Multi-Institutional Implementation Strategy

In last month’s edition of InfoEdge, I began this three-part series with an overview of the concept of a multi-institutional approach to a Research Administration project.  By way of review, a multi-institutional approach is one that allows a system or consortium group of institutions implement a standardized approach to  research administration for all members, while at the same time, allowing the individual institutions enough autonomy as to operate as necessary.  In this month’s article, I want to discuss some of the strategies for implementing a system of this nature and as well as some of the challenges that should be considered and thoroughly reviewed before undertaking this work.

One of the first things to consider when potentially undertaking this type of implementation is how the parent-child relationship will be structured.  Remember, in last month’s article I introduced the concept of a ‘parent’ and ‘child’ configuration.  On the parent level, the system should be standardized and configured so it can be made available to all child institutions as a starting point, from which then the child can configure processes that may be unique to their organization.  The question to consider is:  Who is the parent organization and how much control can they exert over the child institution?  The parent institution is one that will have most security rights enabled to allow for the proper configurations to be developed.  Conversely, once the configuration is provided to the child, the parent will have access to all of the information that is supplied by the child institution.  In the case of a governmental organization implementing a system for its funded entities, this may be acceptable, as the need to report on the research for which they have provided funding may be paramount.  In other cases, many times on an institutional system level, this is not an acceptable practice and the confidentiality of the child’s information must be highly regarded.

Now, the “Who is the Parent?” question might not be that hard to answer, if one thinks about it from another perspective.  Rather than having a single institution be the parent, there is always the ability for a specific department, like IT, to be the parent and configure the modules as directed by the subject matter experts within the institutions.  IT will be the keeper of the system, including the hardware and software, and they will have access to configure the system as directed.  They, at the end of the day, will be the ones that will be able to ‘see’ all data….but in most cases this is not an issue as they have the ability to ‘see’ the data at any point in time.  The key to this being successful is ensuring there is a representative group of subject matter experts from across the institutions that provide the input to the configuration.  In some instances, this may be called the ‘pilot’ implementation.  Making the system available to the individual institutions would then be called the rollout phase.  To standardize on a configuration that crosses many institutions in the pilot phase will help to ensure an easier and more economical roll-out phase at the child or institution level.

Another thing to consider when starting an implementation of a multi-institutional nature, which is not unlike the inception of any other implementation, but can be argued as being more complex, is the how and what, if any, information you want to retrieve and report from the collective.  So often, implementations are started without thought to the reporting needs or end results that are required and many times were the justification by which the funding for the implementation was approved.  Nowhere is this more important than a multi-institutional implementation.  Government agencies are looking for data that defines and describes the collective and their research outputs.  Funding bodies are looking for details as to how the funding may have been used or what the funding fostered.  An institutional system is looking for the collective results to be more influential and prominent than the individual institutions from which it is comprised.  The output requirements will dictate the standardized configurations that need to be in place, but more importantly, will dictate the amount of configuration that an individual child institution can perform and still comply with the reporting requirements.

These are just some of the questions that need to be reviewed and answered before undertaking this type of implementation.  The age-old questions of resources, project timelines, and training are still items that need to be addressed but undertaking a multi-institutional approach compounds some aspects of the project.

In next month’s article, I will spend some time discussing the maintenance and support ramifications of implementing this approach.

Need more information on this topic or how this approach may be useful for you, please contact Bill Kupiec – Vice President International Market Development at


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