Meeting with Finance to discuss interoperability between Intota and Agresso

We recently met with some colleagues in the University Finance department to discuss the procurement process for books. We covered our current workflows, an ideal workflow and the possible interoperability between Intota and Agresso that would be needed to facilitate this.

We began by discussing the current workflows (which can be seen in the previous blog post ‘Analysis of ordering processes in the acquisitions team at Huddersfield’) and agreed that the areas we have highlighted as pressure points and that could be streamlined, were definitely areas that we needed to consider rationalising. We also looked at how our present workflow represented a “financial danger zone” to the University as it could lead to delays in the financial commitment for outstanding orders. Given the period of economic austerity we are in at the moment, and that Agresso is used for the budget monitoring of the whole University, it is crucial that Agresso has accurate and real-time information available at all times for the University’s Senior Management team for their constant strategic planning.

In light of this we moved on to discuss a possible workflow between Intota and the eMarketplace portal from Agresso in order to ensure reliable information.

It was proposed that Intota could be set up on eMarketplace as a supplier and that to order books we would log into Agresso, select eMarketplace as the procurement option and then punch out to Intota as a supplier. Once in Intota we could search for the resource we would like to buy using title, author, ISBN, etc. and this would then search all the different suppliers and return our results. We would then be able to select the items we would like to purchase and place them in a basket. After selecting all the items we would like to buy we could then return to Agresso and retrieve our ‘shopping’, pulling all the items we have placed in our basket back into Agresso. This would create a Purchase Order with each individual item having its own line. At this point it would be possible to select the correct Cost Centre and Nominal to charge the item to or split the price between different Nominals if needed.

We then raised the possibility of being able to split the book Nominal in Agresso down further to reflect the different subject’s budgets. Horizon (our current LMS) offers the opportunity for each subject to have its own fund code, and each year there can be up to thirty different fund codes. Our colleagues assured us that this would be possible in Agresso by using the categories within a Nominal. We would just need to inform them of the names of the different sub-sections of the nominal we would like them to set.

Once the ‘shopping’ has been pulled back into Agresso and assigned to the correct Cost Centre and Nominal this would be sent to the budget holder for approval. Once the whole order has been approved it is sent to the supplier/suppliers and the money is committed on Agresso. Upon receiving the books into the Acquisition’s department we would need to receive the items on Agresso, this would allow the electronic invoice that has been sent by the supplier to automatically be paid by either BAC’s or credit card depending on the preference of the institution. However, the payment method of the supplier would have to have been set up in advance, when the supplier was created, and for payment by credit card to be possible the supplier must have the facility to accept online payments. Agresso also has the functionality, providing the correct fields are known, to be able to send a file to update Intota and make the items received and available. This file could be programmed to update Intota at regular intervals, the frequency of which can be determined by the institution. It was noted that this workflow would not create an order record within Intota and that the item would only be recorded on Intota after it had been received in Agresso. Is this a problem? Would we need to know which books are on order? After a brief discussion we decided that is was something that we would need to discuss further, however it may be possibly be something for Intota to consider – the ability to create an order record from the ‘shopping basket’ which is exported to Agresso.

We then looked at RFID receiving, currently in practice at UCLAN, and questioned whether with the workflow above would still be possible if this was introduced. Our colleagues said that Agresso can currently read HTML and barcodes therefore it may be possible for it to read the information in an RFID tag to receive the item. However, it was stressed that the line number of the order would have to be programmed into the tag in order for Agresso to receive the item and reconcile the financial information.

Finally, we discussed reporting, budget management and planning options. It was agreed that if all the information in Agresso was accurate and in real time it would be possible for those who manage the budgets to continue using Agresso. However, it was pointed out that few Librarians use Agresso and that they may feel more comfortable accessing the information they need in Intota. The web version of Agresso offers a homepage which can display real time information relating to selected budgets either as figures or as graphs, therefore we wondered whether it would be possible for Intota the pull this information, via an API, to the dashboard of Intota. If the information was pulled each time the user logs on it would ensure the figures were accurate.

Recommendations

In order for Agresso to be able to pay the correct supplier after pulling the ‘shopping’ in from Intota via the eMarketplace, we would need the suppliers to have been set up in advance and for Intota to be able to provide unique identifiers for the different suppliers within Intota to be able to identify the suppliers of each item placed in the basket and for this information to be able to brought back in to Agresso to enable the correct supplier to be paid.

We currently charge the servicing costs and MARC records to different Nominals therefore we would need this pricing information to be available through Intota and to be able to be pulled back in to Agresso through eMarketplace in order for us to assign it to the correct Nominal.