Spend Dashboard that answers these questions.


The other common problem is that the finance director might not know all the purchase orders out there, what is invoiced, and what is pending to be invoiced.

That is where an open order report can help. An open order report concisely summarizes what is ordered, what is invoiced, and what is still pending invoice.

Here is an example of open order report:

Open Order Report

How A CIS South Plains Improved Purchasing Compliance

Before ProcureDesk:

Before implementing ProcureDesk, CIS relied on a manual purchase requisition process. Staff members would fill out paper forms routed for approval via email and scans.

The approval process was time-consuming, resulting in delays and inefficiencies. Additionally, there were instances where purchase orders would fall through the cracks, leading to incomplete or delayed procurement.

After ProcureDesk:

Recognizing the need for a more streamlined and compliant purchasing process, CIS School implemented ProcureDesk. The cloud-based procurement software revolutionized their workflow and significantly improved purchasing compliance.

The school transitioned from manual forms to a user-friendly online platform with the PO system. Employees could easily create purchase requests, select items from pre-approved catalogs, or add new items as needed. The system automatically routed these requests for approval based on predetermined rules, ensuring the right stakeholders were involved.

Approvers received notifications through the system, enabling them to review and approve requests with just a few clicks. The intuitive interface made it easy for approvers to track the progress of purchase requests, eliminating the need for lengthy email chains and reducing the chance of requests being overlooked.

Results Achieved:

Implementing ProcureDesk brought remarkable improvements for CIS School regarding purchasing compliance and efficiency. By automating the purchase requisition and approval process, the school experienced the following benefits:

Increased Speed and Efficiency: Purchase requests were swiftly reviewed and approved within the system, eliminating the delays associated with manual handling and email communication. This improved the overall speed of procurement, enabling the timely acquisition of necessary goods and services.

Enhanced Compliance: ProcureDesk ensured adherence to purchasing policies and compliance requirements. The system enforced predetermined approval rules, preventing unauthorized purchases and ensuring proper oversight at each process stage.

Elimination of Lost Purchase Orders: With ProcureDesk’s centralized platform, purchase orders no longer fell through the cracks. The system provided visibility into all purchase orders, ensuring they were accurately tracked, approved, and processed. This reduced the risk of incomplete or delayed procurement and improved accountability.

PO System That Integrates With Your Accounting System

Although a PO system can help improve the purchasing process, its benefits are significantly reduced if not integrated with the accounting system. Because then you need to manually create the purchase order and invoices in your accounting system. That leads to additional costs and effort.

You can easily avoid this by integrating the PO and accounting systems.

ProcureDesk integrates with multiple accounting systems to make the integration process seamless. The system integrates with the following accounting packages:

ProcureDesk integration with the accounting systems supports the following scenarios:

  • Automatically import the required master data. For example – Suppliers, charts of accounts, projects, payment terms, classes, tracking categories, and custom dimensions.
  • Automatically push the purchase order and supplier invoice to the accounting systems. Unlike other systems, there is no need to export the data from ProcureDesk to your accounting system manually.

Benefits Of A PO System For Schools

Here are the key benefits of implementing a Purchase Order (PO) system specifically tailored for schools:

Effortless Procurement Process: Say goodbye to the hassles of manual paperwork and lengthy approval cycles!

With a dedicated PO system, schools can simplify their procurement process. From creating purchase orders to managing approvals and vendor interactions, everything becomes a breeze. The system automates tasks, allowing staff to focus on more important responsibilities. Schools can save time, reduce administrative burdens, and enjoy a streamlined procurement workflow that ensures efficiency and smooth operations.

Tightened Financial Control: Schools need to maintain a tight grip on their finances, and a PO system helps them achieve just that. Schools gain better financial control by setting up purchasing policies, spending limits, and approval hierarchies. The system acts as a watchdog, ensuring compliance and preventing unauthorized spending. With real-time insights into expenditures and budget tracking, schools can make informed decisions, avoid budget overruns, and effectively allocate resources.

Stellar Supplier Management: Building strong relationships with suppliers is crucial for schools, and a PO system can take it to the next level. By centralizing vendor information, schools can easily manage and evaluate their suppliers. From tracking performance metrics to negotiating favorable contracts, the system empowers schools to make smart decisions. Schools can ensure on-time deliveries, resolve issues promptly, and nurture positive partnerships. The result? Cost savings, enhanced vendor relationships, and a streamlined procurement process that benefits everyone involved.

The Bottomline

In conclusion, implementing a PO system for schools is crucial to streamlining purchasing, promoting responsible spending, and ensuring effective budgetary oversight for sustained growth.

By leveraging this software, schools can automate their PO process, significantly reducing delays in acquiring essential classroom resources. Real-time information provided by the PO system enhances budgetary oversight, enabling administrators to make informed decisions on resource allocation, identify areas of overspending, and optimize costs.

Embracing a school PO system empowers educational institutions to streamline their purchasing processes, enhance responsible spending practices, and secure the necessary resources to provide the highest quality education.

What you should do now

Whenever you’re ready… here are 4 ways we can help you scale your purchasing and Accounts payable process.

  1. Claim your Free Strategy Session. If you’d like to work with us to implement a process to control spending, and spend less time matching invoices, claim your Free Strategy Session. One of our process experts will understand your current purchasing situation and then suggest practical strategies to reduce the purchase order approval cycle.
  2. If you’d like to know the maturity of your purchasing process, download our purchasing process grader and identify exactly what you should be working on next to improve your purchasing and AP process.
  3. If you’d like to enhance your knowledge about the purchasing process, check out our blog or Resources section.
  4. If you know another professional who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via email, Linkedin, Twitter.