Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: Information system used to track key elements of research administration/funding-named eRSO
Year Submitted 2006
Name of Institution University of Calgary
Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) <br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> Martin Kirk<br /> <br /> <br /> <br />
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Director, Research Services Office
Telephone: 403-220-4613
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.

With a directive from the RSO management, the System was designed from the ground-up by completely involving the users as the experts in the workflow processes. Using iterative methods (DSDM as mentioned above) and with the assistance of a business analyst, each of the users mapped and modeled their workflow processes. This design process included identifying all sources, the quality of source data, how the data should be collected, managed and quality checked. The users then worked with the programmers as testers and implementers. As each system was rolled out for testing, the users had the final word on whether it was complete or required rework. Moving forward with the next generation eRSO V2.0, the eRSO users contributed to the inherent improvements found in the next version. Combining their expertise with that of research offices from across the country ProcessPathways has built a set of core Systems (with the U of Calgary as the prime beta test site) that are suitable in any Canadian University environment. It goes without saying that involving the users early in the Systems analysis and design creates a sense of ownership and responsibility for performance, accuracy and sustainability. The programmers and architects ensure that the system will scale to the needs of the RSO and continue to provide ongoing support. Currently eRSO is growing to include selfservice through researcher and institutional portals and to capture and integrate such complexity as partnership funding, serious local adverse events, multi-center clinical trials and a multitude of research certifications e.g. Bio-safety, Animal Care, Radioactivity and Clinical Safety. eRSO is a reflection of the people who work in this field every day; talented, enthusiastic and driven to deliver the best support possible for their research community.

Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.

It is a well known fact that while most university research offices function to support the on going funding and regulatory compliance of their researcher's work, the type and size of the research projects defines their methods. Further, the number of users of a system varies substantially depending on the extent of the distribution of work, transaction types and volumes.

Responding to the requirement for flexibility the "core" system components of eRSO manage 50-100% of any research office's requirements. To accommodate the need for customization, the system has been architected using a proven software technology that allows modification to both core and high level functions. Many of the needs of the university research office can be met by local control of configuration once the system has been installed. This removes the requirement to have programmers re-code the functions. The power of these features has been proven by transplanting the next generation of the main campus Research Services Office System to the University of Calgary's growing Medical School, the Calgary Health Region and soon to the new Veterinary school. Data from the these Systems integrates with the institutional data warehouse for reporting on research funding activity, award and contract funding projections and in combination with financial information from Research and Trust Accounting, creates trust accounts that enable the creation of local and Agency bound financial reports. Further, portability has been demonstrated with the installation of the system at three (3) other universities in Canada. There has been significant interest by over 30 Canadian universities which are at the mid-point in the evaluation for their local needs. From a consortium viewpoint there is significant interest in rationalizing the management of grants, awards and certifications in Canada. eRSO, co-created by the University of Calgary and ProcessPathways Inc. www.processpathways.com is at the forefront of helping universities improve their processes and data quality through representation in the Canadian Association of University Research Administrators (CAURA) and the Canadian Association of Research Ethics Boards (CAREB). The system is currently being marketed by Process Pathways in partnership with the University of Calgary, is available in part or whole depending on the number of modules required. To assist institutions with offices of a lesser size than the G10, a light version has been created and will be made available to a market of 40 smaller institutions in spring 2006.

Quality Impact

The purpose of undertaking the project was to create a reliable electronic database that would facilitate the capture, management and reporting of research activity. As research at the Universityof Calgarycontinued to grow from $79MM in 96/97 to $172MM in 00/01 and now $282MM in 04/05 it became increasingly important that ail supporting data and documents be carefully managed to ensure both internal and external regulatory compliance. An increase in the frequency of audits, the need for good data for planning purposes placed increasing pressure on the Research Services Office. The complexity of research administration escalated through the creation of new partnership programs eg the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Canada research chairs etc. The need for quality further exceeded initial expectations as the University of Calgaryundertook the replacement of core enterprise Systems. It was not long into the enterprise project where it became evident that that eRSO system housed the most reliable data on campus specific to research activities. This system became the "feed" for such Systems as the Academic Annual Report, creation and management of trust accounts in the new enterprise system, and set the standard for authoritative information about researchers, funding agencies and their projects.

Productivity Impact

Creation of eRSO encouraged the active cooperation and learning across functional teams both within and outside the Research Services Office. Mapping and modeling processes and workflow required that the interdependencies that existed between groups had to be fully understood and validated. For the first time, information would be available to everyone who could be impacted by a transaction or change in status including the provision of real-time reporting for the researchers via portal views of data specific to their projects. A key goal of the system was to reduce time and effort required when responding to requests for award status, ad hoc reports, generating periodic reports and automatically generating and delivering notices. Funding for administrative staff had been stagnant until the recent infusion of Federal Indirect Cost of Research funding.. Compounding this issue was the increasing trend of retiring brain trust. Experienced employees where reaching the end of their work life requiring replacement of critical positions where, because of their inherent knowledge of the transactions, were able to quickly resolve inquiries, A newly trained workforce became increasingly dependant on the quality and ease of use of the new eRSO database to continue this quality of service. These newly trained staff also required an intuitive user interface that fetched ail information pertaining to a project to one screen. No longer was the data kept in silos; it became distributed. In every case, significant gains in productivity and accuracy were achieved while the number of research grants and the associated work surrounding each increased. The system has and continues to deliver the functions necessary to meet the needs of the University of Calgary.


When the University of Calgary first went to the marketplace to find a replacement for a broken local database they surveyed colleagues throughout Canada and the United States. Everywhere they went the answer was the same "We don't have a good system, no one company offers a system that meets our needs, so if you find one let us know. If you build one, please let us know when we can look at it." This message echoed through every institution until a decision was made at the University of Calgary to investigate building a system from scratch. Knowing from experience how risky this can be, the University Research Office contracted ProcessPathways to, working with its staff and management, map and model ail existing processes, improve on those processes and workflow and then model a prototype of a data system that could be built using modem programming methods and technology. The new research administration system design evolved through the use of iterative Dynamic Software Development Methodologies (DSDM)1 to yield the design for a software solution. Once the requirements were fully understood, the Universityof Calgarycontracted with ProcessPathways to build and deploy the System. A custom solution, the system has been in operation since early 2002 with zero downtime. Recognizing the continued interest of other institutions, ProcessPathways in cooperation with the Universityof Calgary created a transportable solution built using next generation software tools that enabled the system to be configured and expanded not only in its Medical School but also other Canadian universities. While we are not aware of similar Systems submitted to CAUBO it has been previously verified through an exhaustive study of other commercially available Systems that nothing responds or competes on economy or functionality with eRSO.


1 Initiated as consortium of 16 people in 1994, DSDM is a framework which embodies much of the current knowledge about project management by considering the industry best practices. DSDM is rooted in the software development community, but the convergence of software development, process engineering and hence business development projects has changed the DSDM framework to become a general framework.