Purpose-Built vs. Custom-Built Grant Software: Do You Know the Difference?
By Adam Roth on June 23, 2017
According to the Market Guide for U.S. State and Local Grant Management Solutions report issued by Gartner, “the SaaS model for grant management will become the prevalent approach for grant administration in the coming years.” This includes both standalone grant solutions, and customized enterprise resource planning (ERP) and business process management (BPM) systems.
Grant Management Software is a vital tool to help your organization stay streamlined, efficient, and compliant throughout grant lifecycles. If you don’t have the right solution in place, it may be difficult to get grant-related tasks accomplished. When shopping for a grant management solution, it’s important that you fully understand the type of software you are buying, including the implementation timeline and costs.
Purpose-Built Grant Management Solutions
A purpose-built, standalone solution is designed specifically for grant management based on industry best practices. Key grant management features are baked into the system and available out of the box. Some examples include:
- Competitive bidding process.
- Configurable workflows, including automatic tasks and reminders.
- Fund management.
- Performance and budget tracking capabilities.
- Research tools for identifying grant opportunities.
- Subrecipient monitoring.
- Time and Effort certification.
- Configurable and ad hoc reporting.
Purpose-built grant management solutions are designed to meet financial and programmatic reporting requirements without excessive costs or implementation timelines. Systems can be fully implemented in as short as six months.
Product updates and maintenance are included in the subscription price and rolled out to all customers en masse. This way, your technology is always equipped to support the latest compliance regulations and security requirements without additional expenses.
Many purpose-built solutions are also highly configurable, allowing organizations to update existing workflows and modules to meet their unique grant management needs via the user interface.
Custom-Built Grant Management Solutions
Custom solutions (and features) are built specifically for your organization either from the ground up or on top of an existing CRM, ERP or BPM platform.
Generally speaking, custom solutions are most commonly considered by organizations that already have a strong CRM, ERP or BPM system in place, and are looking to extend the platform’s capabilities into grant management, or organizations that want a highly individualized software instance due to complex grant processes.
While custom solutions do provide extreme flexibility, they are costly and resource-intensive to implement. According to a Data Foundation report, “More often than not, the return on investment simply does not justify the outlay for a customized CRM solution – often millions of additional dollars in purchase and implementation costs for customizations which do not provide a commensurate increase in long-term savings or improvements.” Why are these solutions typically more expensive?
- Software developers must write or edit code whenever a change is needed (e.g. to build new workflows or reports).
- Internal resources and business process expertise are needed to ensure customized systems are running smoothly and workflows are set up to meet grant compliance requirements.
- Custom solutions are built to fit your needs now, not necessarily in the future. As Federal regulations evolve, and in turn your internal processes, additional time and money is needed to adapt the system accordingly. Standard maintenance and changes to the system come at a cost.
- The build-out of custom systems and modules is time-consuming, often taking up to two years before implementation is complete.
Which Solution is Best?
An ideal solution will depend on your organization’s grant management process complexity, existing technology stack, budget and internal expertise. Before making a purchasing decision, consider the following:
- What features are available out-of-the-box, and which would need to be custom built for our organization?
- How will this software scale as we grow? Can new features and users be added quickly, or would it require a new build?
- Will this solution be able to adapt to changing Federal regulations and reporting requirements?
- How quickly do we need to implement our new system? How long will it take the vendor to get the product in our hands?
- What is our budget? Can cost savings be achieved with an existing purpose-built product?
- How often is the product updated? Is maintenance, customer support and hosting included in the cost of the solution or is it an added expense?
- Are features built based on industry best practices and tested by others? Will our organization be the first to work out kinks?
- Does the vendor have a track record of success managing grant processes similar to ours?
Are you looking to purchase a purpose-built grant management solution? Schedule a free demo today!