The top-down argument from Northwestern administrators was: I need a way to get insight into this pool of money that I’m spending. The university spends millions to subsidize the tools these core facilities use. Northwestern wanted to know where its money was being spent and recovered — and it needed to make sure the cores were maintaining nonprofit status and supporting a broad array of researchers. Yet the only information they would get from the facilities were annual reports with no operational insight into how things were used on a daily basis.
In the trenches, the researchers who manage the core facilities were spending hours doing the work of an invoice accountant. Creating a system that made tracking and billing as lightweight and automated as possible gave researchers back a ton of time — time they could spend on the research they were trained to do.