In my recent blog post, Promoting Collaboration in an Office of Sponsored Programs, I covered how important collaboration benefits are to fostering success in your Office of Sponsored Projects (OSP). Collaboration drives the business of research administration, as both a prime factor for success and a core requirement of existence.

When evaluating a quality eRA solution, look for features and functionality that promote, facilitate and most importantly, simplify collaboration within your organization. Include processes you know are common to all research organizations – the common denominators, if you will – but focus more on the workflows within your organization. Every institution is different, and it’s the subtle differences within eRA solutions that may very well drive your selection.

What Collaboration Tools Do You Need Most?

If you prioritize what your research organization needs most, I suspect your list will be loaded with collaboration issues. Proposal development, project tracking, approval turnaround times, budgeting, routing, meetings, reporting and so much more can be improved through better collaboration … and the right eRA solution.

Consider how each function is accomplished by your team, keeping in mind how the solutions you’re evaluating promote, facilitate and simplify collaboration. I emphasized transparency and visibility in my last post, but here you want to go even deeper. An eRA solution that gives you visibility into proposal creation will help your team consolidate effort, gather the right information accurately and in a timely manner. Your team needs transparency into approval routing, so everyone knows where a proposal is, approval status, and how long each step is taking. Such visibility and transparency solve immediate needs, while promoting future efficiency improvements as you collaborate with your team to streamline workflows.

Collaboration also extends beyond your eRA solution of choice. No technology solution is making its way onto your campus without input from your IT team. Even if that solution is cloud-based and has little impact on your IT staff, getting the entire team on the same page early is always your best bet. Whether on premise or cloud-based, a new eRA solution will have implications for your department, your IT staff and likely your entire institution.

The Keys to Success

A quality eRA solution needs to span your entire sponsored projects lifecycle with comprehensive features that facilitate short-term improvements and long-term enhancements. Accessibility is a huge part of collaboration, so whether on premise or cloud-based, make sure your eRA solution is accessible to team members local and remote. And if your research goes beyond the borders of North America, be sure your vendor is ISO 27001:2013 certified – the only international certification recognized by the EU for information security and data privacy.

How well an eRA solution simplifies collaboration is key. Proposals and protocols require a small army to complete and approve, and that often means getting multiple people on the same page at the same time –literally. A quality eRA solution provides a digital workspace that simplifies collaboration, so your army can conveniently and efficiently gather to complete group tasks.

Do more with less. Increase output but don’t increase staff. Streamline processes and improve team efficiency. All of us have heard some form of these marching orders at some point in our careers. Time has the greatest impact on your success, and the ease by which your team can collaborate will result in your biggest time savings. Look to an eRA solution that provides basic and advanced capabilities that enable ongoing improvements through collaboration, and look for a vendor that knows how to maximize your time investment with fast implementations, comprehensive training and ongoing professional services and support.

Conclusion

A whole lot of variables impact exactly how research administration is accomplished, so don’t let the selection of a quality eRA solution become daunting. Your chosen eRA solution needs to turn collaboration into an institutional advantage, so look at how each solution aligns with your institutions’ priorities. Collaboration fuels our industry in ways that few beyond the walls of research organizations will ever fully appreciate, so selecting a vendor with industry experience may be the most important collaboration decision you make.

Be sure to check back as my colleagues continue to explore in detail how each of the 4 Cs of Quality eRA can help you choose the right for your institution. Read Part 3

Back to Part 1

Read Part 4

Read Part 5

Jeff Colley

Jeff Colley

Director of Professional Services at Evisions
As the Director of Professional Services – Research Solutions, Jeff Colley shapes the strategy and direction of a highly skilled team of service professionals dedicated to Evisions customer success. Jeff is responsible for maximizing the value of every customers’ research administration investment, leveraging the extensive industry experience of his team to deliver superior consulting, implementation and training services. Jeff brings more than 20 years’ experience in research administration, including 13 years as the Director of Contracts and Grants in the Office of Sponsored Research at the University of California, San Francisco. Jeff received a Master’s in Counseling Psychology and a BA in Psychology from Dominican University of California and has been with Evisions for more than 10 years.
Jeff Colley
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