Exploring the Future of Technology in Research Administration

Episode one explores the challenges, best practices and opportunities when research institutions move to the cloud.

6-Minute Read

This podcast series shares different perspectives on where the future of technology for research administration is headed. The first episode features Phil Infurna, managing director at Huron, who specializes in implementing technology services for higher education institutions and academic medical centers.

Listen to learn the biggest challenges institutions face when implementing new technology, how to make the most of your technology investments and why moving to the cloud is an opportunity to transform your institution.


Read Full Podcast Transcript:

Monika: Hi, my name is Monika Vishnubhakat and I am a technology manager at Huron Consulting. This podcast is the first installment of the series to share different perspectives on where the future of technology for research administration is headed.

Monika: I'm pleased to introduce our guest speaker today, Phil Infurna. He's a managing director in Huron's higher education practice focused in providing technology services. Phil, thanks for joining me today.

Phil: Glad to be here.

Monika: So, to kick things off, something I'm often asked is what do we see are the biggest challenges organizations are facing when implementing new technology?

Phil: You know, that's a great question. And something I hear all the time as well. How can we do a better job, how can we learn from the experience that we've had working with many institutions.

And I think something that I see that's often missing from implementation projects is clearly stated business objectives for that project. Your team, your institution is making a significant investment in that technology. It's exciting, it's a great opportunity to shape the future of your operation and your organization.

But really owning that future by making sure your vision for what operations are going to look like after the new software is in use is really a key part of getting the job done well. Make that a reality. And really, in many ways the software installation itself is the easy part.

I think folks want to know a lot about what we can do to make the software part go better. But really given the investment of time and money being made, I think it's really making sure that you don't miss the opportunity to have and make an impact on your organization and use the software project as a catalyst for achieving a better future for your team, your institution and your operation at large.

Monika: Do you think that this challenge is linked to finding the right vendor for new software?

Phil: Well, you know, in my position I'm often engaged in the cycle of acquiring software, as the software provider or the implementation partner at that point when we're engaged. So, I see how this looks through the sort of lens of the RFPs or the RFP process.

And I think that one of the things that I see is that the business sponsor's voice or vision sometimes is lost in that cycle. So, as I was saying above, I think the key piece is making sure that you have those business objectives and that your future for what you're going to get out of the implementation is clearly known.

That needs to really cascade down into where the project is launched and when it's launched. And really, that time or that moment is when you're selecting a software partner and kicking off the project. And so, I often see an RFP start out with institution XYZ seeks to acquire a modern system for, you know, insert your system function, grants management, compliance, etc.

And then you go into the details about the organization, but often, I'm looking for or seeking information throughout the process. All that's great, but what do you want to achieve, what do you want to see different about your organization beyond just having a new piece of software installed. Not that that isn't a key part of it, but what do you want to achieve around the edges and fringes of the software itself.

Monika: When selecting the right software that is going to best meet your business objectives, institutions still need to ensure that their vision stays the objective during the implementation. How do they do that?

Phil: I think it goes down to what I've been saying sort of throughout here is making sure those business objectives are clear and making sure everybody knows what they are and how they can do a part in seeing those objectives through.

One of those ways is to have really well articulated metrics for meeting those objectives. So, maybe you have an objective about improving the efficiency of your operation or improving the experience of the investigators that are working with your group.

So, you may seek to find specific metrics that you can use that if met will convey that you've met the objective. So, maybe it's turnaround time in your cycle of review for an animal protocol or an IRB protocol.

And so, you may actually look for a metric or multiple metrics that you can use to say, "We'll know we've met the objectives if this gets improved." Or maybe it's about investigator satisfaction. So, you may actually seek to do some surveying of satisfaction before, during, and after your implementation so you can really measure whether or not you've met that broader objective of improving researcher satisfaction, principal investigator (PI) satisfaction if that's one of your goals.

So, it all comes down to making sure those objectives, those business objectives are front and center throughout the implementation and beyond. If you make sure that's the case, if you as a business sponsor are focused on that and making sure everyone's focused on your vision for what you're trying to achieve here, then you're more likely to see those results and get more out of the investment of all your time and money.

Monika: Phil, thanks so much for participating in our podcast today. And thanks to those who have listened to this broadcast. You can catch the full series on our website www.Huronconsultinggroup.com/subscribe

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