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State of Alaska

Department of Administration

Division of Finance

Alaska Department of Administration, Division of Finance
Administration >  Division of Finance > IRIS Project > FAQs

IRIS Project

Frequently Asked Questions

Click on the questions below to see their corresponding answers.

General Questions

01. What is IRIS?

IRIS stands for Integrated Resource Information System. IRIS consists of three software systems that will replace the State of Alaska’s (SOA) financial and payroll systems, and provide functionality for procurement, debt management, human resource management, and learning management.

The software systems that make up IRIS are being implemented in stages. The debt management portion of IRIS went live in July 2012 and LearnAlaska, the learning management system, went live in June 2013. The financial and procurement components will go live in July 2015 and the HR and payroll segments will go live in January 2016.

02. What is the IRIS Project?

The IRIS Project is a statewide effort to design, configure, and implement the three software solutions which make up IRIS (CGI Advantage, SymPro Debt Manager, and Meridian Global Learning Management). The goal of the IRIS Project is to improve the SOA’s administrative and operational functions through the use of an integrated system.

The IRIS Project consists of three key work effort areas: Business processes, software, and behavior adoption. The IRIS Project has teams of people focusing on each of these types of activities to help the State transition from current operations to how work will be done in IRIS. Click here to view the Project Team organizational chart.

03. What are the benefits of implementing IRIS?

The benefits of implementing IRIS include:

  • Standardization: Standardized accounting rules and financial controls for all SOA agencies means staff trained to use IRIS will be trained to work in any department in the state.
  • Transparency: The establishment and adoption of common accounting rules and consistent controls for all SOA agencies will provide improved government transparency and accountability.
  • Real-Time: Real-time reporting capabilities, meaning data will be updated as the system receives information instead of having to wait for nightly batch runs to occur.
  • Automation: Automated approval processes will help minimize paper processes, eliminate redundant data entry, and help to reduce data errors.
  • Security: By supporting security based on roles and reliable audit capabilities, IRIS will improve security for sensitive information.
  • Recovery: IRIS is designed for rapid system recovery and high system availability, which will minimize downtime and aid speedy recovery.
  • Support: IRIS is supported by a multi-year, renewable contract that provides ongoing technical support and regular software updates, so that IRIS can adapt to changing technology and demands.

04. Is the IRIS effort fully funded?

Yes, the Alaska State Legislature fully funded the IRIS Project through two different Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) which were approved in 2008 and 2012, respectively.

05. Will IRIS replace the Alaska Budget System (ABS)?

No, replacing ABS is not part of the IRIS Project.

06. Will IRIS replace the Alaska Data Enterprise Reporting (ALDER) Warehouse?

No, ALDER will not be replaced. The current version of ALDER will be extended and enhanced to ALDER 2.0 to accommodate changes in reporting with the new system. ALDER 2.0 will maintain the same look and feel as ALDER 1.0. After IRIS is implemented, ALDER 1.0 will continue to be available for historical reporting purposes but the data will no longer be updated.

07. Will IRIS replace eGrants?

No, replacing eGrants is not a part of the IRIS Project.

08. Can I continue to use AKSAS and AKPAY once IRIS is implemented?

Information from AKSAS and AKPAY will be available through ALDER, however IRIS will replace AKSAS and AKPAY, so after IRIS goes live, those two programs will no longer be used. For example, when the financial and procurement sections go live in July 2015, AKSAS data will only be accessible through ALDER. In January 2016 the HR and payroll systems will go live and AKPAY will no longer be used for payroll. Data from AKPAY will be available through ALDER 2.0. At this time, the only approved opt-out of IRIS are DOTPF Construction projects.

09. When can I start using IRIS?

The SymPro Debt Management system is already being used by DOA staff. The Meridian Learning Management System, LearnAlaska, went live in June 2013. It is currently being used by the Department of Administration’s Divisions of Personnel and Labor Relations (DOP) and Finance (DOF) to train employees and track workforce training efforts. The LearnALaska Enterprise Administrators will work with other departments who are interested in using LearnAlaska to manage their training programs. SOA employees are expected to begin using the IRIS financial and procurement functions in July 2015 and the human resources and payroll functions beginning in January 2016.

10. Will I receive training for IRIS in advance of being expected to use it?

Yes! All SOA employees who are expected to use the new system will receive training and preparation in advance of using IRIS for day-to-day work. For most end users, training will start next spring. Some users will receive training on how to build their department’s reports before next spring so that data can be populated prior to Go Live. Similarly, some users will also be trained earlier in order to prepare them for participation in User Acceptance Testing (UAT), which involves testing the application using real world scenarios that are relevant to the end users.

The IRIS Project Team is dedicated to supporting ALL employees through this transition and is currently working with departments to assess their training needs and develop a training plan specifically tailored for Alaska. For more information on training, please see the FAQs under the ‘How will IRIS affect me?’ section.

11. Will there be step-by-step procedures developed?

Yes. Statewide standardized procedures will be created and provided for all end users to follow. Individual departments may have specific procedures for performing certain activities and will provide additional instructions pertaining to these activities for their staff.

12. Once IRIS is implemented, how will this impact my data reports?

IRIS will leverage ALDER, the same reporting system AKSAS and AKPAY currently use, as a reporting solution to help minimize the impact on end users. Historical information will be accessible in ALDER 1.0 while data from IRIS will be accessed through ALDER 2.0. ALDER 2.0 is an extended and enhanced version of ALDER that is being developed to accommodate the changes in reporting needs caused by the new chart of accounts structure, procedures and processes of IRIS. Since the way data is structured in IRIS is different from how data is structured in the State’s current systems, users will not be able to do direct comparison reports between ALDER 1.0 and ALDER 2.0. As the implementation for IRIS approaches, the IRIS Project Team will work with those SOA employees who use ALDER to arrange training on the changes to reports.

13. Why is the state replacing the existing financial (AKSAS) and payroll (AKPAY) systems?

AKSAS is nearly 30 years old (1984) and AKPAY is over 20 years old (1990). In technological timeframes, they are antiquated and are not able to integrate with many of the SOA’s newer systems. The absence of integration creates challenges for real-time reporting or strategically viewing SOA’s operations, and hinders efficiency.

14. Who should I contact if I have questions regarding IRIS?

You can email your questions about IRIS to: IRIS.Project@alaska.gov. This inbox is monitored by members of the IRIS Change Management Team who work closely with the entire IRIS Project Team to respond to your questions in a timely manner. You can expect a response to your inquiry within 1 business day.

15. When will we receive a glossary of terms?

Numerous crosswalks and glossaries were distributed during prototyping, labs, via the newsletter, and other meetings. We are in the process of consolidating these documents so there is one place where you can refer to for glossary and terminology.

How will IRIS affect me?

01. How will IRIS affect me?

Depending on your job, IRIS may significantly change your daily work, or you may only be affected indirectly. IRIS is also being implemented in phases, which, again, depending on your job, means you may not feel the effects for another couple of years. Still, as IRIS is a statewide effort, we are trying to make sure all State employees are at least aware of it.

If I work in Finance or Procurement:

Those working in finance and procurement will see significant changes to their day-to-day work when those components go live in July 2015.

If I work in HR & Payroll:

In January 2016, the HR and payroll functions will go live, affecting employees working in those areas as well as general employees, who will have access to an Employee Self Service portal to access employment and pay history.

How other employees may be affected:

If you need to register for training, you may get to use LearnAlaska, IRIS’ online learning management system that went live in June 2013. LearnAlaska provides registration for training courses and tracks and analyzes training. Currently only classes offered through the Department of Administration’s DOP and DOF are administered in LearnAlaska. However after the initial deployment, LearnAlaska Administrators will be working with other departments who are interested in using LearnAlaska to manage their training courses. IRIS training will be offered through LearnAlaska.

02. How will IRIS impact different departments’ busy times, such as Legislative Session, field seasons, financial reporting, planning crunch times, etc.?

The IRIS Project remains sensitive to the impacts the project may have on department resources during these busy times and will do their best to work with departments to determine timeframes that are agreeable for all involved. IRIS Liaisons and the entire project team are committed to helping departments be successful by providing additional information and assistance as needed.

03. How will the IRIS Project engage end users?

The IRIS Project Team is working extensively to engage and prepare all potential IRIS end users for the transition to IRIS. All IRIS end users can expect support and preparation (training) from the IRIS Project Team. Training for most end users will begin in Spring 2015. However, some end users will begin training earlier in order to participate in User Acceptance Training in winter 2014.

As we move closer to Go Live for the financial and procurement components, there will be additional activities planned to engage end users and the IRIS Project will continue to communicate project information via frequent web updates, monthly project newsletters, prompt responses to questions submitted to IRIS.Project@alaska.gov, and a 3-month look ahead update for leadership to keep them informed of upcoming project activities.

04. When and how will training occur? How do we identify who to train? How will we reach/communicate with everyone who needs to be trained?

For most end users, training will begin in spring of 2015. Some users will receive training earlier on how to build their department’s reports so they can populate their department’s data prior to go live. Similarly, some users will be trained early so they are familiar enough with the system to participate in User Acceptance Testing (UAT), which involves testing the application using real world scenarios that are relevant to the end users.

The IRIS Project Team has been working with departments to complete a training needs assessment to determine the overall number of people within each department who need IRIS training and where they are located. The training needs assessment will also identify the number of people who currently perform tasks related to major IRIS business areas such as accounts payable, accounts receivable, procurement, or fixed assets. Information on how we plan to deliver IRIS training and identify those who need it will be finalized in August 2013.

05. What are some ways the system will streamline my work or simplify my basic job tasks?

IRIS will simplify basic job tasks through automated approvals, reduction of manual entries, and elimination of duplicated efforts. Some examples of how the system simplify job tasks include: (1) the IRIS system uses document templates (referred to as transactions in AKSAS) for transactions that you enter on a regular basis; (2) IRIS keeps one master record of data that is used by all hands in the financial and procurement processes, so information is auto-populated in your documents as it’s inferred from what you enter (such as department number, or a template); (3) In IRIS, funds are encumbered automatically, eliminating some work for both procurement and financial employees.

06. Will IRIS cut jobs?

Implementing the new IRIS software will not cut jobs. Instead, IRIS will provide end users with an opportunity to pursue career paths across departments since they will be trained in a system that is used throughout SOA. Additionally, experience with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system like IRIS will give end users experience with current technologies being used in other sectors.

Opportunities to see the system

01. Will I be able to see the how finance and procurement work?

Yes, presentations will be held in Fairbanks, Juneau, and Anchorage prior to formal training. These presentations will show actual SOA processes in the configured IRIS system. For those who are unable to attend one of the live sessions, a recorded version of the presentation will be available for viewing through LearnAlaska.

Finance

01. I heard that Chart of Accounts is different in the new system. What does that mean exactly?

IRIS’ chart of accounts (COA) provides an account structure to classify financial information. The structures in AKSAS are hierarchical in nature with different logical levels. In IRIS, COA can be structured in both a hierarchical and a linear way, providing greater flexibility. Division of Finance is determining when to use the hierarchy versus linear, based on reporting and statutory requirements. The concept of logical levels becomes rollups and sub-account codes in IRIS. This functionality provides flexibility while standardizing the centralized COA across the State.

02. Can users limit search results to specific SOA fields?

Yes, every table will have the ability to limit searches based on what filters you apply.

03. How will IRIS fix interfaces with various systems that interface with AKSAS and need lots of clean up?

IRIS will not fix interfaces with various systems. However, a crosswalk mapping of the AKSAS Interface fields to IRIS document interface fields needs to occur so that interfaces can process successfully in IRIS. Members of the IRIS Interface team are currently working with departments to complete this activity.

04. Can templates be changed by anyone within that department? Is there any security or permissions that can be added?

No, template creation and modification requires security access. Each department decides who in their department has the authority to create and modify templates. However, if you can process that document in IRIS, you are able to use the template.

05. Please explain event type and posting codes.

Think of event type in IRIS as mirroring the AKSAS transaction code minors (ex. 310-XX-XX) determining what type of payment or event you are processing. Posting code defines the offset accounts to transactions or events.

06. What will EFT look like? / What data do we send to IRIS for cash interfaces (EFT)?

EFT process will remain very similar to AKSAS processes. The difference will be the COA elements used. We are working with DOR-Cash management and DOF to review what data will be sent to IRIS.

07. Under accounting, how is “reserved funding” used and is there a financial impact?

Reserved funding in IRIS acts like restrictions and deferrals in AKSAS. You restrict the ability to spend against your approved authorization based on your business needs. (i.e. unrealized authority, governor budget cuts, etc.)

08. How is the term “fund” used in IRIS?

Fund is used as the GASB fund which is in line with the definition used by accountants. Treasury Pools will also be funds, the same way they are in AKSAS.

09. Will account code be the object code in IRIS? How is it tied to the commodity code?

Yes, the account code is the object code. The commodity code will be mapped to the object code so procurement and financial processes gain efficiencies and there is less burden on the end user.

10. Will everything be auto-numbered in IRIS?

No. Documents generated in IRIS will be auto-numbered. Interfaces and converted items will have pre-defined document IDs.

11. Will there be sorting options as well as filtering options for lists?

Yes. The default option is alphabetically, but lists can be sorted based on the other column headings of the table.

12. How will billing to multiple funding sources be handled?

IRIS can establish funding profiles that allow you to direct multiple funding sources to one federal grant or project. Departments can also set funding priority, which allows you to establish which funding source to charge first.

13. Can dollar-round in billing be managed in IRIS?

Dollar amounts will be exact in IRIS, but you can choose to round in ALDER reports.

14. Will projects’ “Billed-to-date” amounts be copied from the DOT Third Party Billing System into IRIS?

Data will be converted in IRIS for open projects. We are still in discussion with DOT on the historical data that is closed.

15. Is Federal Grants tracking going to be a centralized function in IRIS?

No, it will not be centralized, however the Major Program/ Program structure has fields such as the CFDA (Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance) number which will facilitate standardized and efficient reporting of the Federal Schedule and State and Federal Pass – through reports statewide (See the section of the IRIS Program Period table below).

16. Will Budgets and the use of ABS change?

Budget development remains the same in ABS. However, the Chart of Accounts (COA) elements and Auto AB will change to adapt to the new IRIS COA elements that will control budgets.

17. How does an accounting template interface with a GAX document?

An accounting template is entered when you create a GAX (general accounting expenditure) document. The accounting template will infer the COA elements that were defined when the respective accounting template was created.

18. What will the AKSAS online audit trail look like in IRIS?

The IRIS online audit trail will be presented through drill-down functionality and will have similar capabilities as AKSAS to filter data to provide an output of the documents based on your parameters (i.e. by fund, by date, by document type, etc.).

19. How will credit cards and OneCard transactions work in IRIS?

For SOA employees who have OneCards, the process will work very similar to how we handle them today. If you are a OneCard administrator, managing accounts will be established for OneCards. There will be a table where you can clear charges. Unreconciled OneCard charges will be posted to department suspense accounts. DOA/DOF will pay the bank daily with these suspense accounts for rebate purposes. Level 3 bank data will continue to be fed to our charges so you can see detailed information like ticket number, traveler name, etc.

20. Will staff have the ability to set up future transactions within the same FY as well as transactions for the next FY?

Yes. IRIS can do both for prepaid assets within the same FY AND to the next FY for scheduled payments.

21. Once financial structures are set up in IRIS and subsequent changes are made, does IRIS have the ability to track these changes?

Yes. IRIS has an audit function for tracking changes of COA elements. Also, effective to and from dates can be populated whenever there is a need to track changes different from the state fiscal year. (Click here to see an example of the fund table that has the fiscal year and effective from and to fields.)

Procurement

01. What is procurement?

This question was presented to the Division of General Services (DGS) several months ago and we expect a definition from them. The specific question is: If an item is purchased from an existing contract, does the person issuing a Delivery Order need to be certified through the DGS Procurement Certification System, or is it sufficient that the RQS was approved by both a Need Approver and Financial Approver?

02. How will information get into the Universal Requestor Catalog Search Page (URCATS)?

There are two ways information can be entered into the catalog – Hosted Catalog and PunchOut. For Hosted Catalog, the vendor provides detail in xml, Excel or other format, as needed by the State and required in the solicitation, along with any image files. The State Catalog Administrator then uploads the information into IRIS. In PunchOut, the vendor will host the catalog information on their website (typically a site just for State of Alaska customers) and IRIS users will access the site through IRIS. In general, contracts with a smaller number of available items would be hosted in IRIS (Hosted Catalog). For contracts where a large amount of products are already available on the vendor’s site there is no need to add thousands of items into IRIS when the State is most likely only interested in a few hundred of those items. Those situations are more suitable for PunchOut. Today we can purchase from large vendor’s State of Alaska specific WSCA contract websites – IBM and Dell are a couple of examples.

03. What database will be tied to Requestor ID to populate the field?

The Requestor ID will be tied to Active Directory, so the Requestor ID will match the user’s SOA user ID. Your SOA user ID is also your IRIS login, and the permissions you have in IRIS will be tied to that.

04. In the pick list, can you expand (customize) how many items show on the results?

No, you cannot expand how many items show on the screen at one time. A maximum of ten results will show per page. If you have too many results, we recommend refining your search so you get fewer results.

05. Is there a way to show how many records are returned when you search in URCATS?

Unfortunately there is not a way to show how many records are returned.

06. Are there ways to filter the URCATS results?

Yes. Results are sorted based on source of supply (Catalog Items, Master Agreements, Inventory, Purchase History, and Commodity Codes), vendor preference level, supplier part number, and commodity code. Users can filter results using the advanced search section. Results can be filtered by Vendor, Warehouse, and Source of Supply. To filter the results further, in the Search For box the user can also use the "Not" keyword to exclude results.

07. Why do you have to hit create twice when creating an RQS?

The Document Catalog has two modes of operation: searching for existing documents and creating new documents. To create a document the end-user must first transition to the create mode. After the user has entered their department code, the document code, and selected auto-document numbering, they click the "Create" link to have the system create the document.

08. Can we set a rule to automatically distribute RQSs? For example, assign by commodity code class?

Yes, based on workload assignment rules, RQSs are automatically routed to the appropriate workload manager. Workload assignment rules include commodity code, dollar value, department code, and Unit Code.

09. Can we cut and paste from other software (i.e. Microsoft Word) into the text fields in IRIS? Or maybe drag and drop? Or both?

Yes, you may use the copy/cut and paste functionality to populate the extended description fields. Note: Any formatting in the original program is lost.

10. Is the RQS the building block for all or are there other options for doing procurement?

The RQS is the main starting point for most procurements, although if you are purchasing from a master agreement, you may begin with the delivery order. However, if you choose to do so, a delivery order that doesn’t reference a requisition would need to go to a need approver and financial approver prior to being issued in final.

11. Are Issuer ID and Requestor ID always one-in-the same person? Can you please clarify the process for when this is the same person and when they can be different?

No, they are not always the same person, although it could be. In a case where they are different people, it may be that the issuer is submitting the RQS on behalf of someone, who is identified in the Requestor ID field.

12. Is an approved RQS required to have an RFQ submitted?

The IRIS Project considers it best practice to have an approved RQS in order to issue an RFQ. However, there are certainly circumstances, such as an emergency, in which having an approved RQS is not feasible. In that case, we have established a standard process to handle emergency procurements. It is important to note that, in IRIS, the RQS is not just the vehicle for obtaining approval to spend State funds. It also secures the necessary consent from a “need approver.” If there is no existing funding, but it is expected, the agency can process a non-accounting type of requisition.

13. If an RQS has more than one type of service, how is RQS completed to reflect multiple service types?

The requestor would transition to the Commodity Tab, type in the first type of service, and then select “Insert New Line” at the bottom to continue adding services (or commodities).

14. What happens if there is not enough money in the Appropriation Unit? Can you still proceed if it is just an initial request?

No, you cannot proceed. You either have to modify the coding to an appropriation unit that has funds or perform a budget transaction or other financial documents to free up funds.

15. How will hard copy requests and awards be handled?

If a department still requires hard copy requests, it is their responsibility to assess how they will be handled. As part of the implementation activities, departments will identify and update any required hard copy forms. Hard copy awards will be entered into IRIS, much like the existing contracts (in other words, contracts that exist prior to the IRIS Go Live) that will be enabled in IRIS but were not procured using IRIS.

16. If the Master Agreement has a contracted lead time, can we still select a date prior to that or will the system prevent that?

Yes, the end user may enter a Delivery Date that is less than the lead time specified on the Master Agreement.

17. Can you use “jump to” to quickly get to an RQS?

Yes, to quickly get to an RQS, you can use the “jump to” box in RQS. Another way to quickly get to a RQS is to use the My Requests page, which list all the RQS documents that have been entered by a given Requestor.

18. How will shipping/billing information be populated in IRIS?

The shipping/billing information will be inferred based on the employee’s profile.

19. Will users have shipping/ billing options to select from? How will agency information be input into the system?

Yes, users will have options for shipping and billing locations to select from. Part of the Build Phase activities include departments providing a listing of shipping and billing locations that the IRIS Team will configure in IRIS. After Go Live, departments will be able to add new shipping and billing locations as needed.

20. What does the DO look like when it prints?

The design of IRIS statewide output forms is ongoing and the IRIS project team is working in close coordination with DGS. The completed forms are not yet ready for review by departments; however, each department should review the IRIS Forms Inventory list in their Go Plan Binder (or look in the ‘All Departments’ folder on the Go Plan Sharepoint Site to assess if the contents will meet their department’s needs. This review is part of the GO Plan coordinated through the Department Implementation Lead for each department. After confirmation of the contents, the IRIS core team will design the forms in line with State of Alaska standards and departments will have the opportunity to review the design and test them. After the IRIS implementation, DO issuers may view the DO prior to issuance.

21. Will the system let you override things that are pulled from a catalog?

Generally speaking, only items on contract are in the catalog. This limits the search to only items that are on a Master Agreement. If you want to add an item that’s not in the catalog to a purchase of catalog items, you can do that but it will require both financial and need approval.

22. What happens if you have an RSA pending and want to get started on ordering but the funds aren’t there yet?

Orders have to pass budget edits so there is no way to start on ordering when the funds are not there yet. The RSA must be finalized in order to start spending against that agreement.

23. Will Purchase Requests (PRs) be used in IRIS?

PRs as we know them today will become obsolete. One of the reasons for implementing IRIS is to reduce manual and redundant processes wherever possible. In IRIS, an end user with the appropriate authority will begin the requisition (RQS) process. An RQS will be used to acquire goods and services and will serve as a standard method to request a purchase. Once created, the RQS will be automatically routed for need and financial approvals. Once approved, and, depending on the type of purchase being made, the RQS is routed to the appropriate person for the next action. The exception to the RQS process is when we want to make a purchase from an existing contract, or Master Agreements, as they are referred to in IRIS. In IRIS, Delivery Orders (DOs) are used exclusively for purchases from Master Agreements and can be generated without first going through the RQS process. If a user wishes to bypass the requisition process for Master Agreement purchases, they may do so, however, the DO will then be routed through the same approval process that the requisition would have gone through (to the need and financial approvers). This is to ensure that each purchase is necessary and funding authorized, tying into the governmental principle of checks and balances for our business processes.

24. Who will be updating information in the catalogs?

Catalog updates will be managed centrally by the Division of General Services.

25. When you initiate a contract will those numbers be auto-assigned for contracts? Can they be auto-numbered at the division level?

Departments will have some latitude when it comes to document numbering. However, IRIS will bring many new reporting abilities that are not available today.

26. Will information about individual PCards be included in IRIS so you can easily select it in the system? How will the PCard expiration date be populated?

Yes, individual PCards will be loaded into IRIS. There is an effective date in the PCard table where expiration dates can be populated.

27. What types of procurement reports will be available?

Identifying reporting needs was part of the development of the business design, which the IRIS Team is currently using to configure the system for the State of Alaska. The IRIS Team identified basic reports that the departments are now being asked to analyze and determine if the reports (and the reporting data elements) are sufficient. ALDER 2.0 will be the reporting tool for IRIS.

28. What is the process for when a RQS is rejected? Are there ways in the system to “pre-check” to minimize the number of rejections? Is there a place to include comments if a RQS is rejected?

There are multiple up-front validations performed when an RQS is initially created, which result in both hard errors (requiring correction before submission) and warnings (allowing the requestor to submit the RQS). These validations will be configured in the new system. . End-users may use the send page function to ask a reviewer for an informal review. Additionally, the system has pre-defined edits that check business rules to ensure mandatory fields are populated.

29. When does an Encumbrance occur?

The encumbrance of funds occurs automatically when an award document, such as a purchase order or contract, is created in IRIS. The encumbrance is established in the system and updates the budget and several other accounting control tables. The encumbrance is then liquidated automatically when a payment is made against the award.

30. In the IRIS system, can you see the entire Request for Proposal (RFP) after you piece it together?

Yes. You can view the RFP on screen or print the entire RFP as a PDF. You can also save an electronic PDF copy for your records or to attach to email.

How IRIS works

01. I heard some data is auto-generated in the new system. How does it work?

Reduction in manual entries is one of the IRIS Project’s goals. While you’ll have to enter data in some required fields, a significant amount of data will be inferred from data tables in the system. For example, once you fill out a requisition in the system, the data you enter is matched to data that IRIS keeps in tables and some of the fields will be filled out for you.

02. How will credit cards and One Card transactions work in IRIS?

For SOA employees who have One Cards, the process will work very similar to how we handle them today. If you are a One Card Administrator, managing accounts will be established for One Cards. There will be a table where you can clear charges. Unreconciled One Card charges will be posted to department suspense accounts. Department of Administration’s Division of Finance will pay the bank daily with these suspense accounts for rebate purposes.

03. Will invoices be electronic or paper?

Vendor invoices can be paper or electronic. Vendors can submit electronic invoices via the Vendor Self Service (VSS) Portal. Vendors without access to a computer can mail invoices as they do now.

04. It sounded like staff will have the ability to set up future transactions for the next fiscal year (FY); can future transactions be set up for a later date within the same FY?

Yes IRIS can do this both for prepaid assets to the next FY AND within the same FY for scheduled payments.

05. What is the timeout limit in IRIS?

A standard, system-wide IRIS timeout will be established based on SOA standards. The exact timeout period for IRIS has not yet been determined.

06. Why is save not required on each tab of information you input?

When you transition from one tab to another, IRIS automatically saves the information you’ve entered. If you want to exit the document and you have not transitioned to a new tab, you must save in order to preserve your work.

07. Is IRIS case sensitive?

IRIS is not case sensitive so all tables and search options allow for mixed case. It is the recommendation from the IRIS core team and the Division of Finance that IRIS be implemented using a mixed case for all descriptions and names.

08. How will users be notified of alerts and messages?

IRIS has several options regarding notifications. Decisions on how notifications will be set up are still pending. Once decisions have been made, this response will be updated.

09. Will IRIS provide spellcheck and/or auto-correct capabilities?

No, IRIS does not provide spellcheck or auto-correct functionality.

10. On the calendar selection icon, will there be an option to use double arrows in addition to the single arrows to navigate?

The IRIS calendar selection icon provides the ability to move from month to month using the single arrow option. The IRIS calendar selection icon does not use double arrows.

11. What types of search capabilities are present in IRIS?

Search functionality is provided on many pages throughout IRIS. The Search functionality supports the following:

  1. Text can be typed in upper or lower case.
    1. Note: All text will automatically be converted to upper case.
  2. Wildcard characters can be used to assist with searching. The applicable wildcard characters are: asterisk (*), colon (:), greater than sign (>), greater than or equal to sign (>=), less than sign (<), and less than or equal to sign (<=).
    1. Asterisk (*) - For example, you can type *budget* in the Description field on Page Search and all pages that have Budget in their Description will be returned.
    2. Colon (:) - For example, type 1/1/2004 : 1/15/2013 in the Create Date field on the Document Catalog to view all documents created on or after 1/1/2004 and on or before 1/15/2013.
    3. Greater than sign (>) - For example, type >1/14/2013 in the Create Date field on the Document Catalog to view all documents created after January 14, 2013.
    4. Greater than or equal to sign (>=) - For example, type >=1/14/2013 in the Create Date field on the Document Catalog to view all documents created on or after January 14, 2013.
    5. Less than sign (<) - For example, type <200 in the Fund field on the Fund table to view all funds that are less than 200. Everyone whose cash balance less than 200 will populate.
    6. Less than or equal to sign (<=) - For example, type <=1000 in the Available Cash Balance search field on the Cash Balance table to view all funds that have an available cash balance less than $1,000.00.
  3. Commas can be used to provide multiple search criteria.
    1. For example, type PO, DO in the Code field on the Document Catalog to view all documents that have a Document Code of PO or DO. Note: When searching for data that contains commas, enclose the search criteria with single quotes. For example, type 'Construction, Inc.', in the Vendor Legal Name search field to view the Construction, Inc. vendor record.

12. Will there be a cheat sheet or list for “jump to” options?

The IRIS Project Team is working on a quick reference sheet that will include information for the "Jump To" field. The system codes are quite an expansive list; therefore, the quick reference sheet may not be all-inclusive. As users become familiar with IRIS and the codes they regularly use, the "Jump To" field will likely become a favorite action to quickly navigate IRIS. Users can use search and the wildcard characters (see response to 'How IRIS works' FAQ-11 for more information about Wildcard Characters).

13. Will users have the ability to export the IRIS help files?

No, users will not have the ability to export the IRIS help files.

14. When does a user hit Enter versus having to select Browse?

When a user enters a value in one of the search criteria fields, the user may just hit Enter to perform the search. If the user does not enter any search criteria values, then s/he must select Browse to perform the search.

15. Can a user over-write document fields that are auto-populated when Save is selected?

A user has the ability to update fields that are auto-populated when Save is selected. The user must select Save again to retain the updated fields.

16. Is it possible to unvalidate?

No, IRIS does not provide the ability to unvalidate. When a user selects Validate, IRIS will perform a series of edit checks on the document. If an error is encountered, a brief error message will display at the top of the page. If more than one error is found, the first error message is displayed along with the total number of errors.

17. Is there a way for the system to indicate which document fields are required (i.e. with an asterisk or by removing unused document fields)?

When setting up tables, required fields are indicated with an asterisk, however if you are not in set up and are simply viewing or using the system, required fields will not be identified. The Project Team and SOA are currently in the process of determining which fields will be masked or grayed out based on security roles and are considering removing some fields all together that are not needed by the State.

18. How will approvals, including IT approval, be handled in IRIS?

Within IRIS, the automated routing of documents (transactions) for approval is controlled by workflow and approval rules. The State has decided to implement the following items in regard to document approvals:

  • Documents requiring IT approval will be handled as a sequential approval, meaning the IT approval will occur in the approval order established in the rule.
  • The creator of a document cannot approve their own documents.
  • Each department will have the ability to determine if their users who have approval levels may apply more than one of those approvals to a given document. The State decided this functionality can be enforced on a rule by rule basis within each department so both small and large departments have maximum flexibility for handling workflow.

Further discussions regarding workflow rules, such as approval authority and what level of security is needed in the system for various tasks, will occur in 2014.

19. How are approvals managed when someone is out?

IRIS has Approval Roles, where a single user or a group of users (approvers) can be assigned to a role. By assigning a group to a role, if one person were to go on vacation, another person within that group can step in and manage approvals.

20. With workflow rejections, does the document approval workflow start over at the beginning? Will notifications be sent when a document is rejected and will the notifications include information about what needs to be corrected?

This decision will be made when the IRIS workflow rules are designed and developed. It is recommended that the document be returned to the beginning of the approval workflow since any intermediate approvers would not be knowledgeable of any changes.

There are Approval Actions where one could Reject a document (i.e., the document goes back to the prior approver or Draft phase if it is the first approval) or one could Reject All where the document goes all the way back to Draft phase, regardless of any applied approvals. An approver can enter some comments on why a document was rejected and could explain why it needs to be corrected.

The system will email the former 'owner' when the document is rejected. This may be the previous approver if applicable or the submitter if the document is returned back to Draft status. The email includes some details about the document including the Doc ID so they can tell which document was changed.

Records & Reporting

01. What are the expectations and parameters of record retention for IRIS?

The project team has been in touch with EED and will ensure that the data stored in IRIS is in compliance with the SOA records retention and disposition schedule.

02. What are the requirements for paper archives?

All IRIS information is stored electronically. For information regarding the records retention and disposition schedule for your division or agency, you can contact your Records Office by looking them up here.

03. How will management reports currently used in AKSAS be handled in IRIS?

The IRIS Team will be converting a number of reports to the new system. The team is working with departments to identify which reports each department uses to ensure the same type of information is available in IRIS. Similar to AKSAS, IRIS has the ability to pull some data through inquiries while you are in the system. This means some of the current reports may no longer be necessary. Additional reporting needs will be handled through ALDER.

04. How will IRIS interact with ALDER and budget?

IRIS will feed the data warehouse financial, payroll, and human resource information in a similar way to how AKSAS and AKPAY do today.

05. How will ALDER be different? How will the old system and new system and data interact? How will we do comparison reports going forward?

The old and new versions of ALDER are separate. They are separate data warehouses and separate reporting environments. Old reports in ALDER 1.0 will be accessible, but the information will be static and only available for historical purposes. In ALDER 2.0, new reports will be built as needed. Since the way things are structured, including all the financial coding, is changing as part of the implementation of IRIS, users will not be able to do direct comparison reports between the different versions of ALDER.

06. Since IRIS goes live in July 2015, during re-appropriation, the auditors will be working in 2 fiscal years. Will they be able to pull from both ALDER 1.0 and 2.0 during re-appropriation?

Yes. The SY2015 financials will be closed in AKSAS and you would use ALDER 1.0 (AKSAS COA elements) and SY2016 activity will be entered in IRIS which will be available in ALDER 2.0. Balances will be rolled into IRIS once the CAFR is finalized for SY2015.

07. ALDER times out quickly and when you log back in it takes you back to the beginning vs. where you left off. Will this be different in ALDER 2.0?

ALDER 2.0 will work similarly to ALDER 1.0. When you time out after a specified period of inactivity it will bring you back to the log in page. A formal decision has not yet been made by the State of Alaska regarding the actual time-out period.

Vendors / Contractors

01. Will vendor invoices be electronic or paper?

Vendors will have the capability to submit electronic invoices via the Vendor Self Service (VSS) Portal. Vendors without access to a computer can mail them in as they do now.

02. How will VSS handle the preferences with RFQs?

Vendors will have the ability to apply for preferences by checking those for which they qualify. During the evaluation process, the procurement officer will verify the selected preferences.

03. How will the State work with vendors?

Existing vendors will be converted to IRIS. During Vendor Outreach, vendors will be encouraged to update their information in IRIS through Vendor Self-Service (VSS). Vendors who do not have internet access may contact a State resource to have their account information entered into IRIS on the vendor’s behalf. Similarly, existing manual processes will be supported when IRIS is deployed and VSS will allow vendors to select a notification method (e.g., through the mail vs. electronic). In general; vendors must be set up in IRIS before purchases can be made.

04. How will debarred and suspended vendors be handled in IRIS?

Currently, department Procurement Officers check for federally debarred and suspended vendors as part of the procurement process when federal funds are used. Procurement Officers will continue to perform this manual check. In IRIS, there is a drop down menu on the Vendor record that the Procurement Officer can select indicating debarred or suspended. There is also a check box on the Vendor Record that can “Prevent New Spending” until the debarment/suspension is resolved. Click here to see a screenshot of the IRIS screen described above.

05. How will contracts be entered into IRIS?

Agencies will be responsible for entering their own contracts into IRIS. DGS will handle multi-agency contracts.

06. Who is doing Vendor Outreach? What is the plan / timeline for that?

Bill Diebels and David Bohna on the IRIS Project Team will coordinate vendor outreach, scheduled to begin in 2014. The plan includes live presentations, personal contacts, and other notices to be developed.

07. How will the State prepare vendors for IRIS?

Prior to Go Live, the IRIS Project will reach out to all current vendors with the State of Alaska to notify them of the change and how it affects them. After their data is converted from AKSAS, vendors will be provided with IRIS account logins and encouraged to update their information in IRIS through the online Vendor Self-Service (VSS) portal. Those vendors who do not have internet access may contact a State resource to have their account information entered into IRIS on the vendor’s behalf.

While setting up their account, vendors can select preferences for which they qualify as well as select a preferred notification method (i.e. mail vs. electronic).

HR & Payroll

01. When will the HR and Payroll module go live?

Since the State of Alaska's payroll runs on a calendar year basis rather than fiscal year and for ease of conversion, the HR and Payroll module will go live on January 1, 2016.

02. What is Employee Self Service?

Employee Self Service (ESS) is a component of the HR and Payroll module of IRIS. It allows employees a convenient and secure way to review various benefits and payroll information specific to them through a secure online portal. ESS eliminates the need to request personal information from your Human Resource Office or Payroll by offering users access to their personal information through the internet whenever they need it. ESS also reduces paper waste and manual processing.