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Research contract management for Stellenbosch University reduces research admin, increasing contract compliance.
As a research-intensive institution, Stellenbosch University (SU) is dependent on funding from all over the world. As much as 73% of the university’s research contract income comes from overseas, and such funding is subject to strict compliance and legislative requirements.
However, the university was using a legacy research contract system that was implemented back in 2006.
When the government introduced new legislation pertaining to higher education, the university did not have the technological capacity to meet compliance and reporting requirements in an automated form. Thus, various manually intensive processes needed to be performed to ensure compliance.
“I had to keep spreadsheets to capture data that couldn’t be housed by our legacy system,” explains Cornelia Malherbe, Director: Research Contracts, Stellenbosch University. “This caused problems in terms of data integrity. Plus, reporting turned into a highly complex and time-consuming process.”
SIS Global developed and implemented a new centralised Research Contract Management (RCM) system for SU, with the consent and co-operation of the university's IT division. The system is based on the functional requirements drafted by the university and uses Microsoft Dynamics CRM. This has enabled SU's research contract team and faculty management to collaborate easily and effectively by connecting through a common Microsoft cloud platform.
Over time, this flexible, scalable and secure platform can be extended to build new solutions and integrate with other Microsoft technologies as and when the university requires.
The system includes all the new fields required by the university to adhere to new compliance requirements and report effectively on all new and future legislation from the government.
Given its considerable experience in the education and technology sectors, SIS Global was able to hit the ground running and manage the project within tight deadlines.
“I was delighted with how prepared SIS Global's project manager, Teresa Masters, was. She understood our functional requirements right from the beginning, bringing impressive insights to the project throughout its execution,” says Malherbe.
“She was professional under pressure and a pleasure to work with. We’re a large team to manage, so her excellent interpersonal skills made a difference. If we had any issues whatsoever, we knew she was just a phone call away.”
Today, the RCM department’s data is cleaner and of a higher quality, which facilitates better reporting all-round, and the university's reports are presented in an easily digestible format. Now when Malherbe and her team need to create reports, everything is housed centrally on the system; they no longer need to collate data from multiple sources.
In addition, many tasks that had to be completed manually are now automated on the system, and the functional requirements can easily be upgraded on an as-needed basis. So, when new government legislation comes in, the system can be quickly and easily updated to accommodate the new requirements.
Business efficiency has dramatically improved, thanks to the streamlining of cumbersome administrative processes. For instance, the Department of Science and Technology completes a compulsory annual statutory survey in which all income is classified. This task, which is now completed in a matter of minutes on the system, used to take accountants weeks to complete and involved classifying thousands of transactions manually.
SU is following a similar approach as the financial solution to classify expenditures as well, making this demanding task that much easier.
Furthermore, the RCM system is fully future-proof. Many of the benefits will only become apparent in two to three years, when contracts are coming to an end and certain tasks are automatically flagged.
“Thanks to SIS Global and an excellent team within SU, my dreams of a fully functioning RCM system have become a reality,” says Malherbe.