OmniStar Grants

Grants Management Platform is best for Grants Management

Deep dive into a for purpose solution vs. CRMs used for Grants Management.

Grants Management Platform is best for Grants Management System

Question: Is extending a platform built for a specific purpose e.g. a CRM a good solution instead of a purpose-built platform e.g. a GMS?

Answer: A generic solution that requires bespoke development is not as good a choice as a “purpose built” solution covering all eventualities that may be required. This is backed by Gartner research that has analysed all of the CRM sector solutions available and identified 232 distinct CRM Use Cases. Of note, none natively contain the functionality required for Grants. While some CRM’s offer tools for extension, the CRM plus the extension does not deliver the same functional completeness as a “built for purpose” solution designed for a specific purpose such as Grants Management.

The commercially available software platforms have until recently focused on providing broad functional solutions such as Sales, Accounting, HR and CRM. Newly emerging SaaS solutions for specialist market sector (for example Grants Management) provide highly advanced sector specific functionality, greater fit-for-purpose, shorter time to deploy, reduced cost and reduced risk. Specialist (built for purpose) solutions provide a functionally complete end-to-end solution as distinct from extending a platform that is designed for a different area of specialisation e.g. FMIS, HR, ERP or CRM. Each specialist solution provide OOTB function rich and complete capabilities that are simply not possible to replicate on non-specialist platforms e.g.  FMIS cannot be extended to replicate the richness of a CRM solution or a CRM cannot be extended to replicate the richness of a GMS solution.

This is not to doubt the value provided by enterprise solutions like FMIS, HR, Marketing, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) which in their own golden zone offer competent solutions delivering the outcomes they are designed for. The problem is using them for functions, for which, they not designed. Extending them into these areas potentially has high costs and significant lifecycle risks. The choice to extend an existing system e.g. a CRM to perform grants management functionality potentially brings with it significant additional difficulties and risk that might not have been fully considered upfront.

It is unlikely that any organisation would embark on new development to build a new bespoke HR system on a FMIS even if tools are available to do so when “best of breed” HR SaaS solution is readily available OOTB, covering all cases. This leads to posing a logical question: “Why would you choose to use a generic CRM solution that requires explicit development to extend it to have some Grants capability when a functionally complete SaaS Grants solution covering all potential requirements is available OOTB?”

For Grants deployments, a purpose designed GMS (such as OmniStar Grants), bringing a track record and proven implementation across a wide range of different Grant types. As a complete solution for Grants it facilitates unparalleled deployment choices of specific options across all phases of the Grants lifecycle. GMS (such as OmniStar Grants) also facilitates business agility without need of IT specialists to make business driven changes. Business users can make changes themselves.

Deploying a generic CRM (like SalesForce or Dynamics CRM) and then performing the necessary bespoke development to instantiate the functionality, with all the attendant design, build and test cycles, sprint cycles and potential for quality and performance issues, represents a much higher level of risk and cost.  In addition, it is likely such development will entail only the minimum viable solution required and certainly not the valued, comprehensive solution.  This choice has long term impact. As lessons are learnt, and modifications to elements of the Grants lifecycle are contemplated, or mandated by Government fiat, specialist SaaS GMS solutions (which are inherently more complete) will have lower conformance costs, higher robustness and shorter deployment cycle time.

Whilst the desire to have one generic platform with one set of training required for the whole enterprise might seem attractive, particularly when the internal IT skill infrastructure is small, it should be recognised that sales/marketing (CRM) and FMIS probably already operate using different vendor solutions. Specialist GMS solutions (e.g. OmniStar Grants) are built for business users, thus, they do not require IT skills to operate them.

An often overlooked factor using a CRM to deliver Grants can be that disparate activities may be lumped together for convenience at the expense of competency. Imagine that you have CRM marketing tool (SalesForce) deployed successfully and you consider extending this to run your research grants program. In this scenario the catchments i.e. Growers and Researchers are quite distinct and different. There is no overarching business logic compelling one platform. Far better to deploy two separate optimised purpose built solutions (with API’s if necessary) where each component is optimised for its intended function. Resulting in a far more elegant solution overall.

Key Success Factors

The key success factors of each successful SaaS solution (i.e. what makes a great FMIS) is its measure of success in delivering the specific functionality required by its users. That is certainly true of most GMS’ but not at all true in CRM’s that promote to deliver Grants solutions. 

So, what are the key success factors determining great built-for-purpose SaaS solutions?

  • Include all the required functionality, OOTB.
  • Nothing to build; only ability to configure.
  • Rapid initial set up and subsequent fine-tuning via configuration.
  • Low lifetime maintenance cost.
  • Initial cost of acquisition is reasonable.
  • Published, open API’s can be readily integrated with other services.
  • Evolves with the need of the organisation and market, supports range of grants workflows via configuration and not add-ons.

 To compare the ability of Grants solutions to be deployed by CRM’s like Dynamics CRM and Salesforce the evaluation matrix provides guidance.

Evaluation Matrix

Function Description OmniStar Grants Dynamics CRM for Grants (1) SalesForce CRM for Grants (1)
Dominate ecosystem with all required functionality OOTB Y N. Expensive bespoke development N. Expensive bespoke development
Rapid config, and mods, i.e. highly adaptable Y N, expensive N, expensive
Include open API’s Y Y Y
Native Marketing capability Medium High High
Native Grants Capability Y. All solution branches are pre-coded switchable and adaptable by configurations N. Bespoke extension N. Bespoke extension or 3rd party add on*
Effort to extend grants function Low High to very high High to very high
Maintenance cost Low, client configurations are carried forward at no incremental cost Significant, requires in house or 3rd party programming expertise Significant, requires in house or 3rd party programming expertise*
Version upgrade No rework cost. Forward compatibility assured by F1 Solutions Potential significant cost due to grants being add-on Potential significant cost due to grants being add-on

*Salesforce demonstrations promote Lightening as the development environment; however, its suitability for application integration of external fragments, is highly unlikely.

(1) Dynamics CRM and SalesForce CRM are not Grants built-for-purpose solutions – they are marketing and CRM Solutions. While they are competent at CRM functionality the same is not true of Grants functionality.

Conclusion

It is clear that for built-for-purpose Grants SaaS solution, such as OmniStar which is available OOTB is a better choice as:

  • Includes all required functionality without need of any development.
  • It is quickly deployable.
  • Reasonable cost.
  • No additional ongoing maintenance costs.
  • No ongoing upgrade costs.
  • Modifiable by busines users and no ongoing IT support costs required.

To put metrics to this, an initial best practice version of OmniStar Grants can be deployed within 4 to 5 weeks, and then using agile methodology progressively fine-tune to meet detailed and complex requirements.

To sum up: You would not set out today to build a new FMIS by bespoke development; so why take on the risk and cost of a bespoke Grants development on your CRM platform as the base? Grants Management Platform is best for Grants Management Solution.

When to use Built-for-purpose Grants Management System

Most CRM systems are dedicated to support and serve only one or more internal functions. These functions include marketing, sales, customer service, or others, such as digital commerce or field service resources. It is crucial to define and prioritize objectives of the CRM application. Is it about choosing the best technical solution or the best business solution, or enhancing the customer experience to gain a competitive advantage? These objectives don’t often align.

Executive Overview

  • Why choose a Grants Management System (GMS) over reusing a Customer Relationship Management CRM) System
    • Design mismatch – Concepts match in name only; in reality they are implemented and used for distinct purpose hence re-purposing CRM concepts to apply to GMS exhibit the failings mentioned in this document.
    • High long-term costs – Costs of shoehorning a CRM become apparent and accumulate over time i.e. greater technical debt
    • High upfront costs – Even simple grants workflows require extensive and expensive development
  • Can a GMS fit into a coherent Enterprise Architecture?
    • Right tool for the job – You wouldn’t use a CRM instead of a FMIS.  Similarly, if your business involves grants, a built-for-purpose system isn’t just sensible, it is necessary.
    • Jack of all trades, master of none – Some CRMs e.g. SalesForce consider themselves the right tool for every job; there is considerable evidence that such claim is misleading and results in sub-optimal solution
    • The real concern is around data ownership / portability
    • A competent GMS (e.g. OmniStar Grants) has necessary integration points making it fit into a coherent Enterprise Architecture
  • Is OmniStar Grants the right GMS for the job?
    • OmniStar Grants is designed from the ground up on Grants concepts, having a lower TCO and inherent support for grants workflows throughout the grants lifecycle.

Scenario 1 – I already have a CRM

I already have made considerable investment in a CRM. By reusing my CRM investment to support grants making, I simplify the architecture and keep enterprise applications costs down by re-using the same solution many times over.”

Note: This is a common scenario and CRM vendors and centralized IT extensively use to justify extending the use of their platform to implement grants management solutions.   

Answer:

Some organizations believe they can simplify architecture and keep enterprise applications costs down by re-using the same solution many times over. While fundamentally this principle holds true, in the case of reusing a CRM architecture for implementing grant workflows is mixing incompatible architectures as each is designed to serve a different purpose.

Reuse of a CRM when incorrectly applied can have serious and costly consequences.

OmniStar Grants, a built-for-purpose platform, is specifically architected and designed to support large number of grants workflows in their entirety. In this case, the effort, hence cost, to support multiple variations or new grants workflows is minimal. This is because the fundamental constructs are repeatedly applied via configurations which is distinct from creating each one by bespoke development in a CRM. Furthermore, the UX and UI are already optimised to support a range of grants actors e.g. grants administrators, grants program managers and grants administrators, If using a CRM platform, a lot of functionality needs to be added to support grants workflows and even then, the experience or functionality is most likely to be sub-optimal or unacceptable. This is because a CRM is fundamentally designed for a different purpose.

CRMs are architected and designed to support customer relationship requirements. Extending a CRM to support the core principles of a grants management solution is a contradiction. You wouldn’t use a CRM or GMS as your Financial Management System.

It is possible that a CRM can be modified with effort to support a simplistic grants workflow. Even in such cases, the modification is a bespoke development and therefore the disadvantages of bespoke development apply. A major disadvantage of bespoke extension to a CRM is that forward compatibility needs to be maintained for it to continue operating when the CRM is upgraded. The bespoke extension maintenance is either performed by a third-party or the organisation itself. This usually has high cost. This cost can become significant over time and may lead to organisations unwilling to accept upgrades as they fear it will break their system. It becomes a significant technical dept.  

The CRM enhancements are usually driven by the CRM needs of the market/vendor and this often occurs without regards for the GMS extension that is implemented on the CRM. In such instances, the GMS function may require refactoring or redevelopment which is undesirable due to cost, risk and timing. It is known that some GMS functions are unable to be accommodated due to the CRM architecture and/or design restrictions. The grants functionality on the CRM platform creates technical debt further worsening the TCO for a grants solution on a CRM platform. A built-for-purpose GMS has workflows that are targeted to provide and enhance GMS functionality. For example, OmniStar Grants has in-built capabilities that are extensible by configuration changes enabling organisations to support numerous and varying grant programs. When a new version of a GMS is released it recognises and preserves the in-built workflows. In OmniStar’s case the configurations forward compatibility is maintained contributing to considerably lower TCO for OmniStar when compared with CRM’s such as SalesForce and Dynamics CRM.  

Note: The CRM vendor SalesForce promote their Rapid Application Delivery (implied Development) capability to develop grants solution on their CRM platform. Their term “Application Delivery/Development” still means bespoke development hence all elements of bespoke development apply, i.e. analysis, design, development, testing, support and maintenance. It also means for each grants workflow to be supported new development is required.

Scenario 2 – Can OmniStar Grants work alongside my CRM?

“I already have made considerable investment in a CRM. Can OmniStar Grants make use of my CRM investment to support grants making?”

There is considerable evidence that stakeholders strongly favour a solution that holistically works as they expect it to work. OmniStar Grants makes the stakeholders feel that the solution is built for them (even though is it configured for them). This resonance is a major factor in greater adoption of the system by stakeholders which is important in managing the change from their existing environment to the new one.

Scenario 3 – Enterprise architects are concerned to have a number of built-for-purpose systems in their organisation

“Should my enterprise architects be concerned to have a number of built-for-purpose SaaS systems in my organisation? Will these SaaS solutions fragment my organisation’s enterprise architecture and render it ineffective?”

Answer: The rise and spread of SaaS solutions is re-defining traditional enterprise architecture that are based on in-house developed systems or monolithic platforms or systems, such as mainframes or generic CRMs. Organisations are successfully and cost-effectively implemented a number of SaaS solutions that interoperate effectively. Such an environment recognises the specialist nature of each solution that organisations require to be efficient and effective. It is analogist to micro services where each solution performs its specific task very well allowing for scalability independent of each other and components to be replaced or upgraded easily as needs change. The enterprise architecture consideration is shifting to selecting SaaS solutions that have strong interoperability, forward compatibility and security capabilities such that the source of truth is maintained, functional effectiveness is enhanced and zero to minimal technical debt is created.

OmniStar Grants is a SaaS and has all the capabilities expected of a SaaS. The configurability of OmniStar Grants gives your organisation full control to implement grants workflows that are required. Changes made are forward compatible, removing the technical debt accrual. 

Scenario 4 – Why you should you choose a GMS over CRM for grants management

While you have a CRM, you do not have inherent Grants functionality. Grants added to a CRM require bespoke development. The question you need to ask:

  • Is the lifetime cost of the bespoke development more expensive/risky than acquiring a built for purpose solution for Grants? (Note: In OmniStar Grants all the functionality is complete and pre-built).
  • Do you have more than one grants process/program to implement?
  • How much of the possible lifecycle Grants process are you implementing? For example,
    • Are there milestones?
    • Are there potentially any milestone risks to be mediated?
    • Is this a multiphase application process?
    • How are you going to communicate with the recipient over the grants lifecycle?
    • how is the assessment made?
    • Are we negotiating awards?
    • There are multiple options which can be different over multiple different grants processes.

These will all require bespoke attention and development on a CRM platform.  In relation to a CRM, any but the most trivial choices start increasing risk and the expense and the amount of bespoke work required to extend the CRM.

Gartner has closely reviewed all market CRM offerings available and identified 232 distinct and different use cases and not one of these natively contain grant management functionality.

Most CRM systems are dedicated to support and serve only one or more internal functions. These functions include marketing, sales, customer service, or others, such as digital commerce or field service resources. It is crucial to define and prioritize objectives of the CRM application. Is it about choosing the best technical solution or the best business solution, or enhancing the customer experience to gain a competitive advantage? These objectives don’t often align.

Part 1 – The bottom line

Gartner recommends that application leaders add design experts to their teams. That is because CRM application vendors often design their functionalities and architectures based on the producer’s perspective of the required content and knowledge structure. They often ignore the expectations and needs of customers. (Source: “Select the Best-Suited CRM Solution With Gartner’s Evaluation Model”)

Points to consider:

  • Functionality acquired for an extension might also be called a “bolt-on” to the base CRM. Clients may be surprised to discover that these are not necessarily supported by the CRM vendor or by the third-party extension creator. Generally, they remain the maintenance liability of the client or become fee for service to maintain by the extension developer.  As the CRM vendor subsequently makes new releases of their core CRM product, the responsibility to keep the bolt-on functionality in sync vests with the client. Thus, long term cost of ownership is higher for CRM solutions using bolt-on’s. Long term costs are even higher the further from the core CRM application that bolt-on’s are made to extend. (i.e. the more objects that are added to the data model).
  • Bespoke new development in the guise of Rapid Application Development brings with it all the usual Design, Build & Test sprint cycles and attendant quality, time and cost consideration; both for development and ongoing support.
  • Grant outcomes, unique organisational capabilities, available expertise, culture and mission when taken into consideration strongly favour a built-for-purpose grants solution as distinct from an adapted solution with bolt-on functionality. Thus, equivalent granting organisations performing canonical outcomes often design and manage grant programs that have different workflows yet achieve similar outcomes. This results in poor transportability of bolt-on’s and extensions in between granting organisations and more than likely means these will necessarily require bespoke development to provide the workflow required.
  • The USA Data Foundation report, “Managing Grants in a time of transformation: Purpose built solution or CRM? identifies significant barriers posed by widespread CRM implementations to meet the requirements of the US DATA Act. This Whole of Government initiative desires machine readability and big data analysis over NFP Grants organizations to improve control over grants spending and program performance. As each CRM implementation is inherently bespoke the data and data format therein are variable. They also note that CRM’s take significantly longer to implement than purpose-built solutions.
  • Time to implement a CRM’s is also identified by Gartner as highly variable depending on the amount of consulting consumed for the bespoke development which is identified as averaging 3.5 to max. 10 times the cost of the license fees.
  • Some CRM’s like Salesforce have licensing regimes where cost is hard to predict upfront and which inevitably escalate (where actual API call limits, memory limitations and the number of report templates required are more than that initially quoted). SalesForce devote a small book to explaining their cost escalation limits.
  • All things being equal, a purpose built, configurable, solution, like OmniStar Grants, delivers significantly better TCO. This is because the increased risk and cost demanded by including the bolt-on’s to CRM’s also incur greater TCO.

Gartner document: “How to Get and an approximate Initial Estimate of the Cost of a CRM Project _350994” states the below key challenges faced by CRMs.

Key Challenges

  • CRM project implementation costs can be highly variable and, therefore, easy to get wrong. The cost of projects that went live between 2014 and 2017 ranged from less than $20,000 to more than $100 million.
  • Underestimating the costs of external service providers is a common mistake. The biggest costs in CRM application deployments are often the service providers’ fees.

Depending on the scope of the project, the costs of service providers as a multiple of the costs of the software over the first three years can vary from less than 1x up to 10x.

Part 2 – CRM and OmniStar Grants

What is a CRM?

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a technology for managing all your organisation’s relationships and interactions with customers / potential customers. CRM’s help an organization improve its relationships by supporting better and more consistent contact and communications management, and service delivery. A CRM system helps companies stay connected to customers, streamlines processes, and improves profitability. It does not natively contain functionality to manage grants.

Grants management (makers or funders)

Note: The definition below applies to Grant Making (aka Grant Funding). Grant Taking (aka Grantee) definition is excluded from this discussion. However, a system that supports both is a significant differentiator from a CRM attempting to provide equivalent functionality.

Grant management (grant making) application is a technology that facilitates design of grant making systems to produce specific Grants outcomes sought by the grant making organisation. The objectives of the grant making organisation, e.g. fairness, transparency, accountability, compliance with finance and legislation, flexibility, adaptability and auditability, must be met. Meanwhile ensuring the cost/effort incurred by applicants to transact with the organisation is minimised and high-quality applications are received and awarded. Selecting the best organisations or individuals as recipients of a grant is critical to ensuring the desired outcomes of a giving program are achieved. Monitoring progress and dispensing funds based on achievement evidence is also essential. The inter-dependency and interactions between grant makers e.g. administrators, legislators, auditors and grant receivers e.g. citizens, organisations, medical sectors must be supported while ensuring that they are transparent and accountable.

Architecture and design principles

OmniStar Grants

Architected and designed for both grant makers (funders) and grant takers (grantees), OmniStar is a purpose-built granting platform that can be configured to address the specific variants of grants workflows that include applications, assessments, interactions, contracts, reminders, milestones, financial and project/risk management activities required to implement the intended grant outcome sought.

From the outset OmniStar Grants is architected and designed to provide a complete solution for grant variants including the workflow and processes required for each variant. These are available via internal preconfigured features. This includes not only the application process, application selection, assessment, and award but also program deliverables manifested through milestones (both financial and non-financial).  OmniStar Grants configurations cater for the myriad of options that a grants Program may require in order to deliver the outcome sought by the grant makers and takers.

OmniStar Grants provides workflows for competitive, non-competitive and closed/invited rounds. It supports multiphase application processes, has configurable assessment and eligibility processes that may utilize subjective, quantitative and qualitative assessments to determine the Order of Merit. Assessment comparisons may reveal inequalities in process and all activities, decisions and reasoning are captured, accountable and transparent.

Catering for a wide variety of workflows including: research, utility, engineering, medical, agricultural, university research, sports, scholarships, tourism, export and community (Philanthropic). Based on its huge configurability that includes no-code capability, OmniStar Grants is grants workflow agnostic, i.e. can be configured to service almost any grants Program.

By getting the business solution out of the box with predictable licence fees, OmniStar’s TCO is transparent and readily understood. One of the most significant TCO aspect is to develop a grants management solution on a CRM. This requires considerable investment in business process analysis and then development effort to get the CRM solution to what is needed to do what is already available in OmniStar Grants. More generally, a CRM solution requires modification (medium to significant effort) to do what needs to be done in the grants domain.

CRM

CRM’s are built for a different domain requirement; for industry sectors such as Sales, Services and Marketing to manage customer relationships.

Government’s mostly deploy CRM’s to satisfy contact relationship management for information dissemination / awareness (marketing like activities) and service provision. As CRM’s are designed for firms selling products and services, they help vendors to get closer to their customers and understand their behavior. CRM’s are well suited to these use cases.

Designed for improving customer relationship management, a CRM is a pre-built platform catering for sales related activities including interactions, contacts, behavior tracking and similar.

They can also be extended via an application development process. These extensions are constrained by the inherent data model and extensions are akin to “bolt-ons”. Extensions increase costs both upfront and over the life of the system. The grants program round design i.e. competitive, always open or by invitation, the application form design including eligibility and budgeting (finance), identifying and assigning assessors, supporting range of assessment types, meetings/panels, contract, award (including financial delegation workflow) and post-award phases all are supported in OmniStar Grants. These require design and development in a CRM solution. Furthermore, these changes would require rework when a new version of the CRM becomes available i.e. forward compatibility is expected to be maintained by the client or the CRM service provider who will be charging fee for service.

Note:  Gartner has closely reviewed all market CRM offerings available and identified 232 distinct and different use cases and not one of these natively contain Grants Management functionality. This functionality must be added by bespoke extensions (CRM Application Functionality Starfish).

“Bolt-on” and “extension” refer to specific bespoke functionality customized for a new purpose.

Product positioning

CRM use cases and workflows

Some organisations believe they can simplify architecture and keep enterprise applications costs down by re-using the same solution many times over. This principle is true in the case of built-for-purpose grants e.g. OmniStar Grants as it caters from a large range of grants scenarios. However, a CRM is not the best fit for this principle because, each grants scenario is bespoke development and all the costs and risks associated with bespoke development apply to the CRM environment.

Most CRM systems are dedicated to support and serve only one or more internal functions. These functions include marketing, sales, customer service, or others, such as digital commerce or field service resources. It is crucial to define and prioritize objectives of the CRM application. Is it about choosing the best technical solution or the best business solution, or enhancing the customer experience to gain a competitive advantage? These objectives don’t often align. (Source: “Select the Best-Suited CRM Solution With Gartner’s Evaluation Model”). In other words, CRM out of the box is designed to serve a narrow range of functions around customer/citizen contact and service management.

CRM’s represent massive market for Software vendors and Software Integrators (S.I.’s) / Consulting companies. The worldwide market for CRM solutions is many orders of magnitude larger than the market for Grants software.

CRM’s have extended into many peripheral areas, because the SI’s who partner CRM vendors generate more revenue by extending products into those new peripheral areas. This is a phenomenon that is not only impacting Grants but many other industry sectors as well e.g. utilities and pharmaceutical sales. The extension into these industry sectors have mixed reviews; mostly negative as they do not perform as well as a built-for-purpose solution performs. A relevant example is SalesForce adapted for the pharmaceutical sale sector. This resulted in many clients reverting to specialist built-for-purpose solutions as the SalesForce adaptation was unable to satisfy all their requirements.

New functionality is acquired by a client either by building the specific extensions on top of their CRM installation or by buying a bespoke CRM bolt-on (app) that usually stretches the data model or architecture to address the client requirements. This extension is usually non-core to the function of the CRM.

Grants implementations based on a CRM require specific extensions to the CRM pertinent to the type of grants workflow and outcomes required. Thus, third party developers and SI’s create extensions for each grant workflow scenario. 

The question: When is a given extension cost justified? How far can the Data Model be stretched, and the resulting solution still remain economic compared to other ways to acquire an equivalent solution?

Gartner recommends that application leaders add design experts to their teams. That is because CRM application vendors often design their functionalities and architectures based on the producer’s perspective of the required content and knowledge structure. They often ignore the expectations and needs of customers. (Source: “Select the Best-Suited CRM Solution With Gartner’s Evaluation Model”)

Points to consider:

  • Functionality acquired for an extension might also be called a “bolt-on” to the base CRM. Clients may be surprised to discover that these are not necessarily supported by the CRM vendor or by the third-party extension creator. Generally, they remain the maintenance liability of the client or become fee for service to maintain by the extension developer.  As the CRM vendor subsequently makes new releases of their core CRM product, the responsibility to keep the bolt-on functionality in sync vests with the client. Thus, long term cost of ownership is higher for CRM solutions using bolt-on’s. Long term costs are even higher the further from the core CRM application that bolt-on’s are made to extend. (i.e. the more objects that are added to the data model).
  • Bespoke new development in the guise of Rapid Application Development brings with it all the usual Design, Build & Test sprint cycles and attendant quality, time and cost consideration; both for development and ongoing support.
  • Grant outcomes, unique organisational capabilities, available expertise, culture and mission when taken into consideration strongly favour a built-for-purpose grants solution as distinct from an adapted solution with bolt-on functionality. Thus, equivalent granting organisations performing canonical outcomes often design and manage grant programs that have different workflows yet achieve similar outcomes. This results in poor transportability of bolt-on’s and extensions in between granting organisations and more than likely means these will necessarily require bespoke development to provide the workflow required.
  • The USA Data Foundation report, “Managing Grants in a time of transformation: Purpose built solution or CRM? identifies significant barriers posed by widespread CRM implementations to meet the requirements of the US DATA Act. This Whole of Government initiative desires machine readability and big data analysis over NFP Grants organizations to improve control over grants spending and program performance. As each CRM implementation is inherently bespoke the data and data format therein are variable. They also note that CRM’s take significantly longer to implement than purpose-built solutions.
  • Time to implement a CRM’s is also identified by Gartner as highly variable depending on the amount of consulting consumed for the bespoke development which is identified as averaging 3.5 to max. 10 times the cost of the license fees.
  • Some CRM’s like Salesforce have licensing regimes where cost is hard to predict upfront and which inevitably escalate (where actual API call limits, memory limitations and the number of report templates required are more than that initially quoted). SalesForce devote a small book to explaining their cost escalation limits.
  • All things being equal, a purpose built, configurable, solution, like OmniStar Grants, delivers significantly better TCO. This is because the increased risk and cost demanded by including the bolt-on’s to CRM’s also incur greater TCO.

 

Gartner document: “How to Get and an approximate Initial Estimate of the Cost of a CRM Project _350994” states the below key challenges faced by CRMs.

Key Challenges

  • CRM project implementation costs can be highly variable and, therefore, easy to get wrong. The cost of projects that went live between 2014 and 2017 ranged from less than $20,000 to more than $100 million.
  • Underestimating the costs of external service providers is a common mistake. The biggest costs in CRM application deployments are often the service providers’ fees.
  • Depending on the scope of the project, the costs of service providers as a multiple of the costs of the software over the first three years can vary from less than 1x up to 10x.

OmniStar use cases and workflows

Since OmniStar is a purpose-built grants management platform equipped with rapid configuration features, it is capable of supporting a wide range of grant workflows.

OmniStar Grants provides workflows for competitive, non-competitive and closed/invited rounds. It supports multiphase and multistage application processes, has Conflict of Interest function, configurable assessment and eligibility processes that may utilize subjective, quantitative and qualitative assessments to determine the Order of Merit. Assessment comparisons may reveal inequalities in process and all activities, decisions and reasoning are captured, accountable and transparent.

OmniStar supports extensive APIs to facilitate secure data exchange. It caters for a wide variety of workflows including general research, utility, engineering, medical research, agricultural, university research, sports, scholarships, tourism, export and community (Philanthropic). Based on its huge configurability that includes no-code capability OmniStar Grants is grants workflow agnostic and can be configured to service almost any grants Program.

Conclusion

When selecting a grants solution, especially an enterprise-grade, a built-for-purpose SaaS Grants Management Solution platform like OmniStar Grants is a fundamentally better choice than extending a SaaS CRM like SalesForce or Microsoft Dynamics CRM, because (not an exhaustive list):

  • It more closely matches the grant workflow of the organisation out of the box, hence reduces services effort (and cost)
  • It can accommodate organisation specific needs by using OmniStar’s configuration tools which have been specifically designed for this purpose (some CRM vendors e.g. SalesForce use “Rapid Application Delivery” which is not the same as RAD implies bespoke development)
  • It has predictable and transparent TCO because of high degree of automation removing the reliance on expensive consultants as well as analysis, design and development effort to implement grants functions to the CRM data model that is optimized by customer relationship management and not grants management
  • Customer’s configuration modifications are maintained by F1 Solutions hence assuring forward compatibility removing costs associated when upgrading to new versions of the solution. 

References

Zarthost Boman
Written by: Miles Hamilton-Green December 2020

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