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Today's higher-ed institutes are facing more challenges around data than ever before. Globally, students and alumni demographics are shifting and the demand for specific workforce skills is increasing. Constituent (student, alumni, faculty, and staff) expectations are changing with evolving technology.

Students want their educational experiences to be as simple and engaging as chatting with friends via their mobile phones, getting groceries delivered at their doorsteps, and getting targeted recommendations for their next TV binge. Alumni expect targeted and relevant communication on their preferred channels.

While the expectations are high, IT staff and data stewards are struggling to cope up with data that is coming from all directions.

Higher Education Issues and Challenges

  • Staff is struggling to have the most updated information about student or alumni at one place
  • Each department has its own set of tools and technologies leading to siloed information across the institute
  • Students enter and re-enter information across multiple institute systems while teachers, advisors, and staff struggle to work as a team to support them
  • At times returning students may be treated as new. For e.g. an MBA graduate can come back to the school for an executive course and since these are two different departments with loosely joined systems there are chances that a new identity is created instead of updating the existing alumni record. This may result in duplicate records
  • Alumni complain about receiving too many emails and most of them being irrelevant to them
  • It is difficult to find out how many alumni are working at an organization today
  • Since the information is not uniform across the institute, each department appears as a different entity

Do any of these indicators sound familiar?

If any or all of these situations sound familiar, don’t worry you are not alone. With the explosive growth in technology, increasing competition in education, and limited funding, it has become difficult for even the biggest institutions to adapt to these shifting constituent demands.

Higher-ed institutes have evolved over time with various offerings, where each department within the school has its own set of applications. Each department adopts its own set of tools and hence many disjoint systems are created over time. They all operate independently and there is no collaboration amongst the departments. Data sharing is always manual which is time-consuming and less effective as the data keeps changing rapidly.

Many educational institutions can relate to the challenge of having a wealth of constituent data, without a centralized way to use it to their advantage. Adopting an enterprise-wide CRM strategy will enable the institutes to increase student/alumni engagement, enhance productivity, coordinate efforts across multiple departments, and adopt a more data-driven culture that ensures student success more effectively.

Having data in an enterprise-wide system used across the institute:

  • Provides a 360 degree view of a constituent
  • Avoids manual sharing of data between departments and hence saves time and effort
  • Enhances collaboration efforts between departments
  • Helps provide a uniform experience to students and alumni
  • Ensures that relevant and targeted emails are delivered to all constituents on their preferred channels
  • Provides a better experience by maintaining all the constituent interactions in one place, thus avoiding the need for the students to repeat their story each time they interact with academic advisors, or career advisors, or student services, etc.

CRM systems like Salesforce which is a powerful technology and one of the best in business can immediately resolve the pain points and help you to eventually scale operations. Salesforce helps turn data into action in order to recruit the right students, make smarter decisions about admissions, offer personalized support to every student, and better connect with alumni and donors to help achieve the fundraising goals.

In some institutions, there could be another challenge around data quality, especially if they have many data entry points, and/or if they maintain their data on multiple databases. This may lead to incomplete, inaccurate, or non-standardized data. While the full data can be loaded on CRM, it may not be accurate or it could be incomplete or duplicate. This data should go through standardization, de-duplication, and merges to arrive at a single version of the truth. In order to achieve the full benefits of data, it is recommended to have a system like master data management in place and have the best quality of data pushed to the enterprise CRM.

To manage data quality, it is also important to do an analysis and evaluation of tools and infrastructure, along with a well-established organization-wide data entry process. Having reference data sets for all the possible attributes and taxonomy is important for any growing institution.

Data is important because in this industry the relations are for a lifetime. A person remains alumni for a lifetime, unlike any other product industry where relationships last until the product lasts. The success of any data-driven initiative majorly depends on data being relevant and trustworthy



About the Author

Bhavik Dodhia
Senior Salesforce consultant

Bhavik is a senior Salesforce consultant with over 11 years of experience across diverse industries like communications, media, education, and technology. With 6X Salesforce certifications across multiple Salesforce clouds, Bhavik loves designing Salesforce solutions and driving enterprise digital initiatives for Mindtree's clients

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