Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Flexible Grant Management Software: Long Term Considerations

My company InfoStrat has developed grant management systems for federal, state, and local governments as well as non-profits for nearly twenty years.  I have noticed a new emphasis on the requirement for flexibility in creating a system which can be easily modified to handle new grant programs and changes in business rules.

Here are my top dos and don'ts from our experience and that of our customers:

  1. Whether you are a grantor or a grantee, don't develop a new system for every program.  When a new program is created, it may seem simpler to start from scratch and spin up a new system in order to avoid changes to your existing system.  This approach is an easy trap to fall into, but later you will end up with multiple systems which separately need to be maintained, upgraded, and enhanced.  Creating reports that combine data from multiple systems is needlessly difficult compared to using a centralized, integrated approach from the beginning.
  2. Consider your enterprise architecture. 
  3. Do include the entire grants management lifecycle in your system. A typical grant has phases such as pre-award, award, post-award, closeout, and post-closeout. Even if you start by emphasizing only some of these phases, try to make your system encompass them all.  Over time you can add enhancements to flesh out the phases through which your grant progresses.
  4. Keep up with security and software versions.  In order to maintain a secure system, you must keep pace with releases and patches issued by your software vendor.  To allow yourself to slip one or two versions behind is an invitation to a lapse in security compliance.
  5. Consider cloud deployment. Most customers embarking on a new grant management system project will choose cloud deployment, but even those whose systems are deployed on premises today can consider hybrid cloud solutions for failover and disaster recovery. Going with a cloud vendor is one of the most painless approaches to maintaining security compliance, especially to keep pace with U.S. government standards such as FISMA and FedRAMP.
  6. Add analytics to your solution. Most grant management systems offer standard reports and reporting tools. Consider analytics products that can go deeper than most reports and identify patterns, offer visualization, and integrate with geographical data when appropriate. 
  7. Catch fraud and errors early. As you develop or maintain your grant management system, tighten audits and controls that will help you spot erroneous payment requests and flag grant ineligibility as early as possible.  Our customers have saved many times the cost of their grant management software by stopping fraud and errors. 
You can learn from the mistakes of others by reviewing solicitations for grant management systems.  The regrets that I see most often are picking a product which is difficult to maintain or customize, and choosing a solution from an obscure vendor that is acquired or goes out of business. These are some of the reasons that our customers have chosen Microsoft Grants Manager Plus, developed by InfoStrat.  It is based on the widely supported Microsoft Dynamics 365 product family, and benefits from millions of dollars of annual research and development by Microsoft.

For more information on grant management and Microsoft Grants Manager Plus, see my posts:

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

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