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Best Practice Toolkit: Conducting a Purchasing Workflow Review

What is it?

Directions on conducting a purchasing workflow review.

The steps laid out in this toolkit can be used to conduct a review of your purchasing workflows in Alma.

Why review purchasing workflows?

It may be some time since you implemented Alma, and decisions taken on workflows at that time may no longer be relevant. It’s good to keep workflows under review in light of changing circumstances and frequent enhancements to Alma functionality, to ensure you are making the most of Alma and are using the most efficient purchasing workflows.

  • Adopting real-time ordering workflows or importing records with Embedded Order Data (EOD) can free staff from routine work
  • Adopting PDA workflows can free staff from routine work and make a wider range of resources available to patrons

Before You Start

In order to review purchasing workflows, you will need to take a look at Acquisitions configuration.

Alma includes a HealthCheck dashboard for testing different configurations, including Acquisitions configuration. The HealthCheck Dashboard will run configuration reviews and provide you with information based on incomplete items.

Go to Admin > Advanced Tools > HealthCheck Dashboard. Select Acquisition from the menu of options and click Run.


Example Acquisitions HealthCheck report

After the job runs, you will get a report with various findings you may want to investigate.

There are 10 different configuration options that the HealthCheck Dashboard evaluates. (For more details see . It will alert you to areas where the customer may have incomplete settings. To see the settings that have been flagged by the dashboard, click on … > View Error Events. The reports will remain on the dashboard to be reviewed by the customer later.

Reviewing Purchasing Workflows

Acquisitions Configuration Tables

Review the settings in Acquisitions configuration tables. Look at the Following Configuration Tables

  • Configuring Purchasing review Rules - define whether automatically created PO lines undergo manual review or are sent immediately to packaging
  • Enabling/Disabling PO Line Types – limit the number of PO Line types used
  • Configuring PO Line Deferral Reasons - You can define a list of deferral reasons from which the Purchasing Operator can select when deferring a PO line
  • Other settings table  - various settings that might be able to streamline your workflows
    • assertion_over_po_line_price
    • copy_POL_price_to_item
    • no_e-task_on_close_po_line
    • po_line_prefix
    • po_line_remove_interested_users
    • po_line_send_notification_to_vendor_on_renewal
    • po_packed_by_fund
    • po_prefix
  • Acquisitions Jobs Configuration – check that scheduling of PO Line Package job, limits of numbers of PO Line per PO for continuous and one-time orders are all set up optimally for you.


EDI Options

If your Vendors support EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) you may want to consider using EDI for ordering, invoicing, claims and other messages. Ex Libris Customer Success can advise on EDI configuration and workflows.

Check your Vendors and whether they are configured for EDI. Go to Acquisitions>Vendors and check whether the EDI tab in vendor records is populated.


Some Benefits of using EDI:

  • Efficiency, faster order to shelves time
  • Patrons can get the resources they need quicker
  • Patron can view acquisition status in discovery
  • Automation of ordering frees staff time
  • Automated jobs can be run in absence of staff
  • Invoicing with minimum staff intervention
  • Claiming with minimum staff intervention
  • Ease of communication with vendors
  • 2 way communication, all communication stored in Alma
  • Shelf-ready processing – save staff time

Purchase Order Line (POL) Workflow

Review the diagram below and think about how you usually create Purchase Orders in Alma – is it a manual process or do you let Alma create orders automatically, using the New Order API or by importing records containing Embedded Order Data?


Determine whether purchase orders are automatically or manually approved. Approval rules are pre-configured by Ex Libris on behalf of the customer during implementation. You should review to ensure that the rules set up during implementation still work for you.

Think about to what extent you want the purchasing workflow to be automatic, and whether and when you want orders to be automatically approved.

Creating Orders

Do you create orders in Alma and send them to the vendor?

You may prefer to create orders on the vendor platform and import bibliographic records with Embedded Order Data (EOD) using an Import Profile – creating the orders automatically, populated with fund and price information, reducing staff data input.

Benefits of using EOD:

  • Staff time freed up by automation
  • High quality records benefit discoverability for patrons
  • Reduced order to shelf time
  • Collaboration – Import Profiles can be shared in the Community Zone
  • Load records from supplier without intervention – automation
  • Automatic cleanup/normalization of records saves a lot of time
  • Can quickly and easily upgrade existing records
  • EOD saves a massive amount of data entry for ordering, claiming, invoicing


Do you use PDA (Patron Driven Acquisitions)?

PDA in Alma represents an agreement for a vendor to send e-resources to an institution that may be of interest to the institution. Resources are imported as a repository file and are published to the discovery layer to be accessed by patrons.

Access is monitored by the vendor; when a predefined threshold is exceeded, the item is considered as if it is purchased and is sent as part of an EOD to Alma. Orders (marked as PDA) are loaded into Alma, and the vendor then sends the relevant invoices. At the end of the defined PDA period, PDA resources that were not purchased can be removed from Alma by the institution.

Patron Driven Acquisitions are managed on the Patron Driven Acquisitions page (Acquisitions > Advanced Tools > Patron Driven Acquisition (PDA)).

Some Benefits of using PDA

  • Cost-effective way to build an ebook collection with guaranteed usage and the on-demand access
  •  Patron has access to wider range of materials in discovery
  •  Makes hundreds of thousands of ebooks immediately discoverable and accessible.
  • Titles are only triggered for purchase or loan if used
  • Librarians have complete control over the subjects, publishers, cost, publication dates and other parameters for their consideration pools.  

New Order API

Do you use the New Order API for real-time ordering via your vendor platform? Ex Libris Customer Success can advise on configuration and workflows using the API which allows orders to be placed at the vendor platform and automatically be created in Alma without staff intervention.

Some Benefits of using the New Order API

  • Real-time ordering speeds up the availability of resources
  • Increases the efficiency of integrating records
  • Reduces the drawbacks of manually overlaying or merging records
  • Enhances data enrichment in Alma.
  • Efficiency, saving staff time
  • Can do purchasing without moving between systems

Purchase Requests

Do you use Purchase Requests?

Purchase requests enable librarians using Alma and patrons using Primo to request that a library purchase a resource. The requester can request an item for any reason, for example: the library does not have a copy (there is no bibliographic record, or there is a bibliographic record but no inventory), or the library does not have enough copies or in the right format or edition, or the existing copy is damaged. The requester, or a librarian on behalf of a requester, fills in as many details of the item as possible and then sends the request to Alma for review.  


Some Benefits of using Purchase Requests

  • Empowers patrons
  • Reduces manual data entry for staff
  • Purchase Requests subject area in Analytics allows reporting on approved/rejected Purchase Requests
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