Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Usage Scenarios for Microsoft Grants Manager

Government agencies have diverse requirements when it comes to automating grants management.  I have been helping customers evaluate Microsoft Grants Manager and it turns out that each agency has a unique approach which requires some customization in order to optimally match their business rules.  One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to grants.

Federal agencies are the largest grantors, and rarely receive grants except perhaps from other federal agencies.  These agencies are bound by guidelines established by the Office of Management and Budget and are striving for more consistent approaches to grants such as accepting applications via the grants.gov portal.    Many of their grants are formula grants rather than competitive grants, and the formulas themselves may be quite complicated.    Typically the grant managers are scattered among offices within an agency rather than centralized, although some are consolidating.  The volume of applications and dollar value of federal grants ranges widely, but is often quite high. Most federal grantors have automated their processes but are relying on custom built solutions that may be based on outdated technology which is difficult to update as business rules change.

Local governments, on the other hand, are primarily grant recipients rather than grantors.    They are focused on applying for grants and managing the grant activities, including reporting to state or federal grantor agencies.  The most common scenario is to use Excel spreadsheets and email to manage grant information, along with the agency's accounting software.      The scattered nature of data means it is difficult to do reporting and combine data from multiple departments or agencies.   

State governments fall between the extremes of federal and local government in terms of grants.   They are both grantees and grantors. Most states have automated their grants processes, at least in larger agencies.

Microsoft Grants Manager allows each customer to tailor the solution to their requirements.  For instance, many agencies have a simple proposal review process and don't need the full sophistication of the review wizard and review group functionality in Grants Manager.   They can replace that function with a workflow that matches their process.  Specialized groups can use only a portion of the solution as needed and hide extraneous forms and reports from their menus.  Many of the customizations can be performed without programming by system administrators.

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