What Dreamforce 2013 Told Us About the Future of Higher Ed

For those of you who have attended a nonstop conference like Dreamforce, you know I’m dragging myself through the door at EverTrue in search of a nice quiet corner to sleep for three days and then clean up a thousand backlogged emails.

As a long-time Salesforce nerd, I attended Dreamforce this year seeking to learn as much as possible about how independent schools and higher education institutions use the platform. Even after six months working every day with EverTrue clients on different CRMs, I still feel like I’m just scratching the surface.

What does Salesforce have to do with higher ed?

Check out Marc Benioff’s keynote starting around 39:33. In the next few minutes, and with only a few flights of fancy, he sums up his vision for how higher education institutions can reach the internet of customers.

Salesforce.com, despite the name, is a very powerful platform to manage any kind of organizational data or process. Moreover, the Salesforce Foundation has donated free licenses and other discounts to nonprofits for many years and has grown a vibrant community of partners and vendors—so by now more than 20,000 organizations use the platform. Partner applications configure the platform for specific uses like fundraising, grants management, and advancement.

Most of all, I greatly enjoyed the chance to talk with EverTrue clients Interlochen Center for the ArtsSidwell Friends School, as well as wonderful community members like Kathleen Lueckeman at Wayne State University, Ryan Ozimek of Picnet, and Thomas Groden of OpenIssue.

How do Schools use Salesforce?

Larger schools might have a dozen or more databases on campus, each serving a particular department or function. From my non-scientific surveys in the Salesforce Foundation zone and at the Kell Partners and NPO Engagement Parties, it seems that admissions, enrollment, and student information services are the most popular use cases.

A few larger universities use Salesforce as a “system of engagement,” or central source for identity management. Salesforce has great APIs, so moving data in and out is easier than with some other platforms. Because of this strength, these schools use Salesforce as the hub for other systems to consolidate and surface information about constituents and students.

That said, there are some amazing projects moving forward with some large university advancement groups. I’m pretty sure a migration of that scale will drastically increase the coffee consumption in those offices, but I can’t wait to hear about the results.

What are Chatter Communities? What’s Salesforce1?

Recently Chatter Communities have replaced Portals as a promising way to support constituents who need improved interaction—groups, students in classes, or highly-engaged alumni from professional schools. I’ve been watching webinars and reading case studies about schools like Dartmouth and Yale who are using Chatter Communities in business school career offices.

Salesforce1 is a broad rebranding and infrastructure improvement effort, and it includes a new mobile app that makes it easier to support Salesforce users on mobile devices; any webpage or any view in Salesforce could be a tab in the Salesforce1 app for your organization.

Pretty darn powerful.

A few people at #df13 heard the word “mobile” related to Salesforce1 and wondered if it would replace every institution-related app on their phones or laptops. Not right away, and not at an institution with two dozen CRMs, but it’s a step in the right direction.

So where does EverTrue fit in?

A school has many diverse constituents and communities in different phases of their life cycles. It’s a stretch to expect the same app to be everyone’s favorite. Our mission at EverTrue is to help build relationships in pursuit of a better world. I can see the graduating class of 2014 thanking their professors in a Chatter Community, then firing up EverTrue to assist their job search while their alumni and career officers look at reports and welcome new EverTrue users from their Salesforce1 app.

Still, only a half dozen EverTrue partners use Salesforce. Because I work with partner imports and data every day, and Salesforce takes much of the pain out of integrations and exports, I’d love to welcome more Salesforce-powered organizations to EverTrue (we work hard to make it very easy to connect with EverTrue to power your mobile alumni community). I’ve even built a fully-automated tool we use internally to populate our own EverTrue community from our Salesforce instance.

Ready for next year!

A good conference should leave you with a feeling of purpose and promise, and Dreamforce did not disappoint. Now to clone myself so I have time to do my work at EverTrue while exploring all the new APIs…


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