Data touches on virtually every activity at the university, but CU has not always effectively managed the innumerable bits of information on its internal and external constituents, according to a presentation to the Board of Regents Friday. Large databases in areas such as student information, human resources, finance and fundraising don’t always communicate with one another, much less provide effective interactions with those whose data is stored there.
The university is aiming to change that with a move to a systemwide constituent relationship management (CRM) data platform. The regents heard a presentation about the initiative from Vice President for Communication Ken McConnellogue.
“We need consistency in our interactions with our key audiences and we need to make it easy for them to interact with us,” McConnellogue said. “A CRM organizes, automates and synchronizes interactions with constituents, each of whom will have a single record, while increasing our knowledge of them each time. It pulls from multiple CU data sources and meets multiple data needs.”
The impetus for the project was the need for a more effective advising system on the Boulder campus and the November phase-out of the product now used in the systemwide eComm program (how the university sends mass emails, hosts alumni communities and manages most events). Leadership on the campuses, including chief information officers, and at system agreed on a single platform and selected industry leader Salesforce as the vendor.
The need also dovetailed with CU President Bruce Benson’s priority to ensure effective data management, academic success and communication by having centralized data that is current, accurate and secure.
McConnellogue said a team is building the data infrastructure to support advising in Boulder and the eComm program. The CRM database will be fed by CU’s primary systems of record HRMS, ISIS, Advance and FIN (human resources, student information, fundraising, finance) and will provide frequent two-way data sharing. Once the initial two projects are functional and the data infrastructure built, other projects from units across the system will come on board.
The initiative is governed by a systemwide group with representatives from academic affairs, finance, communication and information security. It also includes the chief information officers from each campus and system administration.
The CRM will provide a 360-degree view of constituents, including students, faculty, staff, donors and alumni. McConnellogue used himself as an example of someone with multiple touch points at the university. He is an alumnus, a donor, a staff member, a parent of a CU student, grateful patient from services at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus and CU Advocate. He said no database at CU connects all those dots and that many constituents have a similar story.
An initiative running parallel with the CRM initiative is an effort to improve the Advance database, CU’s fundraising and alumni database that has become the de facto system of record for external constituents. It is important to the success of the university’s changes to its fundraising operations two years ago. As a key feeder of the CRM database, there is an effort underway to ensure the quality of the data being transferred.
Between the optimization of Advance and the advent of a CRM database, CU should be able to improve how it manages data, McConnellogue said.
“This is a large initiative but one that is essential to our success as a university,” he said.