Evaluating research administration solutions at a conference can be overwhelming, especially for a first timer. These conferences involve full days of training on research management topics, including the latest OMB Regulations, new requirements for targeting compliance issues, and solving issues of financial oversight. There are various social events and networking opportunities providing a chance to meet with your colleagues and discover software solutions aimed at streamlining your research management process. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to get lost in all the hustle and bustle. So if you come to a conference with the goal of appraising research administration solutions, utilize the insights below to make your time more productive.
The Exhibit Hall has a life of its own during a grant management conference. A good percentage of conference attendees visit the Exhibit Hall to meet with and evaluate companies that provide an array of research administration solutions. These services enhance the grant management process while creating efficiencies. Vendors populate the Exhibit Hall, offering back scratchers, key chains, and a host of other give-a-ways meant to draw visitors to their booth. While these are all enticing, don’t be distracted by free merchandise.
Obtain a copy of the Exhibitor list before the conference and review the relevant vendors’ websites. One of the biggest downfalls for those evaluating grant management solutions is the inability to distinguish one software group from another. When perusing the vendors’ websites take the time to start a document that tracks each company’s name, solutions, contact information, questions to be asked at the conference, and Exhibit Hall booth location. Now you not only have a guide for distinguishing each company, but a game-plan to follow once immersed in the chaos of the Exhibit Hall.
Optimizing your Interactions
Once you are successfully navigating the Exhibit Hall, take the time to visit with vendors you researched and ask questions about the functionality of their products. Be prepared to discuss scalability of the product to determine how it will fit your specific grant management needs. Additionally, be aware of your price constraints, as it will affect your budget planning. Don’t automatically assume a system is not affordable; vendors are willing to work with you to see how best to tailor a system to your needs. However, it’s important to remember it will take multiple conversations between a shopper and vendor before an estimate can be created.
Keeping detailed documentation of your conversations will help you remember what you learned from each company in order to make comparisons when you return to your office. After speaking with an exhibitor, record their names on your spreadsheet. You can refer back to these notes if they follow up with you later. Most importantly, if you are serious about your efforts to evaluate research administration solutions, make sure you remember to bring your business cards. Exhibitors like to follow up with a courtesy call after the conference.
All of these steps become even more important if you are not the one making the final purchasing decision. If you need the approval of a manager, this kind of documentation could help in validating your purchase decision. You now also have all the relevant contact information in the event your manager needs additional information about a solution.
Considerations for Choosing Research Administration Solutions
In appraising these solutions, first be aware that there are many research management tools available that help streamline and automate the administration process. Functionality and affordability are the two most significant factors to consider when choosing one software over another. There are research administration solutions designed to meet your requirements, whether you operate in a central sponsored programs office or in a department.
In selecting the right grant management software, consider your current status, procedures and end goal. What resources are available to you? Is your office comprised of one person, or a whole team of managers? Do you need a system to address the entire life cycle of your grants or just from the pre award perspective? Maybe you just need the financial, post award side of a system? These are all questions to ask yourself prior to attending the conference. Having this knowledge up front will make your selection process more efficient and successful.
Moving Forward with your Solutions
Once you have completed your inventory of grant management solutions, you will hopefully walk away with not only a better understanding of the array of options available, but a new perspective on the process required in selecting one.
IT Works offers comprehensive research administration solutions along with ongoing support by our implementation staff. Contact our team today, and look for us at your next conference.