Our team is taking the initiative to embrace a system they see value in for the long term.
Sponsored Projects reporting at Fort Valley State University in Georgia has changed significantly since 2013. At that time reporting was limited due to proposal and award information being maintained on spreadsheets, managed by two employees and on separate computer hard drives. There were inconsistencies in how data was entered, making it impossible to filter or query data by specific criteria. As a result, only simple information about grants could be easily reported to leadership: total number of grants awarded, total amount of funding, and number of proposals submitted per year. Reports requiring complex data or reports beyond simple information were extremely challenging and time intensive, which created a bottleneck situation when information was needed quickly. The situation caused the Office of Sponsored Programs to be dependent on one or two “experts” with their spreadsheet data configuration and manipulation for the entire grants program. It was clearly time to find a more robust solution.
The Office of Sponsored Programs needed a solution that could provide quick and easy access to proposal data and also generate reports based on the data. Lisa A. Wilson, MBA, Fort Valley’s Director for the Office of Sponsored Programs, “wanted access to data anytime from anywhere. And, needed to be confident it was up to date and accurate.” Furthermore, her office needed additional information such as performance metrics for tracking the number of proposals submitted by faculty, and weekly reports that tracked direct and indirect costs on proposals submissions by college. To address these needs, Fort Valley chose Blue Wren Software’s Grant and Research Management (GRM) solution. Lisa Wilson said, “We chose Blue Wren over others because of its functionality and flexibility, and I could tell that the Blue Wren team was accessible and worked quickly, and that we could add new functions quickly. And most attractive, the system allowed for quick and easy access to proposal data and could generate virtually any type of report out of it. Anywhere, anytime.” Blue Wren’s GRM web-based grant management software solution provides sub recipient monitoring, tracks committed effort, and allows customized reporting and document management.
Blue Wren GRM was installed and Sponsored Programs staff trained in two phases. The first phase included configuring it to meet Fort Valley’s management needs and training senior office staff. Two additional employees were quickly trained in the second phase. Since implementation, Lisa Wilson has had a chance to reflect on how far her team has come with Blue Wren. “Any systemic change is challenging and there was definitely push back at the beginning. Since using Blue Wren, however, our team now understands how a centralized house for data is making their jobs easier. They have become more efficient, and it has reduced stress. Our team is taking the initiative to embrace a system they see value in for the long term. They are motivated to add data that wasn’t originally required because they can see how it’s making them more efficient. And, they can see that that historical data is beneficial and they can draw from that.”
Fort Valley Sponsored Programs staff can easily capture data on how many proposals are submitted and track by college and by date and are now using that data to measure ROI and make informed decisions moving forward in all of their grants programs. According to Lisa Wilson, “Being able to customize reports and have a centralized location for old files such as MOUs, Notice of Awards, and certifications are two important functions for the team and has made them more strategic in moving forward with their plans.” In essence, Blue Wren has allowed Fort Valley to use data as a growth tool. For example, over time her office discovered that sponsored funding recovered only 30% of the indirect costs needed to effectively run their programs. With the current information, they were able to identify gaps and plan strategies with senior management to compensate for those gaps. They now have a performance metric to increase the number of proposals by 3% every year. Since becoming intentional and strategic in managing their grants, they have been able to forecast growth potential, generate accurate reports, and understand the value in this system.
While Lisa Wilson is the Director of the Office of Sponsored Programs at Fort Valley State University, she comes to this role with a background in software development. She chose Blue Wren because she could tell that the products were very flexible and functional and because our team was accessible, responsive, and worked quickly. She knows the value of user friendly technology and knows that this is an effective tool at the right price.