Monash Uni strikes deal for grant management support

The Monash University will be implementing Unit4's Agresso management suite that will provide transparency and greater efficiency to the handling of its research grants and contracts.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Melbourne's Monash University has signed a deal with Unit4, which will provide end-to-end management support for its grants and contracts that are worth more than AU$300 million annually.

In partnership with Unit 4's Australian distributor and implementation partner, S1 Consulting, Monash will be implementing three management solutions: Agresso research costing and pricing application, which was developed with the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge; the Agresso award management; and Agresso project costing and billing solutions.

Monash University CIO Ian Tebbett said while the university had been using the same system for nearly 12 years — and there were no real imminent issues — a new process and management system was needed to support the growing grant submissions rate.

"We felt that we needed to look at the fundamentals of the administration processes and that led us to the view that our current system would need major replacement," he said.

"We needed new processes, approaches, and management to make sure we give ourselves the best return for efforts we put into applying and securing these grants in the first place."

The opportunity for a systems overhaul first arose 12 months ago when the previous management solutions provider informed the university — which enrolls 63,000 students every year across Australia, Malaysia, and South Africa — an upgrade was needed, but that meant a complete replacement was required.

"We saw it as an opportunity to rethink what we were going to need in the long term," he said. "From that conclusion, we wanted to test the market and we went through an RFI process and selected the Agresso products from Unit 4 for its financial grant administration tracking aspects."

While the overhaul is not expected to be completed until mid-2015 — mainly because the university is waiting until its research excellence data submissions are over in early 2015 — Tebbett said the new system will eliminate existing manual processes and bring efficiency.

"We want to automate the process. In this area there is a balance between what the academic and the administration community does. We're not trying to save administration at the expense of pushing more back on the researchers. What we're trying to do is make sure the research community can operate efficiently," he said.

One of the other benefits that Tebbett expects to see is greater transparency, and better tracking and reporting, especially when it comes to reporting data to the government.

"We will be able to use our administration resources for less routine work and more support for the academic community. We expect to make better decisions based on a clearer line of sight of what is going on," he said.

"We also expect to satisfy the reporting expectations as they emerge in the future, with a higher automation of the data integrity aspect. This will all add up to ensuring a higher proportion of our money will be based on research, rather than administrating and chasing research grants."

But dramatic system changes like this one — and at this scale — is not unusual for Monash, Tebbett said.

"Monash does have a fairly significant overall IT investment program that has been running for several years; it's not unusual for us to be embarking on a program on this scale," he said.

"Over the last few years we have taken the opportunity to look at our administration, research, and education support systems. We're at a stage where a number of system changes will be happening, which will take us into the next generation."

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