Does Alma provide links from an order to other related information?
Alma provides the ability to navigate (by hypertext links) among linked purchase orders, funds, vendors, bibliographic records, licenses for electronic resources, and information about electronic packages (from the Central KnowledgeBase). An example of this can be seen in the following screen shot of a Purchase Order Line in review, with a hypertext link to the fund:
Additionally, the purchase order is linked directly to the metadata records in the system; there is no need for duplicate records in Alma. Order lines are linked directly to bibliographic records, or to package records in the case of groups of e-resources. Item records, which describe the resources in the library’s inventory, are linked to the metadata record, which is in turn linked to the purchase order line.
Can the PO line's bibliographic reference be changed?
It is possible to change the bibliographic record reference of a PO line to a different bibliographic record without changing the inventory. Only the PO line description is changed.
This functionality is useful, for example, if an order is made on a short (stub) bibliographic record. In this case, the PO line description is the description of the short bibliographic record. If the short bibliographic record gets updated with a full bibliographic record, the PO line will still have the now inaccurate old description of the title. In a case such as this, a user can click Change Bib Reference to update the PO line description to the description of the new version of the record.
What order types are supported in Alma?
Alma supports a variety of order types covering all options of material that might be ordered by a library. The list is supplied out of the box by Ex Libris, and can be customized by the library. For example a library might choose to de-activate some of the order types because they are not relevant for their library. An example of the list of order types – including continuous order types (that are active – with a yellow check mark, or not-active without the yellow check mark) can be seen in the following screen capture:
The Order Workflow
When initiating an order, Alma will offer the staff user the option of choosing a Purchase Type – based on the type of media being ordered. (The list can be customized by the library.)
Based on this information, the PO Line that is created will be tailored to the type of material being order. For example, a monograph will have fields to define library and location; journals (print and electronic) will have subscription date fields.
Does Alma need brief bibliographic records to be created for ordering purposes?
Alma’s streamlined acquisition processes allowfor ordering new materials for which bibliographic data does not already exist; there is no dependency on having complete bibliographic record information to initiate an acquisition process. The library staff member simply enters brief bibliographic information into a template and generates a purchase order line based on the brief record.
For brief records, the library determines which fields are mandatory before the record can be saved. The bib record can be completed at a later stage, once the item has arrived, or at any point in the process when more complete metadata becomes available.
Can staff edit order details throughout the whole lifecycle of the order?
Most of Alma’s purchasing lifecycle is based on automatic stages, staff users may intervene when exceptions appear or approval is needed based on the institution’s needs and preferred workflows. During and after the purchase process users can edit and intervene in the following workflows:
- Assign, reassign or release assignments of PO lines
- Edit PO lines
- acquisition method
- material supplier
- Packaging PO Lines into a PO
- Review POs
- starting a trial OR Request evaluation
- Order now
- To manually add PO lines to an existing PO
- Approval/Sending (manually)
- additional vendor
- shipping information
- edit PO lines included in the PO
- To delete POs
- Receiving Material/Receiving Stage
- Activation (for electronic material)
- Scanning (for Analytics reports, History and More Info status)
- Notifying interested users/patrons, print an interested users list
- Claim Missing Items/change expected receiving dates
- Post-Receiving Processing (Technical services, by default: Physical Processing, Copy cataloging, Temporary Storage)
- Print slips
- Un-receive (revoke the received status of an item if it was mistakenly marked as received)
- Closing, Canceling and Deleting PO Lines
- Reopening closed or canceled PO Lines
- Reassigning and Reactivating PO Lines
- Changing Bibliographic Reference (to which the PO line is linked)
How are orders for electronic and print versions for the same title handled?
Alma fully supports this type of workflow. The steps to achieve this are described following:
First, there must be a PO line so that payments may occur. As it is likely that the electronic version will be the main source in the future, it is best to associate electronic inventory with the primary PO line. This line will also be the one that launches activation workflows and future cost/usage evaluation.
However, in order to be able to receive physical materials, Alma requires a PO line. Since a separate PO line is created for the electronic version of this title with price and payment information , a second PO line must be created for the physical version, without any price and payment information, but with a link to the of the electronic version..
Alma supports the creation of a PO line with an acquisition method = “Technical” which does not require that data in the price and a fund fields be populated:
The print version will automatically be populated with details about an “Associated PO Line” (the PO line for the electronic version).
When searching for the order title, both orders will display – the one indicating that it is for an electronic subscription, the other for the print version.
How are purchase orders sent to the vendor? Can they be printed and then sent?
Orders can be sent by email or by EDI. The vendor email address can be defined as the library's printer email address and the order can then be printed and sent.
Does Alma create an audit trail on orders?
Alma provides an audit trail in the PO Line. All changes/additions, edits, etc. are automatically tracked (in the History tab of the PO Line). The audit information includes the date and time of the change/update, the old value (where relevant) and the username of the staff user that made the change:
Can the cost of an order be split between funds?
A purchase can be split between funds either by percentage or by a specific monetary amount. Below is an example of a line item that is split among four funds.
How does Alma support core acquisitions functionality?
Alma supports end-to-end acquisition processes for all resource types (print, electronic, and digital). The system employs business process automation to streamline and simplify workflows for managing orders, claims, receiving, activation of electronic resources, invoices, vendors and vendor accounts, as well as ledgers and funds. Alma’s workflow engine uses library-defined rules to manage most activities automatically, and alert staff to exceptional conditions that require manual intervention.
- Most acquisitions activities are unmediated, based on library policies and procedures. Operator intervention is needed only when staff review or mediation is required for the processes to continue.
- Alma holds a single universal currency repository (based on ISO currency codes), which includes current and historical rates. The repository is updated on a continuous basis. To help libraries track and manage currency changes, Alma also provides an exchange rate report, which can be run in real-time to generate a list of recent exchange rates.
- The system allows staff to create acquisition records for non-purchased materials, such as gifts and depository materials, without requiring that the items follow the traditional workflow of order, receipt, invoice, payment.
The acquisition module supports real-time fund balances, including a graphical display of the fund balance showing encumbrances and expenditures. Additionally, each fund displays a history of transactions (including positive and negative transactions) and the balance in the fund at the point of each transaction. In addition Alma Analytics provides advanced reporting functionalities to generate comprehensive reports.
The full purchasing workflow can be summarized in the following diagram:
Does Alma support automated ordering workflows?
Order workflows in Alma include the automatic processing of purchase orders across electronic and print formats, as well as staff mediation for approval and exceptions, per the library’s rules. For example, Alma’s workflow engine will be able to automatically assign tasks to staff members, approve orders based on library-defined policies, aggregate purchase order lines into a purchase order, and send the order to a vendor.
In Alma, the order process begins when a purchase order line is created; order lines are the building blocks from which purchase orders are created.
Using business process automation, the vast majority of order lines will be processed automatically, and flow from order line creation directly onto a purchase order. Order lines that require review are flagged and placed on an operator’s task list. As an example, the screen shot below shows an acquisition staff member’s “task list” for purchase order lines in review.
Order lines may be sent for review for various reasons - that the purchase order line is missing mandatory information such as a fund, price, or location, or that a library-defined price limit has been reached.
Purchase Orders show an auto generated alert that explicitly states what is wrong or missing with that order. For example:
Once an operator has reviewed and updated the order lines as necessary, they move automatically to the next stage, where purchase orders are generated and sent to the vendors. In cases where an order does not need to be sent (e.g., Approval Plans), the purchase order process ends when the order is created in Alma.
The purchase order is linked directly to the metadata records in the system; there is no need for duplicate records in Alma. Order lines are linked directly to bibliographic records, or to package records in the case of groups of e-resources. Item records, which describe the resources in the library’s inventory, are linked to the metadata record, which is in turn linked to the purchase order line.
When initiating an order, Alma will offer the staff user the option of choosing a Purchase Type – based on the type of media being ordered. (The list can be customised by the library.)
Based on this information, the PO Line that will be created will be tailored to the type of material being order. For example a monograph fill have fields for defining library and location; journals (print and electronic) will have subscription date fields.
A purchase order for physical material – where item information can be registered:
A purchase order for electronic material – where license information can be registered:
A purchase order for continuing resources – where subscription information can be registered:
Does Alma support a variety of acquisition workflows?
Alma supports purchasing workflows of all types.
- Approval orders are managed as standing orders, where the specific titles are loaded via MARC embedded order data/embedded order confirmation records. The system will check for approval titles that are already owned and flag them for staff review.
- Firm orders for print or electronic resources are managed by creating order lines attached to either a brief bibliographic record or a complete record from the Alma Community Catalog. Once the order has been processed, it may be sent via EDI, email, or print. The library may attach complete bibliographic records either from the Community Catalog or an external source. Print titles await receiving from the vendor, and electronic titles are activated as per agreement with the vendor. At that point, these resources are added to the permanent collection.
- Print continuations (print subscriptions and standing orders) and electronic subscriptions are both managed by Alma through ongoing open orders. The library establishes a purchase for the subscription, including a start and end date (the latter is optional). As new issues of print resources are received, inventory is created automatically. Electronic subscriptions may be activated and are subject to evaluation and renewal workflows.
- Alma also supports acquisition workflows for non-purchased materials, such as gifts, and legal deposit, without requiring that the items follow the traditional workflow of order, receipt, invoice, payment.
- Alma supports the ability to derive purchase orders based on EOD/EOCR records. The approach is flexible enough to accommodate mapping PO data from an array of different MARC fields and subfields, and can be customized based on different vendor requirements. Default profiles are included for common vendor mappings. The following screen capture shows an example of mapping inventory information from the vendor record to Alma item records:
- Alma maintains a lifecycle of purchasing that allows orders to be processed automatically with no staff intervention. The library can set up rules that will flag an order for review or for automatic processing based on flags, e.g.:
- By vendor (so that some vendor orders can pass through automatically)
- By acquisition method (e.g., so that approval orders will pass fewer checks)
- By type of material or source of PO information
- By additional exceptions (duplicate active order, item already exists in inventory, price exceeds limits, fund nearing limit, etc.)
In this way, acquisitions staff will have one task list in which to review orders that require decisions, while other orders will be automated. The following screen capture shows an example of a staff user’s task list – with a hypertext link to order lines that require review:
Is it possible to change the vendor after an order has been sent?
It is possible to change the vendor in an order after it was sent to the vendor:
- The 'Change Vendor' option will change the vendor in the order line and resend the order to the new vendor (as described below).
- The 'Replace (only) Vendor' option will change the vendor in the order record, but will not resend the order.
For the 'Change Vendor' option a confirmation dialog box appears. The message in this box states that the PO line will be sent again.
After clicking Confirm, The Change Vendor in Order dialog box displays:
Once the vendor has been changed the order will be resent.
Can PO Lines be relinked?
A staff user can change the bibliographic record to which a PO line is linked. Possible reasons for doing this include:
- An EOD arrives for a single volume within a multi-volume work which is more suitable to link to than the existing link.
- An item arrives that matches an existing bibliographic record more suitably than a new one imported at the time of the order.
The Relink option is available only for PO lines with the status In Review, Deferred, Ready (packed into a PO and ready to be sent), or Waiting for Manual Renewal, as well as for one-time closed PO lines. PO lines cannot be relinked if any of the following is true:
- The PO line is related to the Central KnowledgeBase. When this occurs, the Relink option does not appear.
- The PO line contains items belonging to two different bibliographic records.
Donations, exchange, legal deposit
How are donations handled?
Alma allows staff to create acquisition records for non-purchased materials, such as gifts and depository materials, without requiring that the items follow the traditional workflow of order, receipt, invoice, payment. If an acquisition process is not necessary for non-purchased materials, Alma also allows the operator to skip the acquisitions workflow entirely and simply create descriptive and inventory records that are necessary to properly manage the resource.
Can Alma handle exchange orders?
Alma supports orders of type exchange. A typical workflow would be as follows:
Exchange partners are defined in Alma as vendors:
‘Institution A’ places an order for an item (e.g. a museum catalog) with the exchange partner (‘institution B’) listed as the vendor.
The purchase type ‘exchange’ is chosen. With this order type the price and fund fields are not mandatory. A reporting code could also be registered.
When the item arrives receive it like all other orders. After receiving the order is closed and process is complete.
In Alma Analytics a report of all exchange items can be generated by filtering on the acquisitions method and choosing the exchange parameter:
Does Alma support a legal deposit workflow?
The full Legal Deposit workflow in Alma consists of 6 simple steps:
When the order for the item is created the acquisition method 'Legal Deposit' is chosen. This acquisition method does not require that the price and fund fields be populated :
After saving the order a legal deposit request letter is generated, and sent to the publisher:
Once the item has been received a letter of acknowledgement can be sent back to the publisher.
Alma Analytics allows for generating reports filtered by acquisition method.
How does Alma handle cancelations?
Orders can be claimed or canceled. When – for example, cancelling an order, the staff operator is prompted to enter a reason for the cancellation – this can be from a pull down list of library defined reasons. An optional, additional note can be added to this.
Can Alma notify users who have requested/recommended an item if the order is canceled?
If the user is in "Interested users" list of the PO line and marked with "Notify the user" She/he will get a notification when the item is received or If and when the PO Line is canceled.
Can purchase orders be deleted?
Deleting a PO line removes it from the Alma system and also deletes any transactions and inventory resources associated with the PO line. The delete option is available for PO lines with the following statuses:
- In Review
- Packaging (Automatic or Manual)
A PO line cannot be deleted if:
- It is linked to an invoice line.
- It is attached to a PO and has been sent to a vendor (if the PO has not been sent, the PO line can be removed from the PO and then deleted).
- One of the PO line resources has been received or activated (even if the PO line is in review)
It is possible to delete an entire purchase order (by staff with the relevant role) if it does not have any PO lines that are received, activated, or linked to an invoice.
Can Alma set distinct levels of authorization for ordering workflows?
Alma’s workflow engine uses library-defined rules to manage most activities automatically, and alert staff to exceptional conditions that require manual intervention. Most acquisitions activities are unmediated, based on library policies and procedures. Intervention is needed only when staff review or mediation is required for the processes to continue. Order lines that require review are flagged and placed on an operator’s task list.
Role and privilege granularity reflects the common breakdown of responsibilities and authorizations within the library/institution, with sensitive actions being controlled by specific roles and privileges. For example:
A Purchasing Operator role can do all of the actions required for processing a purchase request, such as:
- Manually create a new order
- Review and update an order
- Send the order to the vendor
However, the Purchasing Operator cannot:
- Approve orders that have been identified by the system as requiring special approval, as per institutional criteria
- Delete an order. Being allowed to perform this action would require an addition extended role
An Invoice Operator can do all of the actions that are required for processing invoices; however, the Invoice Operator cannot:
- Approve invoices
- Delete Invoices
Vendor information may be made viewable by roles that require access to this information, such as:
- Purchasing Operators
- Invoice Operators
Can a variety of order templates be created/used?
Alma supports the creation of purchase order templates. The use of template decreases the need to re-enter purchase related information when creating a purchase order. Templates can be saved either public or for private use. When loading templates, the staff user can choose from private templates and public templates.
Can templates be modified?
Templates can be modified by editing and resaving the template. The workflow is as follows:
- Open an purchase order using the template that you wish to modify
- Make the relevant changes on the order, and then choose the option 'Save as template'
- Choose the existing template and click “Save”
- Confirm that you wish to replace the 'old' template with the new version.
Does Alma support item search in Amazon for the purpose of ordering?
See also presentation "Item Search in Amazon" at https://knowledge.exlibrisgroup.com/...s#Acquisitions
Alma supports the option of searching in Amazon for an item and then transferring the order information to Alma to create a PO line for the item.
As can be seen in the screen capture above, it is possible to choose an Amazon location, add information regarding price, publisher and so forth.
Once the request has been sent, Alma displays the results it found in Amazon:
- View in Amazon takes you to the title in Amazon
- Item Lookup will show additional information about the title – e.g. different purchasing options
- Create order will create an order in Alma
Can Alma integrate with vendor websites by the use of APIs?
Alma provides extensive open interfaces, and all APIs are accessible freely through the Ex Libris Developer Network.
The Alma web services are managed via the Developers Network as well. This platform serves as the main vehicle over which the system‘s openness philosophy is realized.
Alma provides a comprehensive set of RESTful APIs, which are also available on the Ex Libris Developer Network.
Alma integrates with external systems, such as vendor systems, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, metadata management systems, and remote storage systems, via standard protocols, such as S/FTP. It is organized according to the external systems. Ex Libris was the first vendor to introduce a real time acquisition integration with vendors using APIs and we are working with various vendors in order to provide enhanced integration between Alma and the Vendor systems and support seamless workflows for increased efficiency for staff related processes.
Real time acquisition is already supported with Baker & Taylor (YBP) and Harrassowitz and we are currently working also with other vendors in the development of such integration such as: Coutts (ingramcontent), Dawson and Ebsco.
Can orders be generated at a vendor's website and linked to Alma?
Alma integrates with commonly used external selection portals such as YBP’s GOBI platform (https://developers.exlibrisgroup.com/blog/Real-time-Acquisitions) with automated import capabilities through extensive support for vendor-specific import profiles and embedded order data (EOD) records. EDI communication has successfully been tested with the following vendors: Baker & Taylor, Coutts (ingramcontent), Dawson, Harrassowitz, Swets, YBP, and Ebsco.
Is real time acquisitions with vendors supported?
We support real time acquisition with a few vendors such as YBP and HARRASSOWITZ, which we continue to develop on a daily basis. Once you fill in the order details at the vendor system and click submit, immediately you will get a Purchase order in Alma. We have in our roadmap the option to check for prices & availability at a specific vendor site via Alma.
Can searches for bibliographic records be limited to those with purchase orders attached?
This is possible via the Advanced Search. Users can simply use the wildcard * to search any resource with PO Lines attached.
Step 1: Advanced Search:
Step 2: Results:
Step 3: From the More Info link users can enter the Search for PO Line menu which provides a link to the PO Line:
Does Alma provide the ability to search all fields within all acquisitions records?
Alma supports searching for purchase order line via a Persistent Search Box and via a dedicated search screen ‘Search for PO Line’ as illustrated below:
The search provides a Find field which search all fields by default:
It is possible to search by a variety of search indexes related to purchase order details, fund information and associated bibliographic information. The search results can be further limited by facets such as Status, Library, Purchase Order Type, Alerts, Acquisition Method, and Vendor. Alma also provides Advanced search capabilities for searching for PO Lines based on complex criteria as illustrated below:
Search results can be saved as a set for PO Line batch processing such as changing vendor information, closing PO Lines and other acquisition tasks.
PO Lines can be searched by fields such as all, title, author, publisher, publication year, publication place, standard number, physical location name, vendor code, vendor name, vendor account code, fund code, fund name, PO line, additional PO line reference, PO reference number, vendor invoice number.
The Alma Quick Search Box also allows for searching for invoice or PO Lines (for staff users with the relevant authorizations):