eRA Implementation Tips

The decision to adopt a new system for managing research administration is a daunting one. The staff at Moderas has second to none experience with implementing research administration solutions and the Kuali Coeus product. We hope you consider us if you decide Kuali Coeus is the right choice for you.
The information that follows is meant to assist you in your decision making process.  Moderas also provides interactive webinars on these topics regularly. Please check www.moderas.org/event to check our schedule and register to participate. Please don’t hesitate to call us if you have questions.
Quick Links
Attend one of our webinars on prodcut selection, sign up here.
  Implementation Price Tool (what will is cost to install KC)
  Return on Investment Calculator

The “Buy / Build” decision
The first hurdle that needs to be addressed is the age old question of buy or build. This question has become easier over the last decade as information systems have become more mature and with the acceptance of the “Software as a Service” model. Premier tools such as Salesforce.com. have demonstrated that critical operational system can be hosted off site driving down the total cost of ownership for the customer. The continued growth of “Open Source” products have muddied the water slightly because of the misperception that it translates to free. This too is becoming less confusing as people become familiar with the realities of the support and expertise required to leverage open source applications. Speaking of support, that’s an areas that you shouldn’t overlook.  Plan for how the application will be supported in the years following the adoption of your system. We put together some information on this page to show what some of the needs are to support such a system and hope you find it helpful.
Once you have a grasp of the options available externally the next thing to do is evaluate what you have available internally. In most cases institutions have extremely qualified personnel and may have already developed an internal application or process. Those that have understand how difficult it becomes to sustain such an application in terms of support, enhancements, and integration with other systems to name a few of the needs. Additionally the personnel part of the equation can not be over stated, often there was someone who created the system and they may move on or become less available because others have learned what a valuable resource they are.  There are many institutions that have an all but hobbled application because they’ve lost staff and the architecture is outdated.  This is not to say that a system cannot be built internally, it’s certainly been done and done well in many cases.  We feel it’s prudent to evaluate the risk-reward of choosing the build option as it could leave the institution with a similar environment to dealing with a vendor.  That being said there is also the reality of your fiscal situation. There are times when funding for resources is available but products is not and vice versa. We would encourage you to build a business case based not on this but your needs and attempt to make that case so the money doesn’t drive a less than ideal end result.

Vendor / Product Selection
If you’ve decided not to build internally then the next step is deciding on a product and vendor. We can’t stress enough that BOTH should be taken into consideration, you can’t get a good product from a bad vendor.  When evaluating products (commercial or open source) the vendor is the key to your success.  There are examples in the eRA field of good products that are failing to meet the institution’s needs or were never implemented after years of struggle.  The cost of this can’t be ignored, hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars have been invested and that’s not taking into account the costs of your staff which may double the bottom line.  Make sure you’ve selected a vendor that you trust, has shown their commitment to your institution, demonstrates a willingness to share the risk, and has incentives tied to your success.  We recommend that you speak to your colleagues, visit sister institutions to see their environments, scour the web, evaluate your environment, request references, before you come to a decision.
Once you’ve selected a vendor you need to work with them to develop a list of the scope of work that’s to be performed.  The implementation of a eRA solution can be closest compared to the adoption of a Personnel, HR, or Financial system.  That is to say that it’s no small undertaking and you should have a strong understanding of what needs to be done and the resources you’ll have available from the vendor as well as from your institution.

Building your business case
The next step is developing your business case for your desired approach.  Your case could be as simple as a few page powerpoint presentation (check this ROI Calculator for some ammunition) with bulleted lists of needs, to a write paper, depending on the level of documentation you feel is necessary. The key to building this case is to speak to target users, necessary supporters, and to have as many champions as possible before you ever have to sit in front of the decision makers as possible. Most often they understand the needs of the institution, are willing to make a change, but really want to understand that there is support for it.

The rubber meets the road
The times come to begin the actual implementation at long last!  This day can have been years in the making so actually gearing up to start an implementation can often feel like Christmas and Thanksgiving all rolled together.  You should be excited, you are about to embark on a significant change to the way you are doing business, often shedding a completely manual paper process for an exciting application that will hopefully be the solution to many of your woes.  So what should you expect? What will you need to do and who’s going to do what?  These are the big questions of the day.  Hopefully you’ve selected a vendor who’s already set this stage but providing you with a project plan. This is something we HIGHLY encourage you to have as part of your contract with your vendor, a statement such as a detailed on project plan will be provided within 30 days of signing the contract.  Here are some of the things you should see in that plan;

  • Kick Off Meeting(s)
  • Establishing the project team(s) with roles and responsibilities
  • Setting up a test environment
  • Hardware procurement and configuration
  • Software installation and configuration
  • Database installation
  • Data conversion and integration
  • Discovery (meetings between vendor and domain experts from institution)
  • Business process mapping
  • Gap analysis
  • Preliminary deployment plan
  • Training
  • Pilot planning (it’s very unusual to roll out to an entire institution)

Some of the things you should have in hand before beginning;

  • Technical specifications for application and database servers
  • List of all third party software required
  • All instructions related to integrations (finance and personnel systems, grants.gov, etc.)
  • Data mapping documents for getting your data into the system
  • System to System documentation if necessary
  • Training material
  • User guides
  • Support plans

Key things to make sure that are addressed;

  • Communications
  • Risk Managment
  • Quality assurance
  • Meeting agendas
  • Meeting minutes with assigned actions items and delivery dates

These are just the highlights of what you should expect, we hope this information is helpful and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to email us at info@moderas.org or give us a call at 518.412.2020

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