When we look at best practices in implementing grant management software, it’s best to consider why a solution is being evaluated. The goal of an automated grant management system is to empower research administrators to assist in maximizing the efforts of their research teams. Solutions are designed to improve and streamline pre and post award administration, grant accounting and complex financial management, effort certification and reporting, and recharge center management.
For teams looking to select a system, it’s best to seek solutions that are scalable and configurable to meet the requirements of individual institutions and can be implemented independently or combined as a comprehensive system.
In terms of implementation, we understand that each research institution is unique and operates with its own set of procedures and policies. In general, research teams should consider how a grant management implementation will impact the department and organization as a whole. Some items to consider in implementing grant management software are: defining a typical implementation process, such as phases of implementation and timing; establishing system codes, account structure and user setup; and training.
Another piece of the puzzle is to take a close look at some of the challenges that might slow down or even stall the implementation.
Our team has guided the nation’s top research institutions through the implementation process. As a result of this experience, noted here are some best practices for an effective implementation.
Best Practices in Implementing Grant Management Software:
Choose a Champion: Very often the research department must meet a target “go live” date, thus it’s a best practice to assign a dedicated team leader or champion to make the implementation top priority. The champion should have a clear mandate to lead and the authority to change personnel priorities to ensure target dates are reached. As deadlines and targets are established, be sure their time is dedicated to fulfilling those target dates.
Set Clear Goals: Define what the implementation end-goals are in terms of improving specific processes. Be clear that all involved know why the system is being implemented, what areas of grant management will be improved, and what other tasks can be accomplished with the system
Know Your Data. The grant management process touches many data points within a research institution. It is critical to understand where the data originates and what the data represents. Some typical surprises that might arise during an implementation include: data components an end user may see actually coming from a secondary data warehouse instead of the central GL system; limited access to employee information such as employee ID numbers and payroll; payroll data such as fringe benefits not allocated by employee, etc. The impact of all of these items can cause significant delays if the right people are not on the team. Getting a true picture of the data and its implications at the beginning of the project helps improve the data load and import phase of the implementation.
Pick the Team: Include all the right people in the grant management software implementation project. For instance, typically data files are needed from a data warehouse or the central general ledger system. Be sure to include an individual with expertise in these systems on your team to ensure they can obtain required information and that it can be extracted on a regular schedule (daily, monthly, etc.). Other key members of the team include an overall project manager as well as potentially a lead for each area of the implementation (i.e. accounting, personnel and grant tracking) and an IT contact for coordination of install or configuration of local machines as needed. When the appropriate team combination has been selected, you should feel comfortable in relying on them to make suggestions for business process improvements. It’s also key to define early on who will be the overall system administrator and address security issues associated with the installation.
Allow for Proper Training: A user-friendly system should not take a significant amount of time in terms of training, but tasks will be managed in a new way going forward. As with any new software, there is a learning curve and it differs from person to person. Each employee should be given the amount of time required for them to become familiar with the system but training should not stop there. Time should also be put aside for more advanced training at a later date or as new team members come on board. User adoption and satisfaction is proven to increase when training is a priority.
Next Steps: Best Practices in Implementing Grant Management Software
Although there are bound to be some hiccups along the way, adhering to these general implementation best practices should help ensure a smooth implementation of a grant management software system.
Keep an eye on this blog for a further look at what it takes to effectively implement a new solution.