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Evaluating CRM for higher education

We are an Australian university currently evaluating the value of CRM for marketing and student recruitment, alumni, and corporate and community partnerships.

Are there any CRM solutions for higher education you recommend that we evaluate as part of the process? What are your thoughts regarding on-premise vs. on demand or SaaS? Are there any higher education organizations that you can point to who are a good "benchmark" for CRM deployment?

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Actually, I'd like to answer your second question first. Depending on your willingness to allow a server that you do not entirely control to hold your student data, on demand is the future and even the present of CRM, as on-premise remains the best choice only for major institutions that have high degrees of customization and requirements to hold their data locally. The discussions and debates over on demand vs. on-premise are nevertheless very important because different solutions affect different folks.

Higher education-specific CRM applications are not very good -- at least not very inclusive. Meaning: there are few that do all that you want them to do. The best overall higher education enterprise solution was PeopleSoft (now Oracle) so I would look there first. Blackboard is, of course, another solution that is well regarded, but it does not encompass all of your needs. Additionally, there is a Salesforce.com AppExchange solution called studentforce -- it is focused around students and their needs, rather than the operational needs of the university -- and that is worth a look at.

A few universities in the U.S. have had significant success with CRM. Arizona State University's sports program run by Steve Hank is exceptionally successful in driving revenue through the sports programs and increasing the fan base of the university. DePaul University has a well-designed and intelligent CRM program that is a benchmark for higher education. It has been so successful it has even been able to ferret out students-at-risk that would not have been discovered any other way. Finally, the University of Dayton has had success with an online CRM program for its student prospects and separately for its alumni with a homegrown system.

This was first published in July 2006

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