Pepperdine University is focusing on constituent relationship management (CRM) strategies to enhance our constituents' experience from the moment they are prospects (Recruitment) to when they become students (Retention) to when and after they graduate (Advancement). In alignment with the University's strategic plan, entitled Pepperdine 2020: Boundless Horizons, the "Engaging Waves" Initiative will help provide information to attract excellent students committed to learning, improve the student experience, and foster enduring alumni loyalty. A key to our continued success will be growing collaboration across all schools and other major areas within Pepperdine while leveraging best practices, sharing accumulated knowledge, and creating intentional touchpoints along the entire constituent life cycle.
In November 2013, after 10 months of careful review and deliberations, the CRM Program Committee recommended the adoption of Salesforce as the campus-wide CRM solution. On January 16, 2014, President Andrew K. Benton and Provost Darryl L. Tippens, as executive sponsors, formally accepted the Committee's recommendation and approved the project.
What is CRM?
CRM is a business strategy, driven by executive leadership and supported by technology, for more effectively managing relationships with key constituent groups, such as students, parents, employers, faculty, staff, donors, alumni, and friends over the lifetime of the relationship. To develop and manage these relationships, CRM is used to learn more about constituents' needs, relationships, and behaviors and analytically predict attitudes and intentions. This strategy depends on bringing together information about constituents, events, programs, and industry trends. This data will become part of the data storage that will enable Pepperdine to make evidence-based decisions related to all areas of the enterprise. The end result will be a more responsive, more constituent-focused enterprise where relationships are not only valued, but also central to the service offerings at Pepperdine.
CRM is not new to higher education. Many institutions, including Pepperdine University, have adopted departmental CRM solutions to aid in their recruiting and advancement efforts. However, many of these solutions are not integrated with one another and/or with other institution-wide systems (e.g. PeopleSoft); therefore, making it more difficult to track and report on the institution's efforts.
Increasingly, universities are moving toward a centralized CRM solution to fulfill the diverse needs of a complex academic community. DePaul University, Northeastern University, Indiana University, and University of Western Sydney (Australia) are examples. These institutions have and continue to adopt new business processes that position themselves uniquely and advantageously - all in a sustainable fashion - in the higher education arena.
Approximately seven years ago we collectively elected to drop the CRM portion of PeopleSoft ERP implementation due to financial, timeframe, and feature set issues. However, the need for CRM at Pepperdine remained. Each school understandably now either has its own unique implementation of CRM or continues to perform CRM functions manually through a variety of ad hoc systems. This decentralized system strategy has two significant disadvantages for Pepperdine's ongoing strategic progress:
- The decentralized systems do not share information with one another, reducing our overall effectiveness, and knowledge about our constituents. Department and school users do not share common nomenclature, standardized reporting, data structure, or data entry controls. There is also insufficient end-user and specialized technical support. And we lack processes to discover trends and utilization patterns by concentration, student, and employer. As such, the University does not have a complete and accurate picture of prospects, students, alumni, donors, and other constituents in one place – including a history of activities, donations, programs, leadership roles, and any other relevant life-changing information.
- We strive to engage alumni by offering meaningful experiences of service and engagement. Our messaging and communications to alumni, however, are disjointed and uncoordinated across the schools. The absence of alumni communication preferences, personalization, and self-service updates handicaps our efforts to bring them back "home" to their Pepperdine family.
Given the internal environment described above and the external environment of slowing enrollment growth nationwide through 2020, and a shift in demographics of the college-bound population, shrinking employer-provided education benefits, increasing international competition, demanding fiscal constraints, a shifting market from passive to aggressive prospecting, and the need to do more with less, it is prudent for Pepperdine University to adopt an enterprise CRM.
Key Strategic Benefits
The key benefits of enterprise CRM, aligned with Pepperdine 2020: Boundless Horizons, will be focused on three major areas:
- Strengthening the Pepperdine Brand Experience
- Attract excellent students committed to learning, improve the student experience and foster enduring alumni loyalty.
- Deliver consistent enriched experiences for prospects, students, alumni, and other constituents across all five schools as one University.
- Improving Enrollment, Engagement Funnel & Alumni Relationships
- Provide continuous identification of groups to which alumni have a particular affinity,
and build upon that affinity through personalized communication and targeted programming
that unites students with alumni and promotes mentorship opportunities.
- Implement a mobile-friendly, self-service, secure portal for alumni directory information updates, membership information, opt-in/out preferences, intelligent registration of events, and history of participation.
- Improve internal communication and publish a central alumni/community communication calendar across the University that shows the complete picture of all planned communications and prohibits inadvertent, uncoordinated communication.
- Streamlining Processes and Improving Data Integrity & Business Analytics
- Establish a comprehensive knowledge base to share ideas, needs, and outcomes; deliver improved training materials (videos and credentialing) and include sufficient end-user and technical support.
- Reduce administration overhead and provide remote mobile access by administrators.
- Improve data accuracy and security, and provide automated judgment rules when updating data to ensure realistic vetting and validation.
- Provide a clear consistent strategy for the coding of data in reports across the University, such as alumni events.
- Identify discrete goals and outcomes for each department, and focus on evidence-based decision-making.
The ultimate goal is to develop, deliver, and support a CRM strategy that consolidates separate implementations of CRM within our University into a single, unified platform covering the entire constituent life cycle. One that is not only flexible, scalable, safe, and secure, but also affords each school and major functional area the ability to uniquely define its strategy and business processes. The enterprise CRM platform will enable all facets of Pepperdine University to collaborate as one across the institution. The success of this initiative relies upon reviewing and updating business processes in support of the unified CRM platform, and it will be measured based on our collective institutional effort to build long-lasting, meaningful relationships with all constituents.
Staff and faculty can help make lasting changes that will strengthen and build our community. Together we can enrich lives.
Please join in supporting The Engaging Waves Initiative at Pepperdine University.