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Seeking Data Solutions? Aim Higher

How breaking away from fragmented fixes can help colleges meet revenue goals

Recently, a college president shared with Collegis that it’s not unusual for his various teams to need a couple of weeks to respond to requests for data. But, he wants to move faster. He’s always thinking about how his college might be as competitive as possible. In today's world, that means keeping up with the fast pace of digital information. It means being responsive, nimble, and informed – by current information – not data that’s weeks old.

Analytics dashboards, he says, that allow him to track data in real time would really help. But finding such dashboards can be a challenge. The main barrier is that the data needed to create them is buried or siloed. Or, perhaps, not even captured.

Fragmented Fixes

It’s understandable that it can take a few weeks for a college department to sort through data. Most colleges could use two or three times the staff they have in order to stay on track. Even so, there are other barriers to data that could be removed. They stem from what we call fragmented fixes.

For instance, we often see that when data is owned by a number of vendors, it’s difficult to piece together a meaningful story. It may be that one vendor doesn’t want to give others an advantage. Another common scenario is when a marketing vendor is unaware of what information might be of use to the admissions team.

It’s become increasingly important for colleges to strive for operational simplicity, keep expenses down, and seek open standards in software and IT.

Either way, college leaders end up with only a fragmented view of what’s impacting revenue, marketing and enrollment. But we all know that no one part of a college stands alone. The “knee-bone is connected to the thigh bone” in that efficiency, student experience, enrollment, you name it, are everyone’s job.

Another problem arises when one kind of software can’t export data to a different type of software. Ever wished that you could transfer data from an Excel spreadsheet to a slideshow presentation, only to find that it would be too small to show up, or the formula to translate it into a graph isn’t working?

It should be easy, right? And yet, things get in the way.

Unfortunately, it’s not unusual to see obstacles like this when a college seeks to track its marketing attribution. In order to do so, it needs data from its customer relationship management system (CRM), and most CRMs do not like to talk to other types of software.

Ground Zero

Around Collegis, the CRM is ground zero. It’s where a college’s data story begins. It’s where we take a first look at quality vs. quantity, and It’s the make-or-break location where some of the school’s most valuable data will either be captured, or fall through the cracks.

It’s no secret that CRMs are rigidly inflexible. It can be tough to pull data from them, and tougher to blend that data with the marketing analytics. Tracking a prospective student’s path through their college-selection journey should be easier than ever today, and yet these digital, tech or software issues get in the way.

Colleges are increasingly tying enrollment to revenue. But, if an institution’s CRM data can’t be tied to marketing attribution, then the college is running blind. These barriers seem needless. And, they can be expensive when a college is forced to overgeneralize in a marketplace that now demands precision.

Therefore, at Collegis, we have concluded that using multiple vendors introduces so much opaqueness to business-critical data that it’s simply not worth it.

Colleges need visibility into what’s impacting their enrollment and revenue streams from inquiry to enrollment, graduation and beyond.

It makes no sense for college leaders to have to sort through endless reports from a series of vendors that rarely provide a bird’s eye view of the college’s progress. In today’s digital climate, leaders need data that allows them to check each gate from first touch to inquiry, application, and conversion.

At Collegis, we have concluded that using multiple vendors introduces so much opaqueness to business-critical data that it’s simply not worth it.

A college’s operational success shouldn’t depend on being forced to buy package deals of products that will go unused simply to access the only one it wants (as is all too often the case with CRMs). And for that matter, too many colleges are investing in short term solutions that will be obsolete by the time they’re implemented. If a college is investing in software or technology, the product must be flexible and provide cross-platform functionality. It must be selected in anticipation of even more digital evolution, expansion and ever increasing demand for its use.

Imagine information flow

The thing is, once a college starts working with a multi-service partner that understands higher ed inside and out, work can be streamlined throughout the entire campus. Imagine working with a single source that could solve technology, marketing, admissions and operational problems system-wide.

Information would flow. Decision makers would be able to reach into the data stream and pluck analytics on demand.

Only in working with a single partner can a college gain control of the levers and interactions that will give it maximum visibility and control. The benefits include that:

  • It is more efficient to manage a single partner than multiple partners.
  • It allows a college to make the most of its budget and resources.
  • It breaks down silos within the institution.
  • It encourages cross-departmental collaboration.

Revenue Growth Through Operational Simplicity

It all circles back to having the data that’s needed in real time, so that higher ed leaders, like the president mentioned above, can move at the pace that makes sense for them. It’s become increasingly important for colleges to strive for operational simplicity, keep expenses down and seek open standards in software and IT. This can be daunting, but consolidating multiple vendor partnerships into one is a start. We’ve seen it impact revenue for our partners, and we think it can impact revenue at your institution, too.

If you would like to break away from fragmented fixes in favor of revenue growth through operational simplicity reach out to us at info@collegiseducation.com.

About the Author

James Cowie

President and Chief Executive Officer, Collegis Education, as well as Trustee Emeritus of Colby College and Life Trustee of the Illinois Institute of Technology. Education: Colby College and Stanford University

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