We at the Grants.gov Community Blog (GCB) recently spoke with Nicole Daniel (ND), Communications Lead for the Grants.gov Program Management Office, to discuss the reception of Workspace and what Grants.gov users can expect with future system enhancements.
GCB: Workspace launched in October of 2015. What kind of reception have you seen so far?
ND: We’ve been happy with the reception. A growing number of users are submitting their first applications using Workspace. Early feedback suggests that users appreciate how much easier Workspace makes it to collaborate with other colleagues on the grant application forms.
GCB: What need or issue was workspace designed to address?
ND: Well, for years applicants had to download a single PDF of forms that only one person could fill out at a time. There were also issues with data entry – for example, you often couldn’t just copy and paste in prewritten text. Then, when it was time to submit, you sort of had to cross your fingers and hope you hadn’t messed up anywhere on the form, or the submission would be rejected. Workspace addresses all of these complaints and more by breaking the package into individual forms that can be filled out by multiple users at once. Also, each form is validated when it is uploaded back into a workspace, saving a lot of heartache during the submission process.
GCB: In your mind, what are the top three benefits of applying via workspace, rather than with the traditional method?
ND: Probably the No 1 feature users like is the ability to reuse old workspace forms from past submissions. This can save an incredible amount of time over the course of multiple application cycles. Larger organizations are also telling us that the ability to assign user roles and lock forms within every workspace is helpful when assigning work to teammates. I’d say the third-best benefit is how much easier it is now to apply as a team. Workspace eliminates a lot of little frustrations that can be greatly magnified when you’re trying to meet an application deadline.
GCB: How many funding opportunities and/or application packages are compatible with workspace as of today?
ND: As of today, about 98% of all federal grant application packages are compatible with Workspace. So the vast majority of funding opportunities can receive applications through the Workspace feature.
GCB: How do you know if a funding opportunity is compatible with workspace?
ND: It’s really pretty simple. Go to the View Grant Opportunity page of whatever grant you’re exploring. In the Package tab, look for the table column that reads “Workspace Compatible.” If you see a “Yes”, that means you can apply with Workspace. We’ve also got a video that walks you through this process.
GCB: We have seen some other new features added to Grants.gov in 2016 – things like this blog and grant forecasts. What else can we expect to see in the coming months?
ND: Well, as you can imagine, there are a lot of things we’ve mapped out for the near and far future for Grants.gov. Every month, we get millions of hits. And in 2015, we processed more than 250,000 federal grant applications. So we know a lot of people rely on us to continue delivering an optimal experience. Over the last year, we have upgraded a lot of things that you can’t see – hardware and software that now keeps the site live virtually all of the time. There is more we need to do on the back end, but we also have some exciting things coming in 2016 and 2017 that users will notice as soon as they land on the homepage or log into their account – for example, the arrival of online forms next year, which will eliminate the need to download a PDF altogether.
We are certainly aware that a lot still needs to be done to make Grants.gov the user-friendly and frustration-free system that our users deserve. I can promise you we are working hard with this aim. If you would like to know more about what we have cooking for 2017 and beyond, we encourage users to reach out to us at the firstname.lastname@example.org email address, to attend user group meetings, and to stay tuned to the Grants.gov Community Blog for the most current information about the system.
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