Tips: Cleaning up your processes before system implementation

By April 26, 2022 February 22nd, 2024 No Comments
cleaning your processes before system implementation

Research programs are faced with ever-increasing workloads. In a way, this is good, because a busy team is a sign of a healthy and robust program. However, the demands of the workweek shouldn’t be overwhelming for those involved. To ease the burden, research programs frequently adopt technology resources. Many of today’s technological work tools, such as Streamlyne Research, can aid in increasing efficiency and reducing errors for proposing and managing sponsored projects. However, prior to automating any process via software implementation, it’s important to know how to prepare properly. This way, the software adoption and system implementation can go as smoothly as possible. Here are a few tips to help.

Process Review

Process automation alone is not a guarantee of efficiency. In fact, automating a bad process can create extra effort and the need for work-around procedures, placing you right back where you started.

Before you begin, ensure you’re starting with a process you want to automate. Review the current state of the process and detail out the current steps in the process. Evaluate each step, and any workarounds, in the process for defects, overproduction, wait time, transport & motion, and overprocessing, which we cover below.


Defects involve errors that result in forms returned due to missing or incorrect information. Look for defects or places where errors commonly occur, for example:

  • Are forms sent that are incomplete or that have errors?
  • Are questions or data fields, including signatures, routinely missed?
  • Do forms often arrive late?


Overproduction is making too much of something or creating something sooner than needed. For example:

  • Are there extra copies of forms?
  • Is information requested and / or stored in both paper and electronic formats resulting in redundancies?
  • Are updated forms versioned?
  • Are people unnecessarily copied on email communications?


Waiting or wait time involves delays in a process. Consider questions such as:

  • Where are delays in the process and why?
  • How much time is spent waiting for approvals in each step of the process?
  • Is information processed in batches or when received?
  • Are there delays due to investigators or staff being unavailable due to travel, leave, or vacancies?

Transport & Motion

Transport deals with how products move and unnecessary movement that adds no value to a process or a step within a process. The more times information moves from person to person or from person to system, the more likely it may get delayed, lost, or mis-keyed / mis-directed. Relatedly, motion is movement of information or items by people due to workspace layout, ergonomic issues, or technology issues.

  • Are all reviews and signatures necessary?
  • Are forms hand-delivered or emailed?
  • Are forms sent to a shared email, individual staff, or both?
  • Are multiple emails needed to process one form?
  • Are forms routinely misplaced?


Excess processing occurs when there are extra steps or inefficiencies in a process, such as inefficient routing. Over-processing are steps that do not add value. Look for:

  • Extra formatting
  • Extra fields
  • Excess details

Process Review in Practice

Below is an example of how you might evaluate a paper-based process for proposal routing and review prior to implementing a Pre-award routing and review system.

First, draw out the current process including any workarounds.

pi alone Unit administrator completes the Proposal Routing form and emails to PI for signature.

pi at desk PI e-signs form and emails it to Department chair for signature.

pi at desk Department chair reviews and e-signs, then emails to the Dean’s office for review.

pi at desk Dean reviews and e-signs, then emails to central office.

pi standing Central, pre-award staff reviews.

If complete & error free, central staff enters data into central database.  If incomplete or has errors, central Staff returns to unit administrator for corrections.

Next, use a spreadsheet, like the following one, or system that allows you to document waste and inefficiencies in the current process steps. At this stage, refrain from fixing problems as they are identified. Simply describe the defects and other issues in the process.

Process Review Worksheet: Proposal Routing

(High, Medium, Low)

Information incomplete or inaccurate

-Incomplete forms

-Inaccurate info

-Missed deadline

 High Proposal routing form often arrives in central office after the 3-day submission review window.
High Institutional commitments often do not have the required account numbers or numbers are inaccurate.

Too much of something or too soon

-Duplicate copies

-Unnecessary form

-Unnecessary CCs

 Medium Co-investigators from different units send duplicate forms.
Medium Emails sent to the central mailbox are CCed to all central staff.
Low Investigators send proposal routing forms for preliminary proposals, then again for the full proposal.

Waiting on people, information, or materials

-Approvals needed

-Information needed

-Batch processing

High Unit administrator waits until they receive multiple forms prior to processing.
High Proposal routing delayed when PI is out of the country.
High Form sits idle during staff vacations and vacancies.

Unnecessary movement of information or materials

-In-person delivery

-Email delivery

-Emails resent

Medium Forms are emailed to personal email accounts, resulting in delays when the receiver is out of the office.
High Reviews and signatures from unit offices are missed when multiple units are involved.

Non-value-added movement; workarounds

-Duplicative data entry

-Copying forms

-Converting forms

High Every person with signature authority has to print, sign, scan, and email forms to the next office in the chain of review.
High Data must be entered from the paper form into the central database.

Extra, non-value-added steps

-Extra formatting

-Extra fields

-Excess details

Low Word processing version of form requires extra formatting of lines.
Medium Extraneous information is collected that is not currently being used.

Process Fix Prior to Automation

Once waste is identified, documented, and described, form a working group of end users and other key stakeholders. This group will help you to discuss and identify areas for process improvement. Together, you can map out an ideal process with the new automation in mind. The objective here is to develop a new process, free of waste, rather than replicating a damaged process in an automated system.

Remember, implementing a new, automated process doesn’t improve necessarily improve business processes. Prior to implementation, taking the time to make improvements in relevant business processes can result in higher levels of performance, value, and overall satisfaction.

Streamlyne Research

Are you currently thinking about implementing an eRA system like Streamlyne Research eRA software? If so, here are some of the benefits and process improvements you can expect for your research program:

2 removebg previewTOOL

5 removebg previewPRE-AWARD

3 removebg previewAWARD

4 removebg previewCOMPLIANCE

  • Proposal Development
  • Quick Proposal
  • Institutional Proposal
  • Negotiations
  • Award
  • Subaward
  • IRB
  • IBC
  • COI
  • Collaborative proposal development
  • S2S Submission
  • Automatic IP
  • eProposal Log
  • Transparency into Negotiations
  • Track and maintain funded awards / subaward
  • Populate Award information
  • Easy modifications
  • Due dates and status reports
  • Track federally mandated criteria
  • eProtocol management
  • Management of significant financial interests

To learn more, including how to custom tailor Streamlyne Research eRA software for your needs, please contact us today.