eRA RFP Executive Summary
Contributed by Matt Simpson and Jessica Burnette
On April 4, 2017, the NC State Purchasing Department published the official RFP for the new Electronic Research Administration (eRA) system that will replace PINS and RADAR, the systems currently in use.
The RFP explained the reasons a new system is required and the purpose and objectives of the desired solution, outlined in detail every specific requirement the ideal solution should include, categorized each requirement based on its respective application and importance, and listed the required sponsor qualifications and guidelines that must be followed in order for a solution to be considered.
Purpose, Background and Objectives
NC State boasts the second-largest research portfolio (~$350 million/year in funding) in the UNC System. This funding takes a variety of forms (grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, subcontracts), and while the majority of funding comes from federal agencies, a significant portion also comes from corporations, state and local government, and other sources.
Research administration at NC State currently utilizes a range of independent systems to manage the vast amount of information that it processes, and it now seeks to replace and consolidate these systems with a supplier-provided, supplier-hosted eRA system that supports management of research projects “from cradle to grave” (i.e. from funding opportunity discovery to final report submission and institutional reporting) across all funding sources. In other words, this eRA system should manage both pre- and post-award processes involving the administration of research proposals, awards, grants, and contracts, while seamlessly integrating regulatory compliance requirements. These processes include, but are not limited to: funding and partner discovery; proposal development; compliance protocol management; approval routing; proposal submission to sponsors; post-award administrative management; and internal and external reporting.
The purpose and objectives for the new eRA system are summarized in the graphic below:
The solution must be sustainable and based on the best practices at Tier I research universities, but it may take the form of one comprehensive application, or a number of tightly integrated applications. It is not anticipated that the new system will replace the PeopleSoft applications/modules used for financial and human resources post-award processing. However, it’s expected that the eRA system will integrate with, and seamlessly share data with, those applications, as well as others.
All suppliers must submit their proposals by 2:00 p.m. EDT on May 24, 2017. Invitations for on-campus demos will be issued on or about July 17, 2017, and these demos will take place between the 15th and 31st of August. The award announcement is targeted for September 19, 2017, and the proposed solution should be fully functional for the first NC State unit or with the first system module no later than 14 calendar months from the date of award. Supplier proposal responses must include a timeline demonstrating their ability to have the solution fully functional by November 2018, assuming award announcement takes place in September 2017.
Complete Timeline (Estimate)
In summary, NC State seeks an eRA system that will: minimize data entry and reduce manual effort; expedite the exchange of information and data (i.e. system-to-system proposal submission); minimize human errors and increase proposal success rates; automate submission of documents required for internal and external compliance reviews; unify the system interface with a common “look and feel”; improve the visibility of status for proposals and projects; and simplify report generation. These needs were outlined in greater detail in the form of specific requirements that were created, in part, by the focus groups that were held across campus over the past few months.
In total, 200 requirements were included in the RFP, with over one-quarter categorized as system-wide requirements and the rest categorized by specific functions, such as IT, Award Setup, and Compliance. The importance of each requirement was rated as critical, high, medium or low. Critical requirements are listed in the graphic to the right.
The graph below indicates how the requirements were broken down by functionality. To see how the requirements were broken down by their level of importance, please view a complete, detailed list of the requirements included in the RFP here (Note: this is a copy of the RFP, which is no longer live in the NC State purchasing system).
Supplier Qualification/ Experience
Suppliers must be able to demonstrate that they are engaged in providing eRA software/service to research universities similar in nature, scope, and size of research portfolio to NC State. In order to demonstrate the required level of qualifications and experience, suppliers have been asked to provide, among other things, a brief description of customer base and size, examples of successful system solutions to higher education institutions with similar volumes of research to NC State, and a minimum of three references that further demonstrate their experience.
Criteria for Evaluation and Award
Late or incomplete proposals will not be considered. Ultimately, the supplier that provides the best overall value will be awarded the contract. This value will be calculated based on the following weighted criteria: 65% based on ability to meet requirements; 10% based on qualification/experience; 20% based on cost proposal; 5% based on implementation plan.
Preference may be given to solutions that support efficient processes (i.e. fewer “clicks”/steps to process a transaction), are intuitive to use, and that provide an effective user experience (i.e. visually pleasing pages, information presented in a clear and orderly fashion, etc.).
NC State reserves the right to make partial, progressive, or multiple awards if: it’s advantageous to award separately by items; more than one supplier is needed to best satisfy the university’s needs; or the consideration of other factors makes it the most prudent option.
The RFP concludes with precise instructions for prospective suppliers on how to calculate their proposed costs, and provides the forms they are to use for their proposal submissions. It also defines the exact meanings of all the terminology used in the RFP and the applicable regulations suppliers must follow in order to be compliant with the law, and therefore eligible for consideration. If you wish to see all of these definitions and rules in detail, or would like to read more about anything contained in this summary, you can view the full RFP here (Note: this is a copy of the RFP, which is no longer live in the NC State purchasing system).