When an award is made with terms and conditions outlining sponsored award milestones, the award can often be categorized as a contract rather than a grant. These milestones need to be monitored over the duration of the whole award. Most of us are accustomed to assisting our faculty submit quarterly or annual progress reports and billing/drawing down funds on a monthly or quarterly schedule. However, reporting the results of sponsored award milestones may require a different reporting and billing schedule. This creates a need to coordinate activities closely with any associated units, managers, and Principal Investigators to manage milestones and ensure timely cost recovery.
Managing Sponsored Award Milestones
Managers should consider using grant administration software to generate reminders and reports of critical dates for reviewing the timelines. The software provides a resource to keep the project on schedule, effectively automating the schedule by building it into a Gantt Chart or a timeline. The reports can be customized to automate notices for both minor and larger milestones. Utilizing a simple timeline, or a Gantt chart, with all milestones identified will provide an overall view of the necessary activities and whether they are co-dependent on other activities.
Payment and invoicing is often scheduled around sponsored award milestones, rather than running on a regular cycle. Utilizing the grant management software allows for the creation of reminders and notices for this “unusual” invoice timing that occurs outside of the usual end of a period. Multiple reminders can be created at the time of fund creation, and are based on milestone dates and reporting deadlines.
Sponsored Award Milestones vs. Deliverables
In using the sponsored award milestones to establish a timeline for a project, you can identify each major “step” necessary to achieve the final product. A milestone can be viewed as a benchmark on that timeline, and may serve as a deliverable. If a project is extremely complex, there may be minor milestones that mark smaller achievements in the project that lead to the integral milestone.
However, one must consider what sponsored award milestones are, and how they differ from a deliverable. A milestone and a deliverable both mark a point in a project where a “substantial” achievement is completed. However, a milestone is the point in the timeline, whereas a deliverable is the actual work completed and provided to the sponsor. A milestone may mark the completion of a deliverable or the completion of a subsection of an overall project. Depending on the initial conditions, the milestones may need to be reported to the funder. Most likely, sponsored award milestones would be identified within the proposal, while minor milestones are used internally to ensure the project progresses in an efficient manner.
Sponsored Award Milestones Example
For example, a Principal Investigator writes a proposal to conduct contract work to design a system that monitors ocean water salinity. The deliverable is a working system capable of being deployed and successfully measuring salinity in the ocean. The process is comprised of multiple milestones, with the final milestone signifying the completion or implementation of the system. Sponsored award milestones might include achievements such as:
- Recruitment and employment of skilled workers or students
- Receipt of necessary parts and equipment
- Prototype of the equipment, then iterations thereof
- Field testing
- Actual deployment of the monitoring equipment
Minor milestones for the recruitment and employment of skilled workers may include:
- Complete job descriptions
- Advertise openings
- Select and hire selected person(s)
These three minor milestones all support the completion of the sponsored award milestones. They define and track the steps to reach the required milestones. Similar to a Gantt Chart or a timeline, identification of these milestones helps keep the project organized and on-target. However, milestones are not always linear in progress, as many may be actively pursued concurrently.
Sponsored Award Milestones vs. Project Outcomes
It is easy to define a project’s outcome as the completion of the sponsored award milestones, however it is more abstract than this. Milestones serve as the foundation to achieve the desired project outcome. It does not consist of the progress or work completed, but the work’s accomplishment. Additionally, while a project deliverable is measurable, as is adherence to meeting the milestones in a timely manner, a project outcome is not. For the salinity example above, the sponsored award milestones relate to the design and creation of a piece of equipment within a specified time-frame. The project outcomes are what will be possible if the project is completed. In this example, one of the possible project outcomes could be using the ability to measure salinity in the ocean to better track global changes to address dangers to sea life and humans.
Tracking and monitoring sponsored award milestones are essential steps to achieve a project’s desired outcome. To both ease and streamline the effort, consider investing in a grant or research administration solution. IT Works offers a variety of products that are customizable to an institution’s needs. Contact our team to get started today.