A special blog post brought to you from Flexi-Grant’s Managing Director; Keith Turkington…
Many years ago (but not in a land far, far away because that would be like I’m starting a fairy tale and while I might look like Shrek that was not my intention and I’m already digressing…) I worked as a consultant advising on the selection of finance and ERP systems. I was living the dream…no wait, I was living somebody’s dream while for me it could be a nightmare from time to time!
A frequent challenge that I encountered was ‘senior management’ delegating the responsibility for the new system selection to a junior member of staff, often couched in terms of “they understand technology better than me”. My counter then and still would be ‘If you believe that this system is at the heart of your business and critical to your future success why are you happy having someone who is less knowledgeable about your business leading the project?’. I can still hear the counterarguments being put forward in defence of the decision but I’ll stick to my guns. If the system being replaced and/or introduced is business critical it should have the right senior person involved and leading the charge. I would say that the majority of projects that ran into issues during implementation invariably did not have senior representation shaping what’s important in the requirements at the outset.
On one project I remember a young, bright and energetic team member (oh, to be young, bright and energetic! Whimper) who was clearly a rising star in the business I was helping. They were a joy to work with; responsive to requests, actively listened and asked smart questions. They were impressive and it was clear why they had been picked to lead the project. However, when we discussed why we were undertaking the project and what our goals were, which we did frequently at my insistence (I’m annoying that way) I would hear the same repeated focus – efficiency, remove redundant steps, streamline!!
All valid considerations but the organisation I was working with was a leader in their chosen field and emphasised the quality of their customer service as being what set them truly apart. My argument was how was the new ERP system going to specifically help the business continue to exceed customer expectations and help deliver even higher levels of customer service and how did this sit with making everything leaner and more efficient? The highest levels of customer service come at a price and often take extra steps – very difficult to do when you are focussed on being lean and efficient! In short, I think any critical business system should support the vision of the business and align with its goals. Systems and processes must support and underpin what you are trying to achieve and be.
Interestingly, I still see the same today when we work with our clients to help them modernise their grant making. We need to be more efficient and streamlined goes the cry! Really says I? (now I’m starting to rhyme, that’s really sad). Only if this aligns with your business goals is the well-trodden path I head down. If you need to distribute grants quickly (e.g. low value and high volume) this might make sense. But if your goal is to walk alongside applicants and offer advice and guidance throughout the application and award process then hold fire. Know where you add value to your applicants and the organisations you work with and what is really important when supporting them. Align your (grant management) system to this and you are more likely to have success. How do you make this happen? Ensure someone (or ones) senior who understands and can articulate the business vision and how that might be shifting is part of the project team and working alongside those who are managing the day to day operations. It’s like the filling in the custard cream – it’s just not the same if it’s not there! Speaking of biscuits, time to put the kettle on…
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