Ellucian has announced the addition of CRM to their product portfolio. This is a big, though anticipated move. According to the announcement, the initial focus is on Recruiter, Student Success, and Advancement. Although Recruiter is available today, Student Success and Advancement are scheduled to appear soon. The announcement is a further acknowledgement of the importance of CRM in higher education.
A Look at the Technology
The CRM solution will be built on Microsoft Dynamics as is Ellucian’s Recruiter product. Using Dynamics as the platform should allow Ellucian to focus on functionality, speed the delivery of the solutions and minimize support efforts. Ellucian spent a significant amount of time with customers over the summer gathering requirements and ensuring customers were comfortable with Dynamics. Although the use of Dynamics does not guarantee the success of Ellucian CRM, building their own CRM platform certainly would have been a mistake. Speed is critical to Ellucian’s success as more and more customers look for alternative CRM solutions.
One of the benefits Ellucian identified is multiple deployment options, on-premise and SaaS. True SaaS solutions do not have an on-premise option. Although Ellucian calls it SaaS, it is really more of a private cloud implementation, as each school will have their own copy of the software and the database. Multi-tenancy is at the virtualization layer. This solution provides an option for schools that want to get out of managing on premise software.
A Note About the XE Platform
In my opinion, the CRM announcement also completed the picture of the XE platform. Previous demonstrations of XE showed you could use other solutions with the ERP. The question at the time was: What was the other solution? Now it is clear the Ellucian CRM solution is meant to be the other solution. Again, XE should speed the development of CRM and increase capabilities for Ellucian ERP customers.
Thoughts on Current and Future Products
|Recruiter||Recruiter, available today, will continue moving forward. The key question for Recruiter is: How will the data model and processes fit in the CRM solution? Recruiter was built as a recruitment tool. With additional components, data models need to change to accommodate the full view of the student. These changes should be incremental without significant impact to existing customers|
|Advancement||The new Advancement solution is an evolution of the current product. Throughout the summer, Ellucian worked with a number of customers to understand their needs and requirements. But, without a launch date, information about the functionality is limited. For schools that are looking to implement an Advancement solution or thinking about moving away from an Ellucian solution, it will be important to understand the capabilities when the information is made available. Ensure you understand your needs and requirements and match them to the solution as it is defined.|
|Student Success||Student Success is also scheduled for future release and has limited functionality or capability information at this time. Similar to Advancement, it will be important to clearly understand your needs and requirements as the information becomes available. Although Student Success is not supposed to impact current implementations of products like Course Signals, existing Course Signals customers should see if there are additional capabilities in Student Success.|
Planning for the Changes
I believe Ellucian’s move into CRM is good for Ellucian and good for higher education. As Paul Setze noted in his post Higher Education Focus: The Student Centric Approach:
Ultimately, a comprehensive system is necessary for a user-friendly ecosystem that allows fluid communication throughout the institution. When administration, faculty, and students are in harmony, a university has the power to lead.
As Ellucian continues to work on their strategy and begins to deliver the solutions, consider the following points:
- Technology itself will not successfully implement CRM in your organization. Understanding your goals will be key, as discussed in our recent blog.
- CRM tends to be implemented in stages. Identify the best opportunities for success in your organization and create a roadmap.
- Initially, the Ellucian CRM will probably make most sense for Ellucian customers running XE. Ensure you understand the timeline of your XE implementation.
- As Ellucian announces capabilities, ensure those capabilities map to your organization and how your organization wants to do business.