Today, we are accepting more applications for grants, business incubator and accelerator programs, and competitions than ever before. This is a great thing of course – it means more money, mentorship, and prizes for all! However, with a change in application volume comes a need to improve the application management process. Even if your particular team isn’t seeing this dramatic increase in applications, it is always worth looking at your process and looking for inefficiencies that can be fixed by better application management software.
We’ll take a look at some of the benefits of using up to date application management software, and some capabilities you should be looking for in a product.
Application Management Software
- Organization. If you’re still collecting and reviewing hard copy applications and notes, kudos to you, you are more resilient than most of us! You’ve proven your point, but don’t shy away from technology that is here to help. Great application management software will keep all of your applications sorted for you, allowing you to search and sort your applicant pool in a number of ways with the click of a button. You can sort by application type, key words, alphabetical order, overall rating from your review team and more! Finally, a robust dashboard will help everyone stay on the same page throughout the entire process. Awesome!
- Saving time. Saving time is a byproduct of better organization – we all know this. However, these tools can save additional time by allowing your review team to work through your multistage decision-making process asynchronously via any internet connected device. You can have teammates dispersed around the planet and not skip a decision-making beat. With your information secured in the cloud, everyone can submit their application reviews and comments for all to see. Teams working asynchronously without sacrificing decision quality are definitely more efficient!
- Saving money. So, we’re more organized and working asynchronously, saving time as a result. Well, time is money if your team is paid! Even if they aren’t, application management software can help save money by protecting against poor decisions. These products won’t necessarily make the decision for you, but they can lay out a framework that will improve your chances of making an informed decision. By making it easy for your team to thoroughly evaluate each application as a whole and then automatically aggregating everyone’s input, it is more likely that the final decision will be the best one possible given the information available.
- Saving space. Imagine being more organized and not having filing cabinets filled to the brim with current and archived applications and their accompanying notes. Well, that reality is here now. Even better, storing and and organizing for years to come doesn’t need to take up space in your disk drives either. The best products operate in the cloud, keeping your data secure in their own servers, available for you to access it whenever you need it.
- Transparency. When using cloud based application management software, all actions by all review team members are recorded and easily accessible. Sure, if using paper you could look back through a paper trail and try to piece it all together, but that is time consuming. If you’ve graduated from paper and are now using outdated or unfriendly software, you know that spending any extra time poking around in the software is an exercise in frustration and time wasting. With modern and user friendly Software as a Service (SaaS) products, it can actually be enjoyable to log in and look at all of the review activity. You will find that it’s easier to gain a deep understanding of your review process and how to improve it. This is powerful stuff! Now it’s easy stuff too.
Features and Capabilities
- Emphasis on user expeience (UX). The problem with a lot of enterprise application management solutions is they focus on features and not your sanity. That is, they fail to think about what you will experience when using their product on a daily basis. With that said, be sure to choose a solution that makes it easier to manage your application process, not only by implementing features, but by implementing these features in a very user friendly way. The learning curve should not be steep. The user interface should be clean, only display information that is necessary, and it should be a joy to use. Though I know we’ve become accustomed to putting up with hard to use products in this domain – start demanding more.
- Third party integration. Traditionally, companies have tried to build the entire solution from application collection to final decision themselves. There is one major flaw to this approach – there are niche companies who focus on a single aspect of each application management process and flawlessly execute on building a solution for that little niche. Companies that put an emphasis on integrating with these amazing niche solutions seamlessly patch together a process made of the absolute best components. Imagine a hub where your review team evaluates and makes decisions on applications surrounded by an ecosystem of integrations that do everything else. Your hub could be something like Decision.io. The integrations would help with creating your online application (e.g. Wufoo) and providing applicant feedback (e.g. MailChimp or Constant Contact). The best companies focus on third party integration because they know that focused companies can build elegant solutions to specific problems, and when brought together they form an elegant solution to a much bigger problem!
- Build a review team with varying responsibilities and permissions. When you move to new application management software, you want to keep your team strategy in tact. You want your administrator to stay as an administrator, your reviewers to remain as reviewers, and your decision makers to remain as decision makers. A good solution will definitely accommodate this structure so that the way your team works is enhanced rather than changed.
- Set and evaluate mission critical decision criteria. It is likely that when you evaluate applications, you have a set of criteria that guide your decisions. For example, a business incubator might evaluate an applicant’s founding team, revenue model, current stage of development and other such criteria. The platform should allow you to create whatever decision criteria you need to make a proper evaluation. Again, you shouldn’t have to change the way you work.
- Build a multistage decision-making process. Many decision-making processes require multiple stages of reviewing, rating, ranking and deciding. A typical example would be having a quick filter stage where the team does a high level review of each application to eliminate the applicants that definitely won’t make the cut. The next stage may be an in-depth review and rating of each individual decision criteria for the remaining applications along with a cut-off score to eliminate more applications. This may be followed by a ranking stage, where the remaining applications are numerically ranked by each reviewer with the top 10 applications being granted an interview. Finally, an interview stage followed by a final decision stage would end the process. The moral of the story is this: the platform you use should allow you to easily model your current decision-making process. It’s about making it easier to do what you already do or wish you could do.
- Facilitate conversation among the decision-making team. A robust commenting feature will allow your team to have a central place of communication around each application. This mimics those meetings where you would all be present to discuss each application in detail and frantically jotting down notes while trying to actively participate in the conversation. Now, your team can be in different time zones and still have that conversation and those notes around each application, and it’s all documented in one place for all to see. In fact, being dispersed during the decision-making process can help negate some biases that are common when a team is present in the same physical space. Finally, when your team meets, much of the work will already be done and everyone can give their full attention to the active conversation.
- Automation. The application management process is a tough one, that’s why you’re still reading this article, right? The move to a modern application management software solution should allow you to automate certain tasks. For example, here at Decision.io, we allow you to tag incoming applications with key words which can then make certain applications go to certain reviewers based on areas of expertise. It’s kind of like killing two or more birds with a single stone.
- Customer service and a relationship. The platform you work with needs to be created and maintained by a team you can work with for the long-term. In today’s market, your application management software should be constantly evolving and growing to accommodate new challenges that your team faces. You need to know that the team that makes your product will be receptive to your feedback by doing more than thanking you for it. They should always be working to improve the product by actually implementing some of your suggestions. If your solution provider isn’t actively building third party integrations and new features, your application management process will end up behind the pack. This, unfortunately, may leave your organization behind the pack as well.
Summing it Up
It is no secret that the act of creating an application, collecting application data, and then mobilizing a review team to evaluate each application throughout a multistage decision-making process is a handful. Until recently, the brave men and women carrying out this important work did so by navigating stacks of paper or by using the clunkiest of legacy software. Now you know it doesn’t have to be this way! You can save time, money, and space. You can get organized and increase transparency. You can carry out the review process from anywhere, anytime, and on any mobile device. Most importantly, you can do all of this using application management software that was designed by listening to the needs and pains of the people who will use it. Reviewing applications doesn’t haven’t to hurt to anymore.
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