The independent scientific academy of the UK and the Commonwealth, dedicated to promoting excellence in science.
The Royal Society is the national academy of science in the UK and is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. It is also a charity. The Society’s fundamental purpose, reflected in its founding Charters of the 1660s, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.
A major activity of the Society is identifying and supporting the work of outstanding scientists by the awarding of grants. The Society supports researchers through several grant schemes, including its early career schemes, senior career schemes and innovation and industry schemes.
For the previous 10+ years, the Royal Society had been using their own in-house software system to manage grant schemes.
This legacy system presented several problems for the Royal Society; the software had become dated, it was becoming increasingly costly to extend, and maintenance was becoming an issue as key knowledge-holders left the organisation over time.
On top of this, several teams worked within the Grants Management department – and they all had different processes to administer grant applications.
This was in stark contrast to the Royal Society’s desire to increase their research grant spending, but do it more efficiently. They wanted to do more with less and so they needed a better way of doing things.
To help them solve this problem, the Royal Society was not only looking for a new Grant Management System that allowed them to take advantage of the modern efficiencies they were missing out on, but a partner to help them standardise their processes, streamline their workflow and manage the transition to a new platform.
They chose Flexi-Grant® to help them do this.
To deliver the project, not only did Flexi-Grant® work in close partnership with the Royal Society’s Grants Management and Finance teams, but they also needed to collaborate with their IT team, and pay careful attention to the needs of the organisation’s fellows – which were of paramount importance.
At Flexi-Grant® we believe that developing a successful partnership is not just about installing new software, but standing alongside the client to help them deal with business transformation and business change. To do this we developed a hands-on approach to solving a number of key challenges, including:
The Royal Society knew that their antiquated system, combined with non-standardised workflows, meant that they weren’t working as efficiently as they could be. We helped them to make improvements by challenging the way they currently work, identifying the common ground between grant programmes and mapping out a new standardized process that made use of Flexi-Grant features to make their workflow less labour intensive.
One of the biggest challenges that organisations like the Royal Society face is managing the change to a new system for all key stakeholders. The issue here wasn’t whether the software met their needs, but how to implement it with their workforce– as people inherently don’t like change.
We knew from experience that it was best to take a direct approach here by building trust and enthusiasm in the change right from the initial discovery process. This meant stakeholders could see we were helping them to think differently about how they can work more effectively. We then implemented a ‘quick win’ for the staff by adding a brand new grant scheme to Flexi-Grant®, so they could see for themselves exactly how easy and efficient it was to use. We followed this up with tailor-made training programmes and the inclusion of personalised stakeholder on-boarding as a key part of our delivery plan.
A big challenge in the grant management sector – and by no means exclusive to the Royal Society – is staff churn. Because each team worked using separate processes, it meant that organisational knowledge became siloed. As staff moved on, this knowledge wasn’t always properly transferred and often became lost. To help combat this, we introduced a universal formalised workflow to make it easier to work on projects and bring new staff up to speed quickly.
We worked closely with the Royal Society’s IT team during the implementation of Flexi-Grant®. However, when a senior member of their team left, they inadvertently took a lot of key internal knowledge with them – without a proper handover. This meant we had to pick up the challenge of working both as a supplier and offering additional tech resource on the client-side to drive the project forward.
Because grant giving never stops, it means that we couldn’t just switch off the Royal Society’s old system without considering the impact to existing live applications. This meant we had to introduce a tapered approach to data migration – only moving it over once a grant had been awarded. Because the data was coming in such vast volumes from their old system, it had to be cleansed and reconstructed to work with Flexi-Grant®. The upside of this was that Flexi-Grant® was then able to automatically handle a wide variety of administrative and reporting tasks that had to be done manually using the old system.
As part of the Royal Academy’s drive to do more with less, they wanted to understand their newfound efficiency when using Flexi-Grant®. To do this, we were able to leverage our system to help them produce metrics reports that measured things like how long it takes on average for an applicant to submit an application, or how long it takes to review an application.
Working with the Royal Society to plan new processes, implement their new system, and migrate their data was a project that took almost two years. We didn’t just work with them as a 3rd party supplier, we built an ongoing, long-term, partnership that enabled us to impart both our technical and grant management experience onto their organisation and add significant value.
“The software provides my organisation with a greater degree of flexibility and control to manage the grant lifecycle, with improved consistency and efficiency, allowing us to focus on improving post-award management activities”.
Alexander Thompson, Head of Grants Operations
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