Research

Grants Management Platform is best for Grants Management System

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.

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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 DescriptionOmniStar GrantsDynamics CRM for Grants (1)SalesForce CRM for Grants (1)
Dominate ecosystem with all required functionality OOTBYN. Expensive bespoke developmentN. Expensive bespoke development
Rapid config, and mods, i.e. highly adaptableYN, expensiveN, expensive
Include open API’sYYY
Native Marketing capabilityMediumHighHigh
Native Grants CapabilityY. All solution branches are pre-coded switchable and adaptable by configurationsN. Bespoke extensionN. Bespoke extension or 3rd party add on*
Effort to extend grants functionLowHigh to very highHigh to very high
Maintenance costLow, client configurations are carried forward at no incremental costSignificant, requires in house or 3rd party programming expertiseSignificant, requires in house or 3rd party programming expertise*
Version upgradeNo rework cost. Forward compatibility assured by F1 SolutionsPotential significant cost due to grants being add-onPotential 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.

Written by: Miles Hamilton-Green

20 January 2021

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