Little College, Big World: How Technology Can Provide Big Wins for Small Schools

By Salesforce.org | June 28, 2017 | Higher Education

By: Carol Thomas, Vice President of Information Technology, New England College

As a small college technology leader (defined as <5,000 students) in a rural area of the beautiful state of New Hampshire, I have found myself bumping up against expectations for technology service delivery that are based on the wonderful work of much larger, more well-resourced schools. With a small and mighty technology team and tight budget, how do we get the benefits of what technology offers to meet our institution’s goals?

In other words, just because you work at a small school doesn’t mean the technology issues and challenges are small. In fact, because of limited resources and legacy technologies, your issues may be as complex as those of your counterparts at larger institutions. For institutions looking to modernize technology to support enrollment management it is time to break down the technology silos and disparate systems by leveraging technology to fill in the gaps left by limited institutional resources.

In an upcoming Salesforce webinar, I’ll detail how we transformed technology at New England College, a small liberal arts college in New Hampshire with big aspirations and goals. As a tuition-driven institution, we focused results on improvement in our enrollment management. And, to get started, there are three areas of investment – mostly investment of your time – that a small college technology leader can apply to “make the case” for investments needed to meet your institutional goals. These include:

Complete a technology gap assessment.

Understand and identify your technology gaps to prepare for innovative processes that deliver real results. Through this effort, identify what absolutely needs to be done and recognize that communicating this information to your College’s leadership is essential. And… help them understand the sequence of events. In our case, our network needed significant improvement before we could even consider a cloud solution. To help our College leadership understand I applied the “make it all about ‘them’” guidance from Gartner! If you want this result (ie, state of the art CRM), then we need an upgraded network (demonstrating network metrics).

Most institutional leaders don’t need to know how to do something, they need to know why it’s important. So align the assessment with the institution’s strategy. At a small, tuition-dependent institution, aligning technology improvements to improved enrollment is key. I’ll share that remarkable success in both graduate and undergraduate enrollment with you during the webinar!

Be a true steward of institutional resources associated with technology.

Sometimes technology professionals are treated as “order takers”. Move beyond that by taking ownership of the technology strategy, particularly as it applies to functional areas of the institution, including enrollment management. One of the benefits of being a leader at a small College is the bureaucracy is often compressed. Understanding how to impact change, and showing the added value that comes of it, is a key leadership strength. And, be clear on the dependencies. If your infrastructure is not adequate to meet demands, show how results will be accomplished if that investment is made first. (Think Maslow’s hierarchy! More on that in the webinar.)

Establish partnerships.

In my situation I have a great team, and it’s small. It was clear that unless revenue improved there would be little opportunity in the first year or two to expand that team. And, in fact, it might not be the right thing to do given the significant expertise required to achieve our goals. So, know you don’t need to go at it alone. Partner with the right technology vendors to extend your available resources. For New England College that has meant a strong partnership with Salesforce.org and EnrollmentRx to make the much-needed improvements to our enrollment process. Technically, partnerships to support our integration needs have included Jitterbit and Ferrilli. Augmenting our staff with this expertise has added value in speed to implementation, and therefore speed to demonstrable results. And, success breeds success. I’ll share more on those successes during the webinar.

As technology leaders we are called upon to meet many diverse demands. Developing the tools to respond to those demands and providing the leadership to drive results is our responsibility. Join me as I talk about all of this and much more in our webinar on July 19th. Register today!