Skip to main content

What eRA Requirements are Important from a Business Perspective? Business Operations SMEs describe their Ideal System

Contributed by Matt Simpson

In the first month of the new year, the eRA Requirements team continued its effort to determine the needs and desires of various groups on campus that will be affected by the implementation of a new system. A focus group consisting of 13 members involved with business operations met on January 20th to discuss the ideal system requirements from their perspective.

These participants make up a diverse group consisting of business managers from human resources, fiscal compliance, and regulatory compliance. These participants are involved in nearly every step in the lifecycle of an award, and therefore have a diverse and unique set of requirements that span the entire lifecycle. That being said, there were many requirements discussed that had been previously suggested by other focus groups.

Top New System Requirements

What were the most commonly desired requirements that were unique to business operations?

  1. Better transparency. Provide visibility into plans and needs for space, personnel hiring, etc. before the award is made so central offices can plan appropriately. Provide transparency into billings and receivables.
  2. Concurrent cost tracking. Need visibility into burn rate (planned vs. actual) and support regular (i.e. monthly) reconciliation/monitoring in order to help minimize last-minute adjustments or unpleasant surprises, track startup costs, track cost sharing.
  3. Universal longterm RFP access. Provide departments with access to RFP throughout the entire life of the award. Allow departmental access to RFPs.
  4. Track release time. Release time (time/effort faculty has committed to a sponsored project) should be shown in the budget.
  5. Better evaluation tools.

Commonly Desired Existing Suggestions

What were some previously mentioned requirements that were echoed in this group?

  1. System Standardization. System needs to support standardization in budgeting and standardized processes across campus.
  2. System Simplification (one-stop shop). Integrate with existing software. Allow for the ability to pull in salaries from HR, automate setup of projects in Financial System, etc.
  3. Streamlined Workflow.
  4. Importance of training. Vendor should offer current, robust help information within the system; NC State must commit to ongoing training for current and new faculty and staff.
  5. Dashboard. In addition to other previously mentioned functions, the business operations team would like to have a tool to measure how long it takes to complete a step/process.
  6. Budget tools.
  7. Support for multidisciplinary proposals. Allow routing to multiple OUCs/colleges, and provide visibility into salaries across colleges

Keep in mind that vendor solutions may not be able to provide everything that we would like to see in the new system, especially right off the bat, and that the goal of the requirements-gathering process is to provide a platform for people to voice their desires and opinions. The requirements-gathering process is wrapping up, and from here the next step in the process is to continue development on the RFP, which will go out in the near future. So be sure to stay up to date on new developments by continuing to regularly visit our blog.

We’d love to hear your questions and thoughts. Please use the comment box below to provide your feedback!