The goal of implementing grant management software in a research focused institution is to streamline process and procedure as well as make grant tracking as efficient as possible. Optimally, a system should provide a single repository for compliance information, program monitoring, and financial data.
However, the process of implementing a software system is a significant undertaking. One major reason, though, is implementations can cross various departments and divisions due to: resource needs, such as access to data files; internal technical support access and availability; and development/implementation of end user process and procedures.
A previous IT Works blog post reviewed some best practices in implementing grant management software. As noted in that blog post, key issues to consider during implementation are:
- setting a realistic implementation project plan/timeline,
- assigning an implementation champion,
- understanding data housed in the system,
This post specifically looks at lessons learned from recent implementation projects we’ve led at some of the nation’s top research institutions.
Implementing Grant Management Software: 3 Lessons Learned
- Be strategic about communicating the purpose and value to internal stakeholders. Every implementation is about filling a need or resolving a “pain” the organization feels regarding grant management. As such, it is critical to highlight this need or “pain” and identify how the system will fill the need and/or resolve the “pain”.
Each implementing organization appoints an individual or team to oversee and manage the system start up. However, as we indicated earlier, these implementations impact a large number of personnel. Due to this, clarity in communication to other stakeholders about the end goal and progress of the implementation will ensure a smoother transition. We find that periodic debriefings are a great solution. Phased implementation is another way to involve stakeholders as they would be able to see portions of the software implementation completed throughout the timeline.
- Give forethought to how the system will be used currently, as well as consideration to future needs: As research administrators, we all strive to see our organizations research portfolio grow. While the current needs may be a few basic reports, organizations should contemplate what needs they may have in the future and evaluate how the data collection process may affect these future needs.
A recent implementation project offered a powerful lesson in the forethought. The research institution we worked with had a modest grant portfolio, but anticipated steady growth post-implementation. It was unclear at the outset which departments and divisions would potentially be involved as this activity increased though. Rather than second guess, we worked closely with the implementation team to identify organizational needs and hierarchy’s that would need to be incorporated to ensure that regardless of which organizational units may participate in research and grant activity, the data would be available to the respective parties in a clear, logical way.
- Take into consideration the institution’s IT infrastructure. One of the most powerful lessons we’ve learned is to take the time to fully understand the overall IT infrastructure of the larger institution.
Does the organization involved in the implementation have access to their own IT group for support of the installation and setup or do they need to access a centralized IT group? Do they need assistance from a central IT group to obtain the data files necessary for interfacing with the new system or can they obtain these files independently? Regardless, organizations need to team with the correct internal stakeholders to ascertain any other business systems, which may be involved in the implementation process.
Another point of consideration is if other software is being implemented simultaneously. If a new General Ledger or Payroll system is being installed, take into consideration the time for setting new account structures, data formats, training on these new systems and potential delays in these implementations. Due to the impact these items can have, it is a best practice to phase in the grant management software after either a new GL or payroll system is fully implemented.
Next Steps in Implementing Grant Management Software
This post outlined a few lessons we’ve learned after guiding research institutions through a grant management project. Our team can offer useful advice to research institutions looking to implement grant accounting, grant management and other solutions. These “lessons learned” help avoid delays and other surprises. Please contact our team for a closer look at the best strategies that fit your intuition.