- Tambellini Analyst
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Enterprise CRM for Higher Education: SugarCRM at Fordham University

A top priority in the higher education technology community is having a robust CRM solution that can scale within your institution and provide a 360-degree view of your constituents. While many institutions are using elements of CRM solutions in varying capacities for departmental needs, The Tambellini Group is also seeing an increased number of institutions selecting enterprise-wide solutions.

One such offering is SugarCRM. While SugarCRM has an established commercial presence, it may not be as familiar to the higher education market. SugarCRM touts its benefits to include its open source heritage, support of both cloud and on-premises deployment, the ability to tailor applications using configurations versus custom code, strong integration, and a low TCO.

Tambellini recently took an in-depth look at the solution from the perspective of one of SugarCRM’s clients, Fordham University. In 2012, Fordham University went through an extensive RFP process to select an enterprise CRM. The finalists included Ellucian Advise, Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, SugarCRM, and Campus Management Talisma. Fordham University’s Vice President of Technology, Shaya Phillips, stated that the university selected SugarCRM for a number of reasons.

  • First, Fordham determined that SugarCRM and associated partners offered the best option to use an iterative deployment approach. In selecting a CRM solution that would be deployed over time across the enterprise, it was important that the solution be deployed using an agile methodology.
  • Second, Fordham found that SugarCRM had the most extensive integration with other ERP, SIS, and third-party solutions based on the solution’s level of openness and the number of available plugins, APIs, and web services. The university evaluated that SugarCRM’s module approach would facilitate easy interaction and integration with other systems.
  • And lastly, Shaya Phillips articulated that SugarCRM was able to deliver custom user cases without custom code. Configuration tools could be used to create custom user views, and drop downs allow different actions to be triggered and turned on and off depending on a user’s role. While other CRMs offered the ability to execute triggers and turn options on and off, they did not offer the ability to execute different views.

Fordham University is currently using SugarCRM to manage their relationships with constituents—students, parents, and alumni.  The university has seen great improvement in constituent engagement and communication, citing “quicker, more responsive, and improved communication.” In addition, the university can now keep track of every communication. SugarCRM powers Fordham Connect, which handles over 140,000 university-wide inquiries annually. Free-form text is scanned and responded to with automated responses, attachments, or forwarded to staff for a response via email or phone. Fordham Connect provides a 360-degree view of the student as it is integrated with over fifteen platforms that include Banner by Ellucian ERP and Student, Ellucian Degree Works, Slate, iModules, OrgSync, StarRez, PowerFAIDS, and Banner Advancement.  Fordham used and extended APIs that are supplied with SugarCRM for some of the integrations, and they developed APIs in-house for other (Banner and StarRez) integrations. One of the most impressive and powerful aspects of Fordham Connect is its ability to bring in a student’s current view (test scores, transcripts, grades, etc.) and its integration with Ellucian Degree Works that allows faculty to obtain a 360-degree view of a student’s academic risk indicators, degree audit, and the student’s progress toward degree.

Each institution must evaluate their own needs to choose the best CRM platform to meet their unique goals. SugarCRM may be an enterprise choice to consider.


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Columnist: Mary Beth Cahill - Tambellini Analyst
As head of research for The Tambellini Group, Ms. Cahill focuses on higher education technology trends and software strategies. She has led numerous research efforts, specifically in the area of vendor ERP and Student Information System (SIS) software solutions, data and learning analytics, CRM, learning management, and social networking. Ms. Cahill is also the co-author of several published industry reports, including The Tambellini Group's "Upgrade or Replace" and "Vendor Review" series of reports.