There’s no question about it; software should evolve. If electronic research administration software applications always stayed the same, without new features and improvements, research administration would still be in the Dark Ages. However, if you have been loyal to a certain eRA vendor for some time, you may suddenly be be feeling pushed into moving all of your data and team activity (replatforming) to new software of theirs. And you may not understand this new software platform at all or even feel comfortable with what is being proposed. You should know your options, especially if the proposed software replatforming process gives you cause for concern.
Is following what my eRA vendor tells me mandatory?
Regardless of what your eRA vendor may tell you, you always have options. Your contract for licensing or service on one platform does not automatically mean that you agree to re-implement an entirely different solution from the same vendor. It certainly doesn’t mean that you have to make sense of things yourself absent a clear plan.
On the contrary, if you find yourself feeling disappointed or bullied by your current eRA software vendor, you have a unique opportunity to look at other options. You may quickly find an eRA vendor with a suite of software that better suits your institution’s research administration needs and who will help you make decisions that benefit your entire research program.
What if I’m unhappy with my eRA vendor?
Here are some questions to ask yourself that can help determine your next steps. And please know you are not alone – there are many users just like you who feel pushed to replatform and who have taken similar steps away from an eRA vendor that no longer supports their needs, regardless of the promises being made.
Replace or replatform my eRA – what should I do?
You may be wondering – should I use this time to replace my system with a different vendor that may be better for my needs? Or should I go along with the replatform just because my old vendor wants me to? A lot of research administrators are wondering the exact same thing right now, with good reason. The word is out that many are confused, angry, and let down by an eRA vendor they once trusted. And they are finding the answers they need to help them move forward in a better direction.
Here are 10 key questions and answers to help you decide for yourself: should you replace your eRA with a trusted vendor whose user base is on the rise or stick with what you have, despite the unknowns, for better or worse, throughout the entire replatforming experience?
10 Key Questions to Help You Through Vendor-Proposed Replatforming Woes
1) Q: When an eRA vendor has to replatform, who ultimately bears the bulk of the expense – the vendor or the end user?
A: Unless the SaaS vendor has thought of everything a research administrator will need, and has been helpful and accommodating, the end user will take on the expense of reimplementation. This may include retraining, rolling out the system again, orienting the users, and other factors. You may also be subject to much higher subscription fees for the new platform as a means for the vendor to recoup its investment costs. They will pass the cost on to their users. If the new platform isn’t markedly better than the old one or is potentially even a step backward, it can be costly for all involved.
2) Q: If eRA vendors make significant changes to their codebase, will this have a negative impact on their users?
A: Yes, a new platform will invariably have kinks that impact the end user. It will most likely be disruptive. This is especially true if there has been minimal training, guidance, or transparency about what using the new eRA actually entails.
Moving to a new platform with the same vendor isn’t automatically a good thing.
3) Q: Can replatforming ever cause more problems than it solves?
Yes, in some cases. Moving to a new platform with the same vendor isn’t automatically a good thing. For example, a new platform may not have been developed with feedback and participation from the users themselves. So when it’s presented to them as a finished product and they see it for the first time, it may not be what they would have wanted.
As another example, as users of other software such as Drupal have experienced, replatforming within the same ecosystem can be a real nightmare and headache. It takes special talent, planning and foresight for an eRA vendor to handle a replatforming initiative correctly; if done improperly, it will be painfully obvious to users.
4) Q: Are there instances where replatforming with the same vendor can be more complex than switching to a different vendor?
A: Yes, because the other vendor may be an expert on moving institutions like yours onto their eRA and off of their old one. But your current eRA vendor may not be a replatforming expert, and this may be new to them. For example, as a user, you will likely want to continue leveraging some of the efficiencies you have built up on your eRA. But if you replatform with the same vendor, their new platform may have compatibility issues. Or the new platform may possibly require transformations of data, depending on database changes. Ultimately, it may take longer and require more work to address compatibility concerns between an old and new system than it does to move to a fresh system where everything is optimized for the best performance.
5) Q. If there is a proposed replatforming at my eRA vendor, who should take the lead in remapping fields to migrate pre-existing data and do the majority of the thinking and preparation, the eRA vendor or the end user?
A: If the transition requires data remapping, the software company should take the lead, handholding and making the transition easy. If the burden falls more to the user than to the vendor, and there is confusion about how to proceed, this indicates a larger problem.
An institution recently made the change to Streamlyne Research even though they had two years left on their existing eRA contract because they realized they were fighting a losing battle.
6) Q. I’m very dissatisfied with my current eRA vendor, and I am thinking about switching to a competitor. What should this transition look like (ease, convenience, minimal disruption)?
A. The vendor you are switching to should understand your needs, pain points, and frustrations. They should provide pricing, ideas, and a timetable that works for you. If the vendor you’re switching to is a better fit than the one you previously trusted, it helps to plan the transition together. With a plan of action, you can cleanly cut ties with your old eRA vendor soon thereafter, to avoid complications.
For example, one of our newest customers had felt forced by their previous vendor to replatform into a system they didn’t want. They recently adopted Streamlyne Research because they saw how much better it was for their research program. This customer made the change to Streamlyne Research even though they had two years left on their existing eRA contract. They did so because they realized they were fighting a losing battle with their old vendor. Needless to say, they are much happier now.
7) Q. Software can eventually reach the end of its useful purpose. But an unexpected end-of-life announcement is a big bombshell to drop on users. For a responsible software company, what should communication to users be like if a platform in use is going away? What types of messages and facts should be going out, with certainty, so users know they are being taken care of?
A: A responsible software vendor would provide a lot of notice, and engage participation from their own user community. Not after the fact – like “We will no longer be supporting xx software on xx date,” but the vendor would introduce the new platform well in advance. The vendor should make training programs available, starting months before the transition. There should also be a cohesive explanation of the improvements and benefits to the new platform so users fully understand what they are getting, without being left confused.
Forced replatforming without the consent of users may in fact constitute a breach of contract.
8) Q. If a user is unhappy with the decisions their eRA vendor has made, what are the options? Is a forced replatforming significant grounds for a contract termination?
A: It depends on the terms of the agreement. However, a forced replatforming without the consent of users may in fact constitute a breach of contract. The vendor agreed to support and upkeep that specific software. If they substitute it without the other party’s consent, there may be material breach.
But let’s say the vendor agrees to maintain the phased-out software to fulfill the legal agreement. Even so, remember that the vendor has already indicated that it will move their energy and resources away from their retired software. As such, their motivation to keep your instance running smoothly will likely diminish over time. The more of a headache your old software becomes for them to manage, the more pressure you will likely feel to make a change. They may even demand that you replatform at some point with a hard deadline. And the timing may be terrible for you. So any compromise reached in the short term is likely a temporary delay of the inevitable.
It is also important to note that replatforming is NOT simply a software upgrade or update. A platform change puts the user on an entirely different product. As such, public purchasing laws in your state or the purchasing policies of your institution may require a new competitive bidding process. So you may want to look into this as well before agreeing to anything your old eRA vendor tells you.
You shouldn’t experience dread or anxiety if your vendor is on top of things…You should feel calm and in capable hands.
9) Q. In the event of a major platform change that does involve disruption, how should users be kept involved and informed?
A: Vendors should give their users a heads-up well in advance. They should provide a detailed and clear roadmap that explains the entire process. There should be milestones and key dates. The vendor should also work with you individually as needed. They should ensure that the new product meets your specific needs. In addition, they should answer all your questions to your level of comfort. There may be some figuring out during the process, which is par for the course.
However, you shouldn’t experience dread or anxiety if your vendor is on top of things. Your vendor should be taking the lead in this situation. You should feel calm and in capable hands and excited about what the new platform can do. You should never feel rushed or forced to migrate onto an unfamiliar platform. If this is case, then you have a right to question whose best interests the new platform truly serves.
10) Q. I am beyond dissatisfied with my eRA vendor and ultimately don’t see a future with them. Who owns my data: me or them?
A: In nearly all cases, you own your data and you can extract it at any time. Let’s say you ask your eRA vendor for the records you need to transition off their platform and onto Streamlyne Research. Once a plan is in place, your vendor should be responsive and cooperative. You should not have to demand your data. If they ignore your request, stall, or give you the runaround, then you may have recourse there as well.
Streamlyne Research Is Here to Help
As mentioned, you are not alone. Streamlyne is currently onboarding research programs that feel abandoned by their old eRA vendor and helping them to transition onto Streamlyne Research as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Streamlyne has been supporting the software needs of research administrators for nearly 20 years. Also, Streamlyne Research supports the entire research administration lifecycle, and we continue finding new ways to do so.
Our eRA has consistent features and upgrades rolled out to existing users. In addition, it is built to integrate with our entire software suite. Key features of Streamlyne Research include:
- Over 131 customizable reports
- Export Control
- A self-designed interface option (UI by YOU)
- Integration into all leading HR software and the other tools you use every day.
Ready to say good riddance to your old eRA system? Set up a consultation.
Are you are ready to adopt a cloud-based electronic research administration system? One that will be a true partner to your research program? And the gold standard for research administrators?
If so, please reach out to us at Streamlyne – we can’t wait to talk with you.