Are Your Grants Managing You? Why Tribal Government Needs ECM
Managing Federal funding and grants is an exercise in paper accumulation. Tribal staff has learned to file everything to ensure that they are ready for auditors and program reviews from federal agencies. Managing grants when they become records can also fill file cabinets and archive boxes not to mention offsite storage buildings. And often, working with other agencies and organizations means that contracts and other documents travel back and forth, causing project delays and perhaps, getting lost. All in all, as a grant and funding recipient, tribes experience a blizzard of paper and files.
While the paper world seems familiar and even comfortable, it creates challenges for tribal governments that may be short-staffed or eager to move projects (and expenditure rates) ahead as quickly as possible. Paper can be lost or misfiled. We create multiple copies of documents stored in several locations. We print emails and use paper forms. Creating paper has printing and file folder costs and running paper systems means staff time at every turn, filing time, retrieval and searching time, printing and copying time. Postage costs are incurred sending documents back and forth. Paper-driven costs and tasks continue to stress budgets until records can be destroyed.
Unfortunately, it isn’t just paper burdening our programs. Managing our grants also means using many systems to run programs. Our funders often require us to enter data into systems they provide or prescribe. This means our program staff is forced to move back and forth between paper files and data entry screens, typing data that doesn’t provide us with reporting that we could use for better project management. Moving between paper and computers is a huge efficiency problem for your staff and typing data again and again because systems aren’t connected is one of the worst parts of managing programs.
If these challenges sound familiar, you’re not alone, but more importantly, you are not without options. Tribes are increasingly turning to electronic or digital files to reduce costs, reclaim staff time and enhance their program compliance and impact. Enterprise content management (ECM) offers a platform and tools that can assist with grants and funder-driven programs.
What could an ECM solution do for your program delivery?
Eliminate paper – ECM allows you to go paperless, replacing files with virtual files, securing them centrally and allowing simultaneous access. Unlike paper, once captured, documents are not lost, they are automatically filed and easy to retrieve even from a laptop and mobile devices. Getting rid of the paper saves time and money while enhancing access to information about programs.
Support compliance, automation, and integration for efficiency – Another benefit of eliminating paper is the ability to use automation to enforce program compliance. ECM supports your staff through tools that automate document routing, deadlines, and notifications of new tasks. Using ECM tools also means that you can capture data more efficiency by capturing it directly from paper forms or eliminating paper forms with electronic versions. And, ECM can also connect directly to your data systems for easy access to electronic documents from within your data systems. Exception reporting is also available and can be used to run a system-wide file audit, allowing staff to identify missing documentations before auditors visit and at a fraction of the time that a typical quality assurance or compliance team can sample files. ECM tools give you better compliance, and they improve the user experience of your staff at the same time by connecting data and documents seamlessly.
Understanding the impacts and your processes, without extra work – By going paperless, you also address one of the oldest challenges of Grants Management, project progress and impact. Using ECM, you can map projects using GIS solutions, manage project process and assess bottlenecks and delays with reporting dashboards. These tools give you visibility into program delivery without additional work to aggregate and quantify from your many data sources. This real-time snapshot helps to describe the effect of your programs without taking time away from those programs to create a report.
At one time, it seemed impossible to imagine that our programs could happen without paper. However, the benefits of an ECM solution with data capture, automation, reporting, and integration has changed the minds of funders and program staff. ECM means lower program delivery costs and enhanced compliance, and it does that while improving the workload and experience of program staff. As we face potential budget cuts, it makes sense to look for proven ways to reclaim budget and staff time. With ECM, your grants aren’t managing you; you’re managing them. And, that can make all the difference for your programs and their impact on your members.