“We have to make our experience so compelling that students and teachers believe it’s a great use of their time. Does it help them when they go to college or into the workforce? All these systems we’ve been able to implement with Salesforce’s help has allowed us to accomplish that mission.” - Vince Bertram, President & CEO, Project Lead The Way
Project Lead The Way: Realizing a STEM Organization’s Potential Energy With Salesforce
Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is a nonprofit organization that provides a transformative learning experience for K-12 students and teachers, currently in more than 10,500 schools across the U.S. Through PLTW programs, students develop STEM knowledge as well as in-demand, transportable skills that they will use both in school and for the rest of their lives, on any career path they take. As PLTW students progress through grades K-12, they are empowered to engage in problem solving and process thinking, develop technical knowledge and skills, build communication skills, and explore career opportunities.
PLTW had a common set of challenges for an education-focused organization: how to identify and onboard new schools, how to support the current network of schools and instructors, and how to facilitate funding and collaboration between schools and community partners. PLTW faced challenges with growth, laboring under inefficient and slow processes that relied on spreadsheets, home-grown software and various point solutions. Behind the scenes, infrastructure and maintenance was similarly burdensome and the PLTW IT team was tasked with supporting and maintaining the various systems. “We were growing at 20-30% per year and couldn’t support that type of volume.” says Dorothy Gorman, Project Lead The Way’s Senior VP and Chief Communications Officer.
Vision Meets Technology
After languishing on another software that failed to deliver the promised results, they turned to Salesforce. Capitalizing on the tight integrations between the family of Salesforce solutions, PLTW architected an integrated system that addressed all their organizational needs: identifying and scoring potential new schools that could benefit from their programs; providing support/service to current schools and teachers; managing and delivering grants; and managing day to day operations. They started their implementation with the Salesforce Sales Cloud as their foundation, using it to track prospects from lead to completed contract and understand the overall pipeline of potential program participants, something that was not possible before. In parallel, they implemented Pardot to engage and score prospective schools that were ready to join their programs, replacing three different systems the team had previously used to manage its efforts. Now every member of the team can manage their own prospects, add prospects to campaigns, and send emails using on-brand, pre-populated templates. “Since implementing Salesforce, our open rate has increased by 27% and we’ve seen a 151% increase in subscribers,” explains Gorman.
In addition to Sales Cloud and Pardot, PLTW chose the Service Cloud to support the instructors who are in schools across the country teaching the PLTW curriculum. Since implementation, they’ve seen a substantial improvement in service levels. “Our old system was so clunky, broken and non-intuitive. Our call center used to have to access a dozen or so resources to research and address a teacher’s request.” says Gorman. “Now, they can login to Salesforce and see basically everything.”
PLTW didn’t stop here. They soon identified a need to build out their social media strategy and went with Salesforce’s Social Studio as their social media management platform. Social Studio allows PLTW to monitor and listen to what’s being said about their organization across social channels, schedule and publish content, and track the analytics behind their social efforts. For the PLTW network of teachers, administrators, partners and even students, it’s critical for them to have an avenue to share their stories, voice their opinions, and collaborate across districts. Social Studio is the secret sauce that enables PLTW to monitor community engagement in an effective way for the very first time.
PLTW also selected the Salesforce Community Cloud to create a digital space to collaborate with PLTW staff, schools, teachers and community partners. With a single portal to share content, answer questions and an integrated shopping cart for ordering classroom material, teachers can get what they need from self-service, and PLTW can spend more time on more intensive requests. “The adoption rate has been over 80%, with the majority of our orders going through the community portal.” says Gorman. “The average number of lines per order has increased more than four times what it was a year ago.”
Looking to the Future
As PLTW has continued to expand and scale on Salesforce, they continue to add solutions as their needs have evolved, with the recent implementation of Social Cloud and improved grant tracking and management. They’ve also implemented Heroku for infrastructure management behind the scenes, and have easily added additional functionality with selected apps from the AppExchange. “We have to make our experience so compelling that students and teachers believe it’s a great use of their time. Does it help them when they go to college or into the workforce?” says Bertram. “All these systems we’ve been able to implement with Salesforce’s help has allowed us to accomplish that mission.”