In my role as a Success Engagement Manager, it’s fascinating to see the variety of ways universities use our platform, from marketing to prospects to promoting intellectual property licensing to creating custom mentor matching apps. A university that five years ago only had one department using Salesforce may now have twelve departments on the platform. But all this growth comes with a challenge: sprawl. Very often each of these departments has its own Salesforce org with all of its data walled off from the others. This siloed approach is an impediment to the 360 degree view of the student. Moreover, supporting all those orgs, with all their separate development approaches, can be a nightmare for IT.
While Salesforce does not expect you to have only one org, you really ought to have a single org strategy. That is, your institution needs to develop a strategy that guides which departments will use which orgs, how data will be shared among the orgs, and what development standards will be set among the orgs. By governing your university’s use of Salesforce with a single strategy, the experience for your students, employees, and other stakeholders is unified and intuitive – even if the data is housed in multiple Salesforce orgs!
Whether you are a brand new customer to Salesforce or an existing customer looking to realign your current orgs, there are a number of important considerations that should inform your org strategy.
Consideration 1: Who Is at the Center of Your Work?
Many university departments exist to serve students. In these cases, it usually makes sense to lean more to the side of consolidating these departments into one Salesforce org, or to have tightly linked orgs, so that students can have a more unified digital and service experience. However, other departments are more focused on external companies and constituents, such as vendor management, research centers, and corporate relations. If these departments use a separate Salesforce org, there is not likely going to be any interruption to the student’s experience.
Consideration 2: Driving Toward Your Biggest Goals
In cases where a highly impactful goal drives constituent engagement strategy, such as a university building out a digital experience that conveys their brand, it usually makes sense to combine all the departments supporting this goal into a single org with all the best tools, potentially including CRM, communities, campus apps, and a variety of marketing & communication tools. However, if other departments have needs that are not directly tied to these ambitious campus goals, for example departments that need to send out occasional newsletters or promote a once-a-semester events, they may be better supported by an out-of-the-box Salesforce org with fewer tools and less expensive licenses.
Consideration 3: That Super-Sensitive Data
With proper security protocols, it is possible to host and protect all manner of data within a single Salesforce org. However, you may consider a unique org if you have a program that requires highly conservative data management. For example, some universities use Salesforce to manage schedules, note taking, and appointments for the mental health counseling office. Because accidentally exposing this data could have numerous ethical and legal implications, giving mental health counseling its own org to guard the data is a good idea to consider.
Final Thought: Reality Will Intrude
Org strategy requires a “plan and adapt” approach. Like any of the best-laid plans, reality will intrude and you’ll need to revisit your strategy to adapt. As your Salesforce usage becomes more ambitious, a Center of Excellence (COE) with appropriate and active representation from each of your stakeholder groups becomes a necessity. Your COE can govern your org strategy to address upcoming reality intrusions and still make sure that development standards, automation, data flow, and change management best practices are shared among your orgs.
Salesforce provides all the support you need to be successful in planning your org strategy. Your Account Executive can recommend various services and offerings to assist. And don’t forget about the powerful Power of Us Hub for tips from your peers. The most important action you can take today is to stop the sprawl and start planning your org strategy.
About the Author
Geoffrey Witham is a Success Engagement Senior Manager in Higher Education at Salesforce.org. Geoff has worked in higher education for 18 years, including roles as a university analytics director, a recruitment manager, a career counselor, an adjunct professor, and a private college counselor. As a consultant for Salesforce.org, he has assisted over 100 universities in Salesforce strategy, prioritization, change management, governance & assessment. Connect with him on LinkedIn.