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ITS and the Office of Sponsored Research have completed the second and important phase for a new tool that enables campus users to manage awarded funds for research projects.

On September 8, two ITS divisions — Enterprise Reporting & Departmental Systems and Enterprise Applications — and the Office of Sponsored Research deployed additional functionality and improved user experience for Research Administration Management Reports, or RAM Reports.

The tool provides both campus and central offices with the same view of financial data to improve transparency and streamline processes with sponsored projects financial monitoring and reporting.

The Office of Sponsored Research is responsible for overseeing research administration through all phases of the award cycle. It partners with the research community to support and advance the University’s research mission. The Office of Sponsored Research was the customer and partner in developing RAM Reports.

In this second phase, ITS and the Office of Sponsored Research provided:

  • A direct link from RAM Reports to the source system, ConnectCarolina, enabling users to easily maneuver into that platform for more details
  • An accounts receivables tab where users can view invoice and payment status
  • Improved formatting based on user feedback

The enhancements in this second phase complete the implementation of RAM Reports and fulfill the remaining requirements that were needed for it to be a free-standing application. The tool went live in April. That first phase was a bigger lift, understandably, because it entailed all the infrastructure and foundational work, terms of use and Duo, said Sally Lakomiak, Business Systems Analyst with Enterprise Reporting & Departmental Systems. She served as project manager.

David Paul
David Paul

About 600 core users

Users are research administrators who are responsible for managing the allocation of money during the life of a research project — whether salaries, supplies or both. A core group of about 600 research administrators are engaging with the tool. Among the users are faculty members who use RAM Reports in lieu of the Principal Investigator (PI) Dashboard within ConnectCarolina and other research personnel who want to monitor their project spending. An estimated 300 – 400 people are very active users of RAM Reports.

Before RAM Reports was available, departments managed their accounts in different ways, like cobbling together spreadsheets or using an older PI Dashboard, Lakomiak said.

Direct link to ConnectCarolina

The RAM Reports project is particularly notable for several reasons.

For starters, this is the first time that Enterprise Reporting & Departmental Systems has linked directly from one of its reporting platforms to ConnectCarolina. The information in RAM Reports is pulled from ConnectCarolina and RAMSeS. Data is one day behind what is in ConnectCarolina.

Users of RAM Reports can go directly to the information they need in ConnectCarolina, seamlessly and securely, without repeating the Single Sign-On process. Now that ERDS knows that it can directly integrate one of its applications to ConnectCarolina, ERDS will probably do more of it, Lakomiak said.

Successful collaboration

This project is also notable because:

  • RAM Reports is one of the primary tools for Office of Sponsored Research. It streamlined OSR’ access to data instead of having to pull information from here and there.
  • Of these research awards that now have this handy tool for managing funds, more than 100 are COVID-19 related.
  • The project was the result of a successful collaboration of three groups. This was the second project in which ERDS worked with the Office of Sponsored Research. The first was for the PI Dashboard a few years ago. The RAM Reports project continues and strengthens the relationship, Lakomiak said.

“Collaborating with ITS to develop the RAM Reports has been, and continues to be, a true partnership,” said David Paul, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research within the Office of Sponsored Research. “ITS worked closely with OSR and solicited input from campus representatives to develop comprehensive reports that would meet everyone’s needs, and they worked diligently to meet all expectations.”

‘Best financial management tool’

The goal, he said, “has been to deliver comprehensive, yet easy to use, reports that enable researchers, departmental research administrators and central offices to better manage their sponsored projects. The award and project level summaries, direct links to live data, invoices, reports, cost-share and detailed transactions available within the interactive RAM Reports is a big step in that direction. The RAM Reports are phenomenal already and are the best financial management tool we have available.”

As ITS continues to seek feedback, the tool will evolve, Paul added. “We have even more enhancements in store and we look forward to continuing our partnership with ITS to enhance the RAM Reports further.”

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