Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Why process automation is the new black

There’s a lot of talk about process automation - why?
Process automation drives the success of every organization by ensuring the constant movement of workflow. It’s part of your everyday whether you realize it or not. Take your pay stub - the entire process of working out your salary, calculating tax deductions, adding benefits and direct debiting your pay into your account - is process automation hard at work.
So why is the granting sector still relying on Post-it notes and spreadsheets to track funding calls and payment schedules?
First, let's back up and explain what we mean by 'business process’. Every organization is driven by processes - even grantmaking. You may not use the term ‘process’, but look close enough and you’ll find a set of processes in everything you do - just think of how you manage grant applications. The question is - are your processes automated - and should they be?   
Why should grantmakers care?
Repetitive, manual tasks aren’t fun. They’re time consuming and cumbersome. That’s why organizations look to automation to simplify crusty processes in need of a good shake up.  
Process automation saves you time and ensures accuracy. It can be applied to any number of processes involving any number of people.

What’s more - automation lets us focus on more important things. By 2025, experts predict automation will take over a third of our roles - and interestingly, 55% of employees feel positively about that, according to a recent study by ADP.
When it comes down to it, a grants management system is really a process automation tool tailored to a grantmaker's key processes. Listening to grantmakers, they tell us that granting can sometimes seem less about impact, and more about staying on top of paper trails. With lots of moving parts, the core functions of managing applications has plenty of opportunities for automation - from tackling heavy admin tasks, to routing the right information to the right people at the right time.
An automated future
It’s only a matter of time before all foundations - with big purse strings and little ones - will be using some form of process automation tool. Never slow to spot efficiency-savings, the private sector has been replacing sluggish processes with automated end-to-end alternatives for years.
Ready for an automation makeover?   
Keep in mind that most great process automation solutions will give you the flexibility to streamline your process without having to adapt it to the tool you’re using. Flexibility is a key value that we hang our hat on at SmartSimple, and it’s something we’re (quietly) proud to brag about.
But don’t take our word for it - have a look at the 2016 ‘Consumer’s Guide to Grants Management Systems’ by Idealware for some independent advice. In it, we came out on top in terms of the flexibility we offer, and came second overall.
To review the findings in more detail, have a look at this infographic we created to summarize the results of the report.  

Friday, November 4, 2016

5 critical first steps to creating better granting outcomes

How do you know you’ve been making a difference with your granting initiatives? That’s what every grantmaker is asking or being asked by their donors, funders and boards. While it’s important to know what you’ve accomplished, it’s even more important to have a solid understanding of how to gather, organize, analyze and share data, in order to ensure your granting activities achieve impactful, measurable results; this is where predictive analytics comes into play.

Predictive analytics uses your data to paint a picture of what is likely to happen in the future. This gives you the insight to make better, more informed decisions; increasing your ability to create positive change. Large corporations, retail chains, marketing companies and even sports franchises have been using this process to successfully forecast outcomes for decades, and it can be an invaluable tool for grantmakers.

Any successful predictive analytics program starts with 5 key steps:

1. Develop a Business Understanding. Identify your current situation and use your organizational goals to create a project plan. This plan will help you decide what constitutes success and will provide you with direction in achieving that success.

2. Develop a Data Understanding. Like most granting organizations, you likely have a large amount of data that you’ve collected over the years. Understanding your datasets is critical in ensuring that you’re properly organizing them for future use.

3. Bucket your Data. Once you know what data you have, you can begin to group your data into different categories. This is an important step because your data buckets will reflect what you want to achieve with your project plan. There are 2 specific variables you need to consider for this type of analytics exercise:
  • Discrete variables, where no group of data is more important or valuable than any other, and
  • Ratio variables, where data can be assigned a rating that is measurable and puts it into a hierarchy (eg. A is better than B).

4. Explore your Data. Step 4 involves extracting the relevant data from your buckets so that  you can identify what will support your project plan and help achieve your goals. Remember, analytics is as much about using the right data as it is the actual collection of it.

5. Create the Data MODEL. The final step is to create a data MODEL. This is where you take a look at the datasets that may be causing some confusion around your results. Predictive analytics is only valuable to the extent that the data you’re using for analysis is the data you should be using to address the questions you’re looking to answer. This last step closes the loop on managing the integrity of your data. As the acronym MODEL suggests, there are 5 key items in the checklist that need to be reviewed:
  • Missing - is there any information that isn’t included?
  • Odd - the data may be correct but there’s a good possibility it’s not
  • Duplicate - are there records of a specific piece of data that appear more than once?
  • Erroneous - there is very clearly an error in the data
  • Logical Error - is there an identifiable error based on the rest of the data collected?

If you're serious about using predictive analytics as a tool and want more detail on where to begin, SmartSimple's Getting Started with Predictive Analytics; A Grantmakers Playbook is an ideal starting point. This valuable resource will get you on the right track to building an analytics program for your organization.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

SmartSimple October 2016 Upgrade Highlights

We’ve got a total of 47 new features and enhancements for our October 2016 Upgrade. That’s 47 more ways we’re continuing to prove our commitment to our clients’ needs.

Of note, we’ve streamlined reporting, created a more intuitive user interface for Arcadia X, and introduced new beta features to strengthen the platform for you and your users.

Reporting Features
Enhanced Neo Report Builder
Creating impactful reports is always a challenge, so we continue to add functionality to our Neo Report Builder tool, working to make the process as painless as possible.
Enhanced Neo Report Builder provides simplified report building
We’ve expanded the number of data sets and fields available based on your reporting requirements. You can now include data for user and company event activities, notes, and status name for an increased range of options.

In-Line Data Grid
This new field type will give you the ability to build an Excel-style grid directly on the page you’re working on without having to open a second window. This is ideal for simple budget creation or data that needs to be presented in a grid format. There is also a separate save button for the page so you don’t have to go in and out of a document to save your information.
In-Line Data Grid offers an easy way to present data in an Excel-like style
Bulk HCAI Submissions
We’ve streamlined the invoice submission process for Ontario insurance clients. Now, you have the option to submit invoices to HCAI in bulk rather than needing to do them one at a time. Your claims administrators will save valuable time and limit the possibility of data entry errors.

Bulk HCAI submissions are now available in SmartSimple
User Interface Features
Arcadia Headers
To improve navigation and save on screen real estate, we’ve made some revisions to the Arcadia X interface. Portal access has been moved up to the top of the page and aligned with the header. Standard Arcadia X features have been consolidated into a single menu icon to make it easier to use and find what you’re looking for. It only takes a single click to see what links are grouped in each window.
A cleaner look for the Arcadia X interface
New Help Icon
Our new help icon will make finding tooltips within SmartSimple easier. Now, instead of underlining content where additional help is available, an easily identifiable question mark icon will pop up so it’s clear where you can access assistance. The icon is accessible whether working on an application, processing submissions for review, or creating reports.

IRS Subcategory Settings and Look-Up Options
A vital part of your granting process is being able to accurately identify the tax standing of your applicants. So, we’ve made two enhancements to assist you when using the IRS database.

The new subcategory settings option offers a more granular view of your applicant organizations. Gain in-depth knowledge on the status of each potential grantee, rather than just seeing a high-level overview.

We’ve also enhanced our IRS database integration from within the sign-up page so you can retrieve as much detail as you need to accurately process your grants. New fields include:
  • Type
  • Foundation code
  • Organization type
  • Status

Privacy Policy Enhancement
You now have the option to require users to accept the conditions of your privacy and other policies before they can access your system. This gives you the opportunity to confirm that applicants fully understand your specific terms of service, requiring them to acknowledge their comprehension before beginning the granting process. This ensures there’s no confusion of what has been agreed to, while managing the expectations of your grantees.

UTA Delete Button

In addition to controlling the level of permissions required by your users to add information to a particular field, being able to manage who can delete information, when and how is just as important. Our enhanced UTA Delete Button offers the opportunity to not just have the option to delete, but to set specific business rules.

For example, your managers may have always been able to delete a grant, but now can only delete specific grants under $1 million or only after a particular date or grantee action has taken place. This gives much more granular control over the precise actions administrators can take when managing your users’ information.

Beta Features
Data Classification
A well-planned data classification system makes essential data easy to find and retrieve. This can be of particular importance for risk management, legal discovery, and compliance. Written procedures and guidelines for data classification should define what categories and criteria the organization will use to classify data and specify the roles and responsibilities of employees within the organization.

Our Data Classification feature provides the power to create any number of data classes within your system and assign them to custom field types. You can now create security policies and attach them to any class of data. This means you maintain complete control of the visibility of field data across your entire platform, making it easy to apply access policies at the global level.

Media Library
In today’s world, digital content/media is accessible and consumable on a multitude of device and browser types. However, based on the capabilities of any given device or browser, file type, and size requirements can differ significantly. That means, in order to review any specific media type, people are required to download and use their own players locally or use links to sites such as Vimeo and YouTube. So how do you guarantee a positive user experience?
Share, review, and annotate with SmartSimple's Media Library
The SmartSimple solution provides a consistent user experience while also limiting copyright concerns. This will make it easier for your users to access and view any media file uploaded to your SmartSimple system. All files will now be optimized for better viewing in any browser, on any device. Users can also review and comment on any media file in the system.

Learn More
Be sure to review all the enhancements on our SmartSimple Wiki to ensure you’re up-to-speed on everything you need to know for our October 2016 Upgrade.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

How SmartSimple is helping change the lives of high-risk children and youth

The numbers don’t lie; children who suffer from untreated mental health issues in their formative years are at significant risk for a future of behavioral problems, unemployment, incarceration and even suicide.
Did you know?
  • An estimated one in five Canadian children experience mental health issues
  • Approximately 60% of incarcerated males in Canada have a history of childhood conduct problems
  • It’s estimated that future costs for a career criminal can be up to $6.5M if no early intervention takes place
It’s why SmartSimple was eager to help Child Development Institute (CDI) and their SNAP (Stop Now And Plan) National Expansion Campaign. “At SmartSimple, we firmly believe technology has the power to do good things, so whenever we see an opportunity to apply our expertise to help an organization meet their goals, we’re happy to facilitate.”
SNAP is an evidence-based intervention model designed to positively change the lives of high-risk children in their middle years, and their families. It was developed by CDI, an accredited children’s mental health agency performing ground-breaking work in developing innovative programming.
Specifically, SNAP was developed as an intervention program for children under the age of 12 in conflict with the law. It has evolved into an internationally-recognized program that focuses on emotion regulation, self-control and problem-solving and teaches children with behavioral problems, and their parents, how to make better choices "in the moment."
“Finding state-of-the-art solutions for dealing with children’s disruptive behavior and lack of self-control can only benefit future generations and make life better for children everywhere,” says Mike Reid, COO of SmartSimple. “SNAP had a clear plan to do good work, and we knew, by sponsoring their National Expansion Campaign, we could support that plan in a tangible way. SNAP was a perfect fit for us, and we for them. SmartSimple’s unique Universal Tracking Application (UTA) not only ensures each child’s case is tracked, pertinent data shared with global researchers, but their confidential information is kept completely private.” SmartSimple has been given the honor of Featured Supporter of the SNAP campaign due to our assistance with their program.
“We are very grateful to SmartSimple for applying their expertise to SNAP,” said Dr. Leena Augimeri, CDI’s Director of Scientific and Program Development and co-founder of SNAP. “SmartSimple has made significant impact on the SNAP National Expansion Campaign by developing SNAPiT – an exclusive service delivery portal which will be used by 140 organizations to track outcome data, create efficiencies in service delivery processes and facilitate communities of practice from coast to coast. As a non-profit organization with a long-term vision for social change, yet with limited resources, this kind of support is essential to our work.
SNAP has proven to be effective and provide significant financial savings to society as a whole. It’s estimated that future costs for a career criminal will be between $1.5 - $6.5M if no early intervention takes place. In contrast, it costs approximately $4,000 for a child and their family to participate in SNAP, representing a savings of close to $150,000 per youth if SNAP is successful.
Ongoing research has also shown:
  • Children ages 6-12 are excellent candidates for learning self-control strategies.
  • Recent research indicates that 68% of SNAP participants will not have a criminal record by age 19.
  • A Benefit Cost Analysis on SNAP showed that there is a $17 - $32 return for every $1 invested in the program.

The following infographic shows clearly how serious the impact of children's mental health issues are on society, and how early intervention can substantially improve young lives:

“SmartSimple is truly pleased to be able to provide the solution to facilitate SNAP’s global expansion. They have an incredible pedigree and we will continue to do whatever we can to help them collect, analyze and report on the data that will assist the future of child development research.”
Be sure to check out the SNAP blog to learn more about how SmartSimple helped CDI and the SNAP initiative achieve their goals.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

6 Reasons Your Organization Should Consider GMS Essentials

You’re a grants manager with a small team. You only handle a few grant programs a year and your application and processing requirements are pretty basic and straightforward. You’ve been using a mix of emails, spreadsheets and paper files to keep track of everything.

It’s not an ideal solution, and since you’ve been thinking about expanding your program, you’re concerned that this current set-up won’t be able to handle a more complex granting process.

Fortunately, SmartSimple has introduced a new grants management product – GMS Essentials – that’s designed specifically for organizations that want to expand their granting activities. Whether that means adding more programs or introducing more complex application processes, GMS Essentials will provide the added features and functionality to manage your applications, tracking, reporting and awards processes in one centralized location.
Why is GMS Essentials the best choice for a growing organization? Here are six key reasons why it might be time to take your process into the cloud with SmartSimple:
  1. A build-as-you-go system GMS Essentials is completely scalable and 100% configurable, so as your needs grow, your platform grows with you. You can turn on additional features as you need, or have the SmartSimple team configure them for you.
  2. Dynamic key features GMS Essentials combines four robust modules – submission manager, meeting manager, budget manager and program manager – that form the foundation of the platform. Each module makes it faster and easier to manage and track your granting program no matter the number of grants, grantees or applicants.
  3. Fully configurable reporting and dashboard capabilities The intuitive interface makes building dashboards and creating comprehensive reports painless. GMS Essentials comes with a range of visual options for displaying your information in a way that’s meaningful to all your stakeholders.
  4. Rapid implementation process Our Rapid Deploy team will not only work with you every step of the way, they’ll get your system up and running quickly. They’ll ensure that every aspect of the platform is setup to suit your needs.
  5. No IT expertise required GMS Essentials was designed with the grants manager in mind, so you don’t need a dedicated IT expert to manage the system. We’ll make sure you learn what you need to maintain your platform, plus, our Support Team is always available if you need help.
  6. No coding needed We know not everyone has coding experience. Thankfully, GMS Essentials has been created to empower your grantees to code their own applications so you don’t have to.
Curious to know more?

Learn how GMS Essentials can deliver the automation capabilities to keep your entire granting process organized by requesting a demo.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

From Sea to Shining Sea: Meeting the Needs of US Government Granting

No two granting organizations are alike, and this is especially true for government agencies. The levels and layers of funding that move from federal government departments down to state agencies and out into local communities is a complex trail that is challenging to track, validate and report on.

Kenny Lew, CEO, Innovation Network
How are they currently coping with these challenges? What are the key concerns for government granting agencies at the state and federal level? We had the opportunity to sit down with one of our partners, and expert in software implementation, Kenny Lew. Lew is the CEO of the Innovation Network, a D.C. based provider of cloud-based software platforms for organizations looking for flexible automation solutions. “Our team has been working with government granting since our inception 12 years ago,” says Lew.
Lew and his team of experts are keenly aware of the unique challenges facing government granting agencies and the organizations they support at the state and local level. “Tracking and managing the flow of money is more complex because the dollars travel through multiple organizations.
"Let’s say for instance the Department of Justice provides $4 million to the State of Maryland to fund safety initiatives. Those funds would then flow from various state agencies down to select community organizations whose grant applications to the State were approved for initiatives such as educational seminars on community safety, gun safety in schools and the purchase of bulletproof vests. Keep in mind this is just a basic example, the granting process is generally far more complex.
"At the end of the day, the state agencies are responsible to not only receive and approve grants applications, but fund them, track them, and report backup to the State of Maryland and the Department of Justice. It’s a lot to keep track of to ensure that appropriate initiatives are meeting the goals of the federal government agency.
"What can add even greater complexity is that some community groups may only receive funding from a single government agency while others may be funded by multiple agencies, and it all needs to be accounted for. Plus, when you’re dealing with thousands of grants, the sheer volume makes managing and tracking funds even more difficult.”
There’s also a higher level of responsibility required of government agencies to be accountable and transparent. When you’re dealing with hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money, that’s to be expected. State-funded grants are public record, so tracking and reporting must be complete and accurate.
Up to now, there has been no single tool or software platform robust or flexible enough to manage all this information. “Today, many agencies at every level use their own solution, be it custom software, paper, spreadsheet programs or a combination of all three. It would be absolute nirvana to have one, single, centralized system that could handle everything for every level of government and the community agencies they fund.”
Being a leader in grants management software, SmartSimple already had the expertise and experience to provide solutions for granting organizations with diverse and unique needs, so, with input from the specialists at the Innovation Network, we created a new product geared to meet the complex requirements of government granting agencies.

SmartSimple Revere offers a single platform solution for single and multi-state granting. Now, state agencies and the organizations they fund can track and report on every dollar granted out, starting from the state or federal funding source, all the way through to the organizations receiving their grants.
A highly flexible and dynamic system, SmartSimple Revere also has the ability to evolve and grow as the requirements of individual agencies evolve and grow.
“SmartSimple’s implementation and licensing models are conducive to the processes of granting and re-granting that’s unique to the US government. It captures all of the relevant data in one centralized platform, providing an end-to-end solution. And, SmartSimple Revere imports granting information directly from, supports Federal Grants Reporting, and supports the preferred data formatting requirements for the government,” concludes Lew.
Visit the SmartSimple Revere page to learn more about this latest solution. Curious to know more? Request a demo of the Revere 1 or Revere 2 platform to see it in action.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Why 2016 US election issues mean so much – and so little – to Silicon Valley

In an industry that’s been careful not to play political favourites, it’s not hard to guess who Silicon Valley will be voting for in 2016. With the exception of Peter Thiel, “The Donald” is scaring Silicon Valley leaders. A lot.

It should be a good match. After all, Donald Trump is the poster-boy for capitalism and less government. And the new philanthropists from Silicon Valley (while reportedly much more generous with their wealth) aren’t averse to the wages of capitalism. And frankly, they just want to be left alone to go about their business. But that’s where the similarity ends.

Republican Party nominee Donald Trump (left) and Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton (right) 

Silicon Valley unites against Trump

Trump’s vocal anti-immigration stance is the prime reason he has the tech industry worried. In particular, his claim that the H1-B visas have to go has alarm bells ringing up and down the valley. It’s estimated that each H1-B salary offers a savings of $30,000 a year and that these hires are 100x more impactful than their counterparts.

Trump’s policies spell trouble for thought leadership and bottom lines in Silicon Valley, where 37.4% of the population is foreign-born (albeit not all on H1-B visas).

His staunch support of law enforcement in the FBI/Apple issue didn’t win him a lot of fans in the area, either.

Clinton’s love-letter to Silicon Valley

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton’s tech policy and wooing of the industry stand her in good stead with the tech giants. (You can check in on their courtship via Hillary’s love-letter to the industry).

And, Clinton comes with philanthropy creds. Hillary Clinton’s commitment to helping women could be a turning point for women in the U.S. and worldwide if this level of focus is shared by Silicon Valley philanthropists.

Hillary campaign CTO Stephanie Hannon, red scarf right of center, poses with supporters. Photo Credit: Hillary for America.

Why the outcome matters to philanthropy

The most important reason the 2016 election matters to philanthropy? Government has less and less to spend. The Clinton entourage has experience and proven success in brokering deals and bringing government, corporate and non-profit sectors together.

The potential impact of Silicon Valley philanthropy is staggering, given this opportunity. David Callahan provides an inspiring look at the possibilities in Inside Philanthropy.

Philanthropists participate in a Plan Bay Area Public Meeting in Mountain View, CA. Photos Credit: Noah Berger.

Why then, does 2016 matter so little?

In a nutshell, Silicon Valley philanthropists simply march to their own tune. Engineered solutions to the world’s problems. Disruption and risk-taking. A hands-on approach to giving. Corporate structures for philanthropy. These are all hallmarks of the new philanthropy that Silicon Valley has invented and embraced.

And whether you’re for it or not, this style of giving, born and bred in Silicon Valley by young, determined industry leaders, won’t stand or fall based on the next occupant of the White House.