Does this sound familiar? You recently started a new grants management job and are embarking on the tough journey of changing the grants management solution (or lack thereof). If only you could talk with someone who just went through this to get some advice…
Lucky for you, I did just that.
During the past year I worked with Sally* as she successfully convinced her new bosses and colleagues to change their grants management software. Afterwards, I spent some time with her discussing lessons learned and suggestions for others. Here are her pearls of wisdom.
- Do Your Research: This isn’t merely market research, but also research within your organization. You need to understand the existing operations, including your organization’s unique challenges and inefficiencies. But, don’t forget to keep in mind what does work well. Once you understand the current state of affairs, you can start looking at different grants management solutions. Having learned what does and does not work well will help steer your conversations with the vendors. Make sure to get supporting data on your proposed solution that will help you “sell” it internally.
- Expect Pushback: Even if, during your interviews, management expressed a desire to make changes to improve their process, don’t be surprised if these same individuals now seem opposed to the idea. Some people can embrace change in theory, but can’t seem to move forward when actually faced with it. This is likely to be even more the case if you weren’t tasked with this as the new hire.
- Frame the Conversation: When responding to the inevitable naysayers, frame the conversation in terms of existing problems and how your solution will address them. This includes juxtaposing the existing software (if any) with the proposed software, and potentially other competitors, to show how your recommendation would have the most significant positive impact. Couching your ideas in that manner will make it harder for someone to reject them.
- Engage Your Team: For some organizations, the grants management “team” is really an army of one. For those in a management position, you should involve your team during the entire process. You’re much more likely to get help in the areas above if they’ve felt it was genuinely a team decision and not a dictatorship. Additionally, having the support of the team goes a long way towards convincing the ultimate decision makers.
- Set Expectations: Be careful when persuading your audience that you don’t oversell it. When you implement the new grants management solution, some things will work as expected while others may work better or worse. Don’t set yourself up for failure by promising the moon; you’ve done your research and your proposed solution is better, but nothing is perfect. When facing continued challenges, Sally closed the deal with, “Some things will work, some won’t, but we should give it a shot.”
*Name has been changed to protect the innocent.