The City Council of Liège in Belgium is currently undertaking an automation project which will make the purchase orders it issues more efficient and precise.
“Our administrative departments deal with over 10,000 purchase orders a year,” explains Philippe Rousselle, the City’s Town Clerk. “Up to now, this was all handled manually. The City of Liège has decided to computerize the entire process, so as to improve the traceability of its purchase orders and simplify their administration.”
The project has a number of aims: once computerized, the purchase orders will be processed much faster, and the traceability of all the documents involved will also be noticeably improved. Thanks to computerization it will be possible to identify each operation involved in processing a purchase order, so it will be easier to check whether all the authorizations have been received and the storage of the whole file will be much simpler. Finally, by computerizing the process much less paper will be needed in creating and copying the documents relating to the order, which should also result in less physical space being needed to file them.
Following an invitation to tender, Liège City Council awarded Bull the contract to provide an enhanced Internet application for purchase order management, accessible via a web browser from anywhere. The application tracks the order from the point where it is created right through to when the invoice is received and then paid.
It was necessary to ensure that the application could be connected to the central Bull GCOS server used by the City Council, which would enable the computerized purchase orders to be incorporated into the Council’s accounting system.
In terms of technology, the decision was made to use the eXo middleware platform, and development work was carried out in Open Source Java EE based around a Services-Oriented Architecture (SOA). The chosen methodology was Scrum. “Using this methodology meant we could rapidly build the prototypes and assess users’ reactions,” explains Saskia Van Uffelen, General Manager of Bull Belux. “This meant we could involve users very closely in the development process, which made it much easer for them to take on board the new application. Because Bull is a leading player in the Open Source market, we were able to work wonders on this project!”
Once the City Council creates a purchase order, it will no longer exchange paper documents with all its potential appendices for different departments, and no-one involved will need to keep a paper copy for their own files. From now on, all purchase orders will be stored in a structured database and the appendices will be kept in the form of digital images. Another big advantage will be that purchase orders can be sent to suppliers electronically, saving even more paper.
The computerization of Liège City Council’s purchase orders was a three-stage project. The first stage involved developing all the screens, and this was followed by establishing the links with the Council’s accounting systems. The third and last stage, which is still on-going, involves creating the links with billing systems. Overall, the project represents about a year of work.
“In terms of information technology, Bull is one of the City of Liège’s strategic partners,” Philippe Rousselle sums up.