William & Mary has begun a comprehensive implementation of a university-wide constituent relationship management (CRM) system. When fully phased in, the CRM will improve W&M's communication capabilities for both internal and external audiences, including prospective applicants, enrolled students and active alumni.
The CRM will be integrated across the university in order to eliminate the current need to migrate information between different communication systems, often in ways that lead to incomplete or inconsistent records. From the point in time when a high school student requests information about applying to W&M to the point in time when the same individual is invited to return to campus for an alumni reunion, the CRM will be where the record is maintained and the communication is managed.
The implementation effort, under direction of a W&M cross-functional project team, will help to coordinate university data across departments in a manner consistent with the goals of the Business Innovation Initiative to improve efficiency and effectiveness. Furthermore, the implementation will enable the university to improve the quality and consistency of its communications.
"Although IT will play a central role in implementing our CRM, this is not so much an IT project as it is a university-wide undertaking" said Provost Michael R. Halleran. "This endeavor will enable W&M to explain and promote W&M through a more effective communications structure and strategy, which is one of the primary goals articulated in the university’s strategic plan."
Three vendor partners were selected – ACF Solutions, Salesforce Foundation and Target X. Each has expertise in higher education-based systems. Contracts for the system were signed last month.
Currently W&M's Office of Undergraduate Admission already uses a CRM product provided by Target X. Salesforce Foundation provides the core Salesforce platform on which Target X's product operates and applications for the system. ACF Solutions will be W&M's implementation and training partner.
"When I was the dean of admission, Target X's CRM made the difference between being able to send a generic message about William & Mary's academic excellence to all prospective students and being able to send targeted messages to particular prospects based on the academic interests they had shared with us," said Henry Broaddus, vice president for strategic initiatives and public affairs. "I know from that experience how important a CRM is to facilitating the kind of timely and relevant communication that stands out from the clutter of one's inbox."
The IT website notes that CRM systems manage interactions with constituents through streamlined communications, automated services and synchronized records.
Bernadette Kenney, deputy CIO and project technology sponsor, noted the university’s data collection had become decentralized. “Over time,” she said, “we were receiving more and more niche requests for database tools and functionality.”
"That niche approach isn’t efficient," said Project Manager Bonnie Fleming. “Without centralization of that information we lose data. Enterprise CRM is a way to centralize data to ensure the university has a complete picture of a constituent’s interactions.”
Fleming added that centralizing data is more about a philosophy and a strategy, and the technology is merely what makes the strategy succeed.
“A CRM will help us work smarter and lead to more meaningful reporting and analytics,” Kenney added. “It will help provide the university with a better sense of a student’s experience – a better sense of their successes, their involvement and their engagement – and allow us to coordinate communication among all of the university’s departments.”
Bringing a university-wide CRM to William & Mary has been on the horizon for some time. The project team, convened by the provost and Chief Information Officer Courtney Carpenter last fall, issued a request for proposals in November 2014 and has been evaluating submissions since January of this year.
Bringing it all together
Integration planning and solution architecture design will begin immediately, Kenney said. That initial process is anticipated to take several months, she added, noting that full implementation of the system will be a phased, multiyear endeavor.
“This implementation process won’t be a quick one,” Kenney said. “It’s going to need to be thoughtful and deliberate in order to be successful.”
Ensuring security of the data will be critical, Fleming added.
“This is not going to be a wide-open system,” she said. “The university will be the stewards of the data, not any one individual office. [The new CRM system] will provide people [the data] they need, but not more than they need.”