5 Key Themes for the Enterprise CRM Journey

Rebekah Russell |

Former Analyst

Top of Mind: 5 Key Themes for the Enterprise CRM Journey
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

In the early days of constituent relationships management (CRM), most use cases were highly departmentalized and served a single function. Recruitment and Admissions CRMs and Service Management CRMs (i.e., IT helpdesk) were among the most popular implementations.

However, Tambellini’s research shows a mindset shift toward the bigger picture in higher education. Enterprise CRMs (ECRMs) are growing, and for good reason. ECRMs are on par with other enterprise administrative systems and offer institutions a pathway to a single origin of communications and a true cohesive picture of all institutional engagement.

If your institution has chosen to begin an ECRM journey, significant considerations must be made. Our research has identified these five key themes from institutions that have completed this process.

1. Build campus partnerships.

Implementing an ECRM requires full campus participation, much like deploying an ERP or student system. CIOs should focus early on building campus partnerships in all critical areas, including admissions, financial aid, student billing, student activities, advising, and academic administration. Also, ensure that constituent voices outside administration are highlighted, including faculty and students. Creating a network of change champions who understand why the ECRM is the right tool will help foster buy-in.

2. Be aware of the lift.

Do not underestimate the time and resources that an ECRM will require. While the tool’s deployment is typically straightforward, your ECRM will need to integrate with several other campus systems. Most institutions require integration between the ECRM and their finance/HCM and student systems and key third-party platforms, such as advising solutions, housing management tools, and conduct management platforms. CIOs should prepare for their enterprise application and integration teams to be key players in the ECRM deployment. Successful implementation and use of an ECRM demands robust integrations between systems.

3. Watch for common pitfalls.

Institutions that have implemented an ECRM identified several common pitfalls to avoid during the ECRM journey.

  • Buy-in will not always be easy. If your institution already has departmental CRMS, such as a recruitment and admission solution or an advising CRM, then asking users and subject-matter experts to potentially convert to a new tool is daunting. Change is difficult, especially for a core system loved by end-users. It is critical to speak often and openly with these users. To help with this transition, provide ample opportunity for these users to express concern and ask questions. Ensure subject-matter experts attend product demonstrations early to create a familiarity with the new platform.
  • Change management is still key. While an ECRM deployment isn’t quite on the same scale as an ERP or student system, it is very close. As your institution embarks on the ECRM journey, leadership should frequently speak to project goals and benefits. Clear and unified communications from the top down will set clear expectations for the entire campus community. Additionally, leadership should consider creating guiding principles for the project. These principles will establish a framework that can be used to address concerns and guide the institution when choices must be made.
  • Don’t forget staffing needs. Successfully deploying your ECRM might require backfilling roles and hiring key positions. Staffing plans should be established very early in the process to ensure resources are available at the right time.

4. Don’t be afraid to crawl, walk, run.

Most ECRM deployments take a phased approach. The key to a successful implementation is creating a strong foundation of institutional priorities that will heavily influence your data model. As your institution establishes which departments will use the tool, prioritize the order in which these areas should go live. Begin deployment with the area with the highest institutional priority and build on additional departments. Consider a tiered approach to functionality as well. Configure core functions first and add wishlist items as users become more familiar and comfortable with the tool. This crawl, walk, run approach takes a very large project and divides it into smaller milestones and decreases the intensity.

5. Training is critical.

Even the most highly functional tools are only as good as those who use them. User training is vital to fully realize the immense possibilities of an ECRM. CIOs should work in partnership with campus constituents to develop a comprehensive training plan for subject-matter experts and functional users. The training plan should be easily accessible and clear to understand to increase buy-in and comfort with the new system.

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Rebekah Russell |
Former Analyst
As a former analyst, Rebekah Russell researched and published in the student and CRM technology space, concentrating on platforms that focus on recruitment and admissions, student retention and engagement, advising, financial aid, and student management. Coming to Tambellini from Western Kentucky University, she has served in various roles at the university, including student engagement and retention, parent and alumni programming, information technology administration, and most recently, as AVP for budget, financial planning, and analytics.

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