Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Estimating the Cost of a Microsoft Grants Manager Plus Implementation

Microsoft Grants Manager Plus is a solution for tracking the full life cycle of a grant, from funding sources to publishing grant opportunities, accepting online applications, review, scoring, award, post-award reporting and closeout. The solution and its precursor Stimulus360 so far has been used to track over $200 billion in government grants.

InfoStrat has been building grants management systems for government agencies since 1999 and we have been exposed to a wide array of grant systems  which affect the cost drivers of automated grants management systems.   We will discuss some of the factors that must be considered to help you come up with a cost estimate for your requirements.

The Type and Number of Grant Programs
Grants are typically either Competitive Grants or Formula Grants.  As the name implies, Formula grants award funds to the applicant based on a preset formula.   For example, we worked with a federal agency that distributed funds to states for libraries and the money was distributed based on a preset percentage per state.  

Competitive grants are awarded based on merit.  Applicants compete for the limited funds and it is somewhat similar to applying to college where an extensive application must be submitted with copious details on how the money will be spent complete with resources needed and project schedule and the impact that will be made.     The more detailed the application, the more complex and costly is the process of building the web forms (and associated database fields) that the applicants will use to enter their applications.

Scoring of Competitive Grant Applications
Just like in the college admissions scenario, competitive grant applications will be read and scored according to a set of criteria.   Sometimes applications are scored by grant program staff or more frequently by external reviewers who have expertise in the grant program area and can serve as independent experts in determining the best applicant for the program type.  If the applications need to be made available to people outside the organization, portal functionality will need to be developed that enables an external reviewer to log in to the system, read the application in its entirety and then to enter the scores for each of the criteria.   The areas for entering these scores will be forms of varying complexity depending on level of detail required and to determine a cost for developing these.

Post Award Reporting
In many grant systems we have built, the government agency has strict post award reporting requirements which the grant recipient must adhere to.   In some cases, the grant recipient will not be given the money until the required report has been submitted.   These reports typically include financial reports and narrative reports which detail the work being done and status to date.   Oftentimes, money is not disbursed all at once but in increments during the life of the grant as progress is being made and validated through the submitted reports.   Consequently, a grant system typically needs to have a public portal which enables the grantee to easily login in and enter the required reports on a monthly, quarterly or semi-annual or annual basis depending on the requirements of the specific grant program.

Reports and Dashboards
Grant administrators typically need to provide status on grant money spent to date or grants given in a target geography.   Determine what reports are needed and the complexity of each report to estimate the cost.

Dynamics 365 Online or On Premises
Because Grants Manager Plus is based on Microsoft Dynamics 365, you need to purchase subscriptions or licenses to Dynamics CRM from Microsoft through your reseller. Government agencies and charitable organizations are eligible for product discounts.  The best prices are from your volume licensing agreement such as a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement.

One of the advantages of Dynamics CRM is that you may deploy your solution on premise at your office, in the Microsoft cloud, or at a hosting facility. Your choice of deployment options will affect the licensing or subscription cost.

You can start here: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics/crm-purchase-support.aspx The comprehensive source is here: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh699677.aspx

You can choose from several Dynamics CRM subscription types: Enterprise, Professional, Basic and Essential.  This post offers more details on what comes with each type.

Finally the costs of the product must be included and these can be either “on premises” in your data center or “in the cloud”.  Select your preferred deployment approach and the number of users in either the On Premises section or the Cloud area of the calculator.

Customizations
One of the best things about Grants Manager Plus is that it is easily customized to match your data requirements.  You can compare your data model to the data model of the solution and add new fields that you need.  You will also want to list and document your automated business processes so they can be implemented in the solution.  Grants Manager Plus contains a number of business processes but these can vary significantly depending on the number of people participating in the process and the steps that you follow for a grant.

Reporting
Most of our clients want custom reports in addition to standard reports.  You can reduce the cost of report writing by using the built-in ad hoc reporting tool, and also by using dashboards and business intelligence tools such as Microsoft Power BI.

Portal Options
Another key decision is which portal you choose for grantees to apply online. This post goes into some detail on these options.   You can use several commercial products with CRM integration, or build a custom solution based on your website's content management system.

Since Microsoft acquired ADXstudio and added portal capability to Dynamics CRM Online 2016, it may be a particularly attractive option, especially if you are using Dynamics CRM Online.

Data Migration
How will you handle data on prior grants?  Will you maintain your old system for historical data? Data migration can be expensive, but it affords you the ability to clean up data for better reporting.

Integration
Identify the systems that you plan to integrate, such as your financial management system.  In order to estimate the cost of data migration services, you need specifications for the integration with as much detail as possible.  You may also consider an integration product such as Scribe or Kingswaysoft for some integration.

For more information on Grants Manager Plus, see:

Microsoft Grants Manager Plus Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
6 Things to Look for in Grant Management Software
Estimating the Cost of a Microsoft Grants Manager Plus Implementation
Grants Manager Plus: Theme and Variations
Microsoft Grants Manager Plus
Online Resources for Microsoft Grants Manager Plus
Portal Options for Microsoft Grants Manager
Statewide Grant Management Systems
Usage Scenarios for Microsoft Grants Manager
Grants Manager Portal: What to Include

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