2. AlSuite Overview - what AlSuite is all about


2.1
       Who should use AlSuite
Any organization engaged in running projects with a keen interest in managing projects efficiently should consider using AlSuite. By 'managing projects efficiently' we refer here to the ability to systematically and coherently link financial processes to monitoring and evaluation, work planning, activity request and approval, requisition request and approval and field reporting and approval; coupled with the ability to track progress towards outcomes, outputs, targets etc. and the financial status of your organization from different dimensions (client, project, budget, chart of account, outcome budget, output budget, work plan budget, target budget etc.) real time. Furthermore, you will want to track accountability for funds you release. You would like to know who owes you how much money in terms of accountability. You would also like to instantly generate staff activity report, to know who did what when real time and which field reports are pending. 

The above features and many more are presented to you in a logical and user-friendly manner. In this manual we delve in to these functionalities in a chronological manner. 


2.2
       Key components
AlSuite is an application designed to make project management easy. In this section we present an overview of AlSuite to give you a picture of what it is capable of doing. Let's take a look at the graphical workflow in figure 1 below, which highlights the critical components of AlSuite with respective high level functionalities in each component

In the next sections we present a high level explanation of each of these components.

2.2.1 System setup

System setup involves creating your organization in the AlSuite environment. After that, you define the units / departments you have in your organization. After defining units, you can now invite users, granting them specific units and also roles (access rights). The application already has pre-configured roles (staff, manager, book keeper, accountant etc.).

Because the application is designed with a workflow enabling the approval of activity plans, requisitions and field reports, at this stage you may also define the different approval levels and assign managers to the approval levels you will have defined.

The above settings are configured in the "Sys Admin" unit type and in the "Approver" unit type. You can have only one unit of type "Sys Admin" and one unit of type "Approvals".

2.2.2 Accounts setup
After basic system setup, you may now setup the accounts systems. This involves defining your chart of account (CoA) and creating clients with respective projects. You are then able to define budgets and the spread the budget across CoA lines. After you have spread the budget, your accounting environment is set. You can now begin receiving funds against a client and project.

All this happens in the unit type "Accounts". Just like the unit type "Sys Admin" and "Approver", you can have only one unit of unit type "Accounts".

Note:
You can have more than one client financing a project. Also, you can always adjust the budget and budget spread as you progress with the project. The design allows for a lot of flexibility, handing over power to the user in a controlled environment, i.e. backed up by robust access control mechanisms like you will learn in later sections.

2.2.3 M&E Setup and Work Planning
After setting up the accounts, you may now proceed to define the outcomes, outputs, output indicators and milestones of your project. If you do not have an understanding of the relationship between outcomes, outputs and milestones, we recommend the UK Aid Direct Introduction to Log frames and the AlSuite presentation on the Basics of M&E.

The AlSuite application also allows you to assign weights to outputs that are used for tracking progress towards the attainment of outcomes; and weights to milestones that are used for tracking progress towards the attainment of indicators that are defined for tracking progress towards the attainment of the outputs in question.

Setting up M&E takes place in a unit of type "Data sets". There can be only one unit of this type.

After setting up the system, setting up the accounts environment and setting up the M&E systems, you define a work plan in the operations unit of choice. For the created work plan, define targets. These targets establish the link to the outputs you defined under the "M&E Unit".

2.2.4 Defining approval levels and approvers
AlSuite permits you to define approval levels and approvers for activity plans, requisitions and field reports. 

Approval levels can be for each specific unit or applicable across the whole organization. Approval levels can be of the type "MUST APPROVE", implying that the designated approver must approve any given instance (activity plan, requisition or field report) or of the type "APPROVES ON REQUEST" implying that the designated approver will only be requested to approve a given instance upon request.

2.2.5 Execution (work planning and activity execution)
After defining targets of the different work plans you are now ready for execution; you may now invite the operational team to begin work. They would have to raise an activity plan (AP) with corresponding funds requisitions (REQ) and any pertinent documents. The APs are raised against the defined targets. The raised APs are the approved by designated approvers.

After APs have been approved, the requisition is exposed to the Accounts Department to perform booking, which involves assigning the different requisition lines respectively to a client, a project and a chart of account line. The requisitions are the approved by designated approvers. After approving REQs, funds are released and the activity is executed by the operational team. Also, when funds are released, an accountability flag is raised and the amount released is queued as "Funds not accounted for".

Most of the execution takes place in units of type "Operations". The system allows for the creation of several operations units.

Note:

When approving Activity Plans a field report can be requested for a given activity. Beyond activity plans, the system also permits the generation of bills.

When a requisition is approved, funds are immediately flagged as "committed". The organization can know at any point in time the volume of funds committed.

When funds are flagged as released, respective amounts are subtracted from the specified project and chart of account, as well as from the linked output and work plan target. As such, the organization will always know the state of accounts real-time.

When activities are executed, progress towards the attainment of indicators are tracked. The organization is thus in position to assess project progress in terms of achievement of targets.

The application also measures budget consumption against time and raises flags to alert the user on non-performing projects.

Risk logs for outputs help with identifying whatever may not be going right and where necessary the operational team can ask for "Management intervention". This is also managed through the system.

2.2.6 Accountability

Accountability enables the user to file in field reports for activities executed and also file in accountability for funds spent. 

2.2.7 Reporting
The Reporting unit is dedicated to Analytics, where a user can see different reports, i.e. financial reports by work plan, unit, budget, project and organization. Here we can also see operational reports by work plan, project indicators and progress in filing field reports.

However, it is worth noting that the whole application is populated with user-friendly performance dashboards in the different respective units. The idea is to present information for decision support while you work.



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