When you are considering a new grants management software implementation, the accuracy and depth of your existing data is critical. In today’s data and metrics driven environment, it is increasingly vital to have the capacity for quick, accurate reports. Upper management expects the Sponsored Programs Office to be able to deliver nearly on-demand data and reports that contain accurate information upon which decisions can be based. There is no longer time to review and “massage” requested data. Turnaround can be as short as someone standing over your shoulder while the requested report is run to use in a meeting starting in an hour.
- Determine how far back into history you need to go for potential reporting
- Establish standards for data, such as naming conventions, data format, capitalization, unit names
- Analyze frequently requested reports and searches
- Include other systems and processes that might share data
- Communicate across data entry and data users for consistency
How Far Back?
It is sometimes difficult to decide how far back in your records to go while continuing to utilize old data management methods. Some institutions make the choice to convert data as old as is possible. This enables long term trend analysis for growth but can greatly increase the effort and length of time necessary to clean the data, especially if old records are still paper based. The older the data, the more inconsistencies that will require modification. On the other extreme, only cleaning and including data for a few years can lose important historic information likely causing holes in records such as number of proposals submitted and awards received. Finding that “happy medium” is a decision each institution must make after considering types of reports, institutional culture, and record retention requirements.
What Types of Standards to Choose
In establishing data standards common issues include: consistency over multiple years and various data entry personnel leading to frequently encountered variations. Other issues include departments and schools changing their names due to mergers, the creation of a new department/school with faculty from multiple existing departments, or the establishment of newly combined departments/schools. (For example: Biology and Chemistry combine to form a new department – BioChemistry). By “updating” older records, loss of distinction could cause reports to lose accuracy. Other often inconsistent elements are the PI’s and co-PIs (full name, first/last name, title/faculty rank), secondary departmental affiliation (Biology/Center for Marine Biology), including what order they are listed and sponsor names (NSF versus National Science Foundation). This type of inconsistency can be a major stumbling block for accurate and on-demand reporting. For the best results when conducting a grants management software implementation, have a clear idea of what types of standards to include.
Frequently Used Reports
Reviewing frequently used reports may assist data clean up decisions. Discovering which data elements are most frequently included in multiple and often used reports could lead to a decision to focus initially on those data elements for consistency to provide the biggest “bang for your buck” in streamlining reporting activities. It will also provide insight on what data elements are used so infrequently the effort to make them consistent is simply not worth the effort, or they can be given a low priority in the overall timeline.
Other Systems and Processes
Are there interfaces such as proposal routing software, uploads to the financial system or regulatory compliance software? Does your office share data with other areas? If so, any modifications made during your grants management software implementation may impact their reporting and metrics. Communication across units for input on formats, how data is used and how the standardization might affect their use of the records is critical.
Communicate Across Data Entry and Data Users
Awareness of any data entry standards is critical for both consistent entry and use of data. This step completes the circle of standardizing past, current and future data so reports provide consistent information for decision making and documents are routed to the correct authority. It is a lot of hard work to “clean” your old data of inconsistencies, but the reward of consistent data, better reports, and accurate routing is the payoff.
Grants Management Software Implementation
IT Works offers a modular grants management software implementation solution that includes a powerful reporting engine for extracting and delivering information based on user-defined criteria. For more information, contact the IT Works team today.