Letter from iLab's Chief Software Architect
I am excited by the opportunity to collaborate with customers in designing a system that helps the research community work together more efficiently. Over the past few months, we have put in many hours of development, client design sessions, and internal testing to make sure that our newest features complement and integrate seamlessly with our existing functionality. This release, which is scheduled to deploy over the next few weeks, includes enhancements to existing features, brand new functionality, and performance upgrades. I am particularly excited by the improvements to the billing and invoicing process and invite you to read on to learn more!
Should you have any questions, please contact our support team at email@example.com.
Chief Software Architect
Changes on How You Build Your Custom Forms
Core facilities capture important information from customers in custom forms. Core managers expressed the desire to have additional formatting options and features to help their customers more easily complete forms. To this end, iLab has improved our custom form builder, and now cores can do the following within custom forms:
- Format field labels with simple HTML
- Add special symbols in field labels
- Add duplicate labels
- More easily build and validate conditional statements
Please note that these changes will effect current workflow for core managers building custom form templates; however, we hope managers find these features much easier to use!
New! Draft Billing Events Page
Core administrators can now create draft billing events! This gives managers the flexibility of reviewing and organizing charges over the course of their billing cycle without committing charges to an invoice. This is especially helpful for higher volume cores that have longer billing cycles.
iLab has also added an additional workflow step which allows core managers to stage all of their charges in a draft billing file. This gives central administrators the ability to review charges before invoices are generated. This workflow is particularly helpful in scenarios where central administration handles customer invoicing.
Advanced Charge Resolution
iLab financial integrations have long had the ability to specify reasons for flagging charges as problematic and highlighting them throughout various steps in the ordering and billing workflow. Over the past several months, the iLab engineering team has completely rebuilt and modularized the systems that flag charges and have built interfaces that let core and institution administration as well as core customers more easily and more efficiently resolve problematic charges on invoices. Furthermore, several of these new features are also available to customers who do not have financial integration with iLab. More specifically, we have checks which can be activated on each charge that ensure the following:
- Payment information has been provided
- Payment information is correct
- Any required billing fields have been completed
More information on this feature will be provided in the coming weeks.
Detaching an Invoice from a Billing Event
There may be instances where an institution/core administrator needs to remove, or detach, an entire invoice from a billing event. Reasons for this might include:
The invoice contains disputed or problematic charges, such as a valid payment method has not been provided
The invoice has not been approved for payment
- More time is required by the core manager and core customer to resolve disputed charges on an invoice, such as the quantity of a service delivered
As to not hold up an entire billing event from being processed by an institution financial system, we have now added the ability to detach invoices from a billing event.
New! Invoice Dispute and Resolution Process
iLab has introduced a new institution-level setting that allows principal investigators or financial managers to dispute line item charges on invoices.
The key features include:
The ability for a PI or financial administrator to dispute a charge, or multiple charges, on an invoice. -- A charge can be flagged for dispute as long as the invoice has not been paid and as long as the billing file has not been sent to the institution financial system.
The ability for an institutional administrator or core manager to review the dispute and make adjustments to the line item charge as necessary. -- Institution administration can decide whether or not core managers have the ability to resolve disputes.
The ability for institutional administrators to require a formal, valid reason for dispute as well as a formal, valid path to resolution. The available 'reasons' and 'resolutions' can be codified by central administration for streamlined reporting and data analysis.
Updates to On-line Invoices: Pay for Invoices with One Payment Source
Core facility customers now have the ability to indicate a single payment source for an entire invoice, greatly reducing the time it takes to pay the invoice. This feature can be turned on by a setting at the institution-level. Naturally, it is still possible to provide different payment sources for individual charges on an invoice.
Additional Payment Options Available for Institutions with Financial Integration
New payment options are available to customers with financial integrations. This feature allows the following payment methods for both external and internal customers:
- Credit Card*
- Purchase Order
*Included in this update is the ability to integrate with third party credit card processing systems. Please contact your iLab Project Manager for more information.
Subsidies Enhancements - Minimum PI Contribution
Regardless of the total number of subsidies available to a PI by contributing centers, core and center administrators can work together to require a minimum % contribution by the PI for each service rendered. iLab worked with considerable input from customers to implement this feature in a flexible way.
Here is an example scenario explained from the perspective of an institute administrator:
- I have several centers at my institute that subsidize work conducted at core facilities.
- PIs at my institution may belong to multiple centers and may receive several subsidies from one or multiple centers.
- Although some PIs are subsidized by several centers at my institute, I'd like to make sure that they pay at least 75% of the cost of any service from their own funding source.
New! Institution Organizational Layers
Research institutions consist of a complex network of laboratories, core facilities and support infrastructure. The support infrastructure varies greatly from institution to institution but can include organizations such as faculties, schools and centers. To help these organizations better manage the various aspects of core facility use, iLab has introduced a new feature that allows organizations within an institution to do the following:
- Set price types that are appropriate for core facilities and customers of their core facilities
- Maintain subsidy rules that are particular to their own organization
- Implement alternative workflows for fund number assignments and approvals
- Report more easily on facilities within their own sub-organization
Updated Core Access Levels
Several iLab collaborators identified a need for more control over the actions that can be performed by core staff, management and administration. To address this need we have made changes to the following roles within iLab:
Core Member - By default, this is now more limited. We have removed several default capabilities, including the ability to edit equipment settings and services. That being said, we have also included settings that can be used to provide access to features in a more limited way.
Core Manager - Managers can edit and manage services and equipment but do not have the ability to change core administrative settings.
Core Administrator - administrators have full control over settings to which they have access (some settings are controlled at the institutional level)
To update core staff roles, go to the core's administration tab and click on members.
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