Building an Education Cloud App on HEDA

By Salesforce.org | August 31, 2018 | Build Apps, Higher Ed Data Architecture, Higher Education

By: Florence Parodi, Senior Manager, Information Technology, University of Miami

Flow diagram of Interactions for Student Recruitment

Flow diagram of Interactions for Student Recruitment

As a supporter of continuous innovation, my role in higher education technology is to help create and sustain the systems that enable student success. In an effort to continue supporting our higher education community, my team and I applied for Salesforce’s Technology Innovation grant in 2016 as we had recently migrated away from an org with a managed package to a new org as a pilot school for the Higher Education Data Architecture (HEDA). Within the pilot, we were also inspired to create an app to improve prospect, student, and employee interactions with the school. Accordingly, we named that app Interactions for Student Recruitment, or Interactions. Today, I’d like to share our story with you:

Why Did We Build Interactions?

Among many higher ed institutions, a common view is that your first interaction with a prospective student should not be when that student is applying. The idea is that you should build and cultivate rapport with prospective students prior to application season, in order to attract the best students to your institution that are most likely to actually attend if admitted.

Interactions for Student RecruitmentWhether a student came to campus for a tour or actually met with an admissions officer for an interview, all of those specific points of contact needed to be recorded and measured. We wanted to make this process simpler – so, we built a solution nicknamed Interactions on the HEDA platform.

Interactions is much more than an app – it is a student recruitment solution that delivers open source technology, comprehensive documentation, learning modules, and additional implementation resources to the higher ed community. Interactions makes the process of tracking prospective students a breeze; it records information from their first interaction (see what we did there?) with an institution to hopefully when they apply and eventually start attending.

Console view of Interactions for Student Recruitment, built with Salesforce.org Education Cloud
Console view of Interactions for Student Recruitment, built with Salesforce.org Education Cloud

While this solution serves as a reportable, historical log of exchanges between the student and institution, the real magic of Interactions comes from the code that runs every time an interaction record is created. A single interaction record can create or update a contact, opportunity, affiliation, and/or campaign membership. It can even convert a lead in to a contact with related records!

You may be wondering how it’s matched with an existing lead and contact – this is done by leveraging Salesforce’s native Duplicate Management tools. The package also comes with guidelines for setting up key recruitment processes such as an application pipeline by utilizing native Opportunity functionality and sales processes.

 Recruiter dashboard in Interactions, built on HEDA
Recruiter dashboard in Interactions, built on HEDA

Interactions lets you build up a relationship with prospective students and gives recruiters and admissions officers a more well-rounded view of a prospect, no matter whom that student interacts with on campus. Interactions can also then be used to forecast which recruitment efforts are most effective and it can help gauge how likely a student is to apply and attend an institution.

Sharing Interactions Across Higher Ed

HEDA and Interactions gave us the flexibility we needed while allowing us to provide some much-needed enhancements to our end users. The best part was that most of the new enhancement were able to be delivered and supported in-house by our team. The experience taught us so many valuable lessons, that we decided to find a way to share it with the higher ed community. In connecting with other institutions, we realized that many, such as ours, have struggled to find solutions that come delivered ready for use and that incorporate easy customization and support.

Often with limited financial and human resources means, institutions must be sure their allocations of time and money are going to a solution that is attainable and makes sense for their business needs. With Interactions, we felt we could assist in reaching that goal by sharing our experience and solution for student recruitment to help those struggling with going from concept to design and, ultimately, a successful implementation.

Higher Ed Summit '18
The University of Miami Team at Higher Ed Summit 2018

How We Developed Our Salesforce App

We created a strategy to enable our users to input data in one place while affecting multiple records in Salesforce and preventing duplicates. Since we were also chosen as a pilot school for Salesforce.org’s HEDA, we had a higher ed based framework to build on. From that simple idea, Interactions was born – a way to streamline data entry, whether manual or via integration, with the assurance that existing records would be matched and that data was reaching the appropriate records.

Improving Trust Through Digital Transformation

Our end users are big fans of Interactions. It allows them to trust that existing records are being matched with and reduces their number of clicks to make their interactions with students more meaningful. Quick actions on contact and opportunity layouts come pre-filled, so existing data on those records don’t need to be typed out again. One interaction affects multiple records, making Interactions the one-stop shop for data entry and reporting.

Not only did Interactions give users a streamlined data entry process, it also gave analysts more meaningful data to report on. It has helped analysts make informed business decisions, as well as create new business processes to continue to build and improve upon Interactions. From the system administrator standpoint, Interactions has been revolutionizing and empowering. Now, we are able to deliver and support so much more ourselves without outside help or ever touching code.

Interactions was designed for the declarative developer and system administrator through and through. Want to create a new field that should be mapped from Interactions to both contact and opportunity? Simply create Interaction Mapping records for both mappings and you’re good to go! New to open-source implementations? Just follow the directions in our installation guide to learn about how to install the unmanaged package to hit the ground running. It’s that easy!

Important Lessons Learned

As we developed the Interactions solution, we learned three very important things:

    1. Keep it simple. Students and end users want technology that is easy to use and simply understands them. People expect that things will be personalized and that data that is pre-existing does not need to be entered again. Less clicks means more doing.

    2. Ask for help when you need it. Striking out on your own can be scary, but having such a supportive community with a virtual fountain of knowledge makes it easier to land on solutions that make sense and have been industry-proven. The Salesforce community is incredibly generous and helpful. If you haven’t joined the Power of Us Hub yet, and you use Salesforce, check it out sometime! (Here’s a recap of August happenings in the Hub.)

    3. Think lean startup: create a minimum viable product first. Go vanilla, then customize. Many of us make the mistake of shooting for the moon without first having a solid spaceship to get us there. Start small, make sure your foundation is strong, then blast off from there!

Session at Higher Ed Summit 2018
Session at Higher Ed Summit 2018

Continue to Learn from Your Peers

Dreamforce is a great way to get to know how other institutions and businesses are using Salesforce. When we take part in Dreamforce, we learn about how we can make our processes better and we are able to share our experiences to help guide others. At Dreamforce 2018, we will be presenting on “Using Interactions Beyond Recruitment.” Being able to present at this event is such a privilege, and we have been lucky enough to present on Interactions at both Dreamforce 2017 and the Higher Ed Summit 2018. After these types of presentations, the feedback has been incredible and it allows us a chance to really connect with people face-to-face about our solution.

On that note, we are always happy to connect with other higher ed institutions and we look forward to seeing you at Dreamforce 2018!

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About the Author
Florence ParodiFlorence Parodi leads the Salesforce.org Education Cloud enterprise strategy at the University of Miami to implement a connected campus system that supports CRM and custom development applications for prospective students and employees. She works closely with technical teams, functional leaders, institutional units, and subject matter experts to architect and develop applications that translate business requirements into scalable solutions. Florence rolled out Lightning Experience and positioned the University to be the first to go-live on the Higher Education Data Architecture (HEDA), an enterprise implementation that included Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud and a custom event registration solution. In 2015, she was the university liaison for the third annual Salesforce.org Higher Ed Summit hosted at the University of Miami. In 2016, the University was awarded a Salesforce Technology Innovation grant to work on Interactions for Student Recruitment, in which Florence is the principal investigator. She is a Salesforce MVP and the Chair of the Higher Education Advisory Council.