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# Requirements for the Reimbursement and Outgoing Payment Request System

## Overview

One short-term goal of the Non-Profit Accounting Project is to create a
system that allows (a) members of an organization, and external parties, to
submit requests for reimbursement or request for payment like invoices,
and (b) the organization's bookkeepers, accountants, and managerial approvers
to review those requests, add them to the organization's books, and prepare
payment.  The primary motivation for this project is to save time both groups
spend on handling reimbursement requests and outgoing payments, and reduce
turnaround time for these requests, and to help members file complete
requests that are easy for bookkeepers to review and accept.

Members of the organization could be employees, members of projects
represented by the organization, or others doing work to advance the
organization's mission—anyone who the organization might want to reimburse or

The system should not make assumptions about specific reimbursement policies
or invoicing requirements.  Instead, it should be possible for a bookkeeper
or administrator to define follow-up questions and what responses are and are
not eligible for reimbursement or payment.  Early versions may require
sysadmin-level technical expertise to do this, but ultimately it should be
doable by a bookkeeper with appropriate privileges.

## Requirements for first release

### Defining the request form

Requests for payment have four states: In Progress, Submitted,
Accepted, and Rejected.

Administrators can define questions to ask the requestor about the entire
request, and about each expense in the request.  The system can display
forms, validate answers, and record answers for questions with the following
types of answers:

* Text
* Boolean (yes/no)
* Selection (from a list of values)
* Number
* Currency (this is probably a string that's validated to have a numeric part plus an optional currency code)
* Date
* File upload

For each question, the administrator can define any number of conditions to
check against the requestor's answer.  When a requestor submits an answer that does
not comply with all of the conditions, the answer is flagged in the interface
as making the expense non-reimuburseable.  The first release must support the
following conditions:

* Boolean: is yes, or is no
* Selection: the selected value is in a specific subset of values
* Date: the value is N days before and/or after today or a date in another answer

Using these same conditions, the administrator can define questions that are
conditional on other questions' answers.  These questions are only presented
to the requestors when they submit an answer that meets the specified conditions.
For illustration purposes, the canonical deployment will have
relatively few unconditional questions about each expense (type of expense,
receipt, amount), and then a series of conditional questions based on those
answers (e.g., follow-up questions specific to airfare expenses,
accommodations expenses, etc.).

### Requestor workflow

Requestors can log in and see the status of all their requests.  They can also
create a new request, which starts in the In Progress

When they view a report, it shows the questions and answers about the entire
report, and a list of associated expenses.  Viewing a specific expense
similarly shows all the questions and answers about it.

When a report is In Progress state, the requestor can edit any answer in the
report or an associated expense.  They can also add an expense, which begins
by asking them unconditional questions associated with expenses, and then
follow-up questions as necessary based on those answers.

When an In Progress report has at least one expense associated with it, and
all questions have been answered, the requestor may submit the request for
approval.  If any of the answers do not meet the administrator's conditions
for payment, the requestor may still submit the request, and provide an
explanation for why the request should be paid (e.g., because it was
approved in advance).  Once the request is submitted, it moves to the
Submitted state.

### Bookkeeper workflow

Bookkeepers can log into the system and see all requests.

When bookkeepers review a Submitted report, they can change the report's
state, and include a note explaining why the report was moved to that state
(for example, the bookkeeper moved the request back to In Progress because a
specific receipt was insufficient documentation).  When they do this, the
system sends email to the requestor letting them know about the change,
including the rationale provided by the bookkeeper.

The bookkeeper can export any request to the books.  The first release of the
software will simply provide an archive that includes all of the request's
supporting documentation, plus a `.ledger` file with entries for each
expense.  However, note that when building this feature in the code and UI,
it should be relatively generic.  Exporting should remain abstract enough
that integration with other accounting systems remains simple and
straightforward.  Note that even the mechanics could be different; for
example, an SQLedger exporter may add entries to the system directly, rather
than providing the bookkeeper with a file download.

## Requirements potentially for first release

These are features that we would like the system to have, and it may make
sense to make them requirements of the first release depending on how it's

* CiviCRM integration: Many NPOs are already using CiviCRM.  CiviCRM
  integration would provide a familiar interface to users, and simplify
  system administration for the organization.  It may be possible to build
  the system as a CiviCRM extension.  If so, we would get this feature for
* Usable without JavaScript: For consistent mission advocacy, it's important
  that some organizations not require requestors to use JavaScript.  For
  example, Tor browsers typically have JavaScript disabled because it can
  undermine Tor's anonymity guarantees; organiziations supporting Tor must
  support these users.
  It should be possible to submit payment
  requests without JavaScript.  The interface can be enhanced when JavaScript
  is available.
  Whether or not we do this in the first release probably depends on what
  framework we decide to build on.  If the framework itself requires
  JavaScript out of the box, it may make sense to have the first release go
  with the flow, then work to add JavaScript-free functionality in a later
  In any case, Javascript used will respect software freedom of users and, *if
  possible*, will adhere to LibreJS protocols.

## Requirements for later releases

These are features that we would ultimately like the system to have.  We
would also like to release a first version as early as possible, to start
getting feedback from users and generating more development interest.  It's
good to keep these in mind when architecting—in particular, we may choose an
existing system to use, or framework to build on, based on its ability to
support these features.  However, they needn't be a focus of development
effort for the first release.

* Allow optional questions
  * Along with this, question conditions probably need to
    be extended to address the case of "other question isn't answered"

* Additional exporters
  * Export to SQLedger
  * [Certainly many more, feel free to add them here]

* Richer lifecycle management
  * Support requests for pre-approval, probably with two states
    "Pre-Approval In Progress" and "Pre-Approval Submitted."  In the
    Pre-Approval state, the requestor is submitting not receipts or
    invoices, but documents regarding potential expenses that have not yet
    been incurred, but for which organization policies require preapproval
    by organizational management ahead of time.  The appropriate management
    representatives are duly notified by the system of pending Pre-Approval
    requests, and their approval moves the request into the In Progress
    state.  Their rejection moves the request to the Rejected sate.

  * A leader may need to approve a request before
    it's added to the books, like an employee's manager or a program director

* Various currency improvements
   * Automatic currency conversion for validation (e.g., validate that an amount
     in an aribtrary currency is within a limit in USD)

   * Validate currency amounts from outside data sources: The main case for
     this is per diem, where many organizations use rates that are determined
     by another party (e.g., US GSA) and updated periodically.

   * Handle totaling the request based on currency (e.g., expenses can are in
     USD, EUR, CHR but the traveler may want payment in INR.)  Unclear what
     interface for this would look like, but real-time data about past
     currency rates might be available via an API somewhere, and we can use
     that to have the requestor give us "preferred currency for payment" so
     all changes happen in real time in the interface (even allowing the
     requestor to be able to decide *while filling out the report*: "ugh,
     these exchange rates to INR are horrible; I'll have them pay my USD
     account instead").
* Data import
  * Apps like [Tricky Tripper]( let users
    track expenses for a trip as they go.  The system could import this data
    to prepopulate answers to questions about the request and expenses in
    it.  Probably there would be an import API that can map different import
    formats to a common format, and then administrators can define how
    questions in their system can be answered based on imported data.