Thanks to all who completed our eSPA satisfaction survey. We received a total of 133 responses. Twenty percent of respondent had not used the system and no additional data was collected from those respondents. Sixty-five percent of respondents find the Cayuse system easy or “neutral” to use with only 3% saying it is very difficult.
In terms of training and support resources, more respondents had participated in group training, but as would be expected, one-on-one training was rated as the most helpful. There was no interest in follow-up training. There was a great deal of positive feedback about the ease of use, ability to track all phases of proposal routing, ability to have all pieces of a proposal in one place, and the speed and ease of paperless routing. About a dozen users felt that the system was too time consuming, difficult and required too much work. Of the handful of respondents expressing frustration about the need to enter budgets on multiple forms, one actually noted that “having to do it both ways has helped me to catch errors, so I should probably get over it!” There was also frustration with the number of compliance questions and seemingly irrelevant questions, particularly in the “Community Benefits” section.
I am still irritated about having to do a budget spreadsheet for OARS’ approval and then re-do the budget in eSPA. HOWEVER, having to do it both ways has helped me to catch errors, so I should probably get over it. — eSPA survey respondent
In response to your comments, OARS has taken several steps to address some of the concerns expressed. We have reworded the questions in the Community Benefits section to clarify what we are looking for and provided examples for each. For approvers, we eliminated the so-called entity email accounts, which were a great source of frustration, so all automated emails notifications from this system now go to approvers’ personal email addresses. We also continue to work with new eSPA users to provide one-on-one training as time allows and when we have no upcoming group trainings scheduled. However, because of limited staffing, this is not something we can do for every new user on a continuing basis.
Regarding the need to complete OARS’ internal budget spreadsheet and enter a detailed budget on the budget tab in SP, and — in the case of NSF proposals — also enter a detailed budget in Fastlane, let me provide some explanation that might facilitate a better understanding of this requirement. The first point is that our internal business practices have not changed with the initiation of the eSPA system; we previously used the internal budget template as a mechanism for PIs to draft their budgets and for OARS to provide feedback before the final budget is entered into the funding agency’s budget form, so this is not new. What is new is the need to enter the detailed budget on the budget page in Cayuse SP. This is actually one of the Lean outcomes of this system. Cayuse SP is able to interface with our Banner post-award accounting system, so the detailed budget can be transferred from SP to the Banner grant award account, eliminating the need for double entry of the budget. While this does put a slight additional burden on individual PIs at proposal submission, the cumulative time saved at the central office level is significant, and allows both Grants and Contracts and OARS staff to focus on more proactive initiatives and to better serve the needs of our PIs.
Written by Anne Schauer, Director of Research & Sponsored Programs, Office for the Advancement of Research & Scholarship, Miami University.