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Defining Purchase Categories


Oracle Cloud offers the concept of Functional Area catalogs that can be leveraged in many areas such as Inventory, Manufacturing, Sales, Purchasing and others for a variety of purposes. Catalogs can also be shared where a single catalog is assigned to multiple functional areas. For this discussion, we will assess only Purchase Categories and possible uses in purchasing processes.

Purchase Categories

Category management is an approach to purchasing activity organization within a business operation. Applying commodity grouping to purchased goods and services provides strategic support to several supply chain and spend management activities. Categories can also provide transactional support ensuring correct accounting, leveling workload, strategic planning and management oversight.

Example Applications:

  • Deriving Charge Accounts
  • Analyzing spend
  • Managing Approved sources
  • Managing Supplier Quality
  • Requisition and Purchase Document Approval Rules
  • Browsing Categories for Self-Service Shopping
  • Buyer Assignment Rules

Defining Categories

Cloud categories offer highly flexible alphanumeric structure choices that can accept coding such as UNSPSC or simple text such as ‘Laptop’.  Each category record allows for a Name, Code, Description, image and attachments that can be leveraged in a variety of ways. When deciding on what categories are needed, a typical starting point is the Natural Account from the chart of accounts structure. Natural Accounts provide a baseline of purchase expense groupings that can become more granular groupings within purchase categories.

Example Categories

The Chart of Accounts contains natural account ‘600010 – Computing Equipment and Hardware’. This baseline group is broken down into purchase categories Desktop Computer, Laptop Computer, Notebooks, Mouse, Keyboards, External Hard Drives and Monitors. While all of these purchase categories may be charged to account 600010, the spend analysis allows for isolating Laptop Computers as a specific spend group. This in turn can support more strategic sourcing decisions for purchase agreements armed with projected spend by the Laptop category.

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Constructing Categories

Category naming decisions should be based on a combination of need (how granular) and usability (user recognition). Commodity based purchase categories have existed for a long time in the purchasing world and manifested as both numerical codes (UNSPSC 43211503) and text codes (COMPUTERS.LAPTOP). While the numeric code is very useful in dissecting spend, text codes are more user friendly. The decision regarding what is best depends on user recognition within your organization. Some organizations are very comfortable with numeric codes and that is perfectly fine. If that is not the case, text coding may offer higher chance of correct usage.

Three Category Naming Methods

The following displays 3 methods of coding the same categories. User category selection process based on Category Name with the option to open separate search form that includes Category Description as a search criteria.

Numeric Coding

Category NameCategory Description
43211501Computer servers
43211502High end computer servers
43211503Notebook/Laptop computers
43211504Personal digital assistant PDAs or organizers
43211505Point of sale POS terminal
43211506Thin client computers
43211507Desktop computers
43211508Personal computers
43211509Tablet computers
43211510Mainframe console or dumb terminals
43211511Wearable computing devices
43211512Mainframe computers

– High compatibility with data analysis. Allows for data grouping the code from left to right for variable groups of categories. Example, 4321xxxx includes all Computer Equipment and Accessories and 432115xx includes only computers

– Not user friendly

Text Coding

Category NameCategory Description
Computers.ServersComputer servers
Computers.Servers.HighHigh end computer servers
Computers.NotebookNotebook/Laptop computers
Computers.PDAPersonal digital assistant PDAs or organizers
Computers.POS terminalPoint of sale POS terminal
Computers.Thin clientThin client computers
Computers.DesktopDesktop computers
Computers.PersonalPersonal computers
Computers.TabletTablet computers
Computers.Mainframe consoleMainframe console or dumb terminals
Computers.WearableWearable computing devices
Computers.MainframeMainframe computers

– Medium compatibility with data analysis. Allows for data grouping on macro level Computers.
– User friendly

– Cannot be as easily grouped in higher groupings above Computers
User must know primary grouping name such as Computers

Literal Name Coding

Category NameCategory Description
Computer serversComputer servers
High end computer serversHigh end computer servers
Notebook computersNotebook/Laptop computers
Personal digital assistant PDAs or organizersPersonal digital assistant PDAs or organizers
Point of sale POS terminalPoint of sale POS terminal
Thin client computersThin client computers
Desktop computersDesktop computers
Personal computersPersonal computers
Tablet computersTablet computers
Mainframe console or dumb terminalsMainframe console or dumb terminals
Wearable computing devicesWearable computing devices
Mainframe computersMainframe computers

– User friendly, uses common names

– Cannot be easily grouped for analysis


There are many ways to slice and dice purchases for your organization. The choice you make will determine the leverages available to your strategic and tactical decisions.

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John Lay, Solution Architect

John serves as a Solution Architect for the Perficient Oracle ERP Practice with 25+ years of experience in Procurement and Supply Chain Systems.

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