By Eric McCune

We hear it time and time again – the higher education landscape is changing. Colleges and universities are competing for the same students with slimmer budgets and limited technology.  Students are carefully evaluating their options with student loans and the student experience is top of mind. Given this context, it shouldn’t be a surprise that more and more universities are looking to technology for a competitive advantage.

Salesforce, the world’s number #1 constituent relationship management (CRM) platform, has recently released a slew of offerings for higher education. While colleges and universities have long-used the platform for a dizzying number of use-cases (I helped my university select and implement Salesforce for advancement and alumni engagement “way back” in 2012!), until the last couple of years there had not been a baseline architecture that could be utilized that had higher ed features and functionality built-in. That’s all changed with the Higher Education Data Architecture (HEDA).

OK, I know you’re saying, “thanks for the context Eric, but tell me about SALESFORCE ADVISOR LINK!”

With the Salesforce Advisor Link, the platform is transforming a key element of the student success equation: advising. If you attended a traditional four-year institution for your undergrad, you’ll probably remember how advising looked: it involved lots of paper, walk-in hours, sitting in a hallway for your appointment, and most likely did not feel personalized at all. So what is Salesforce Advisor Link, and what does it do?

The Advisor Experience

Broken systems and processes for student advising come from a number of factors. Advisor roles are often understaffed and overworked, and advisors are often not provided with the technology tools they need to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. Perhaps faculty are also doubling as advisors. Or maybe they have to log in to multiple screens and systems, if not file cabinets, to ensure that students are on-track for graduation are being well-attended to.

The Salesforce Advisor Link provides a single source of truth for advisors by:

  1. Consolidating all advising records in one place: The Salesforce Advisor Link is built on Salesforce, which means your staff can bring in data from desperate systems across campus, whether an LMS, SIS or other, so that advisors can fully achieve a 360-degree perspective on their students.
  2. Early alerts: Thanks to Salesforce’s integration-first API’s and architecture, triggering alerts and early warnings to students who may be at risk of falling behind or being delayed another year or semester due to poor performance has never been easier. Utilizing a tool like Marketing Cloud allows staff to automatically trigger notifications, whether by email, text message or push notification easily from within the system or automatically based on predefined criteria and formulas for student success.
  3. Mass actions: Wouldn’t it be nice to message multiple students who meet your desired criteria? With Student Advisor Link you can. Advisors can create mass actions, like creating follow-up tasks or to-dos for students – saving valuable time and ensuring that their students are crystal-clear on their next steps and success plans.

 

The Student Experience

It’s no secret that today’s college students live a good portion of their lives online. Whether through social media, their mobile phones or gaming platforms, much of their interaction is done digitally and through cutting-edge technology. What a shock it must be once they get to college to map out their majors, progress to graduation, and advising appointments predominantly on paper! I would argue that given the competitive climate in higher education today, it is unacceptable for colleges and universities to not improve their platforms and technologies and strive to offer a best-in-class student success experience. The dividends are ten-fold – not only will an improved advising experience help students succeed, but they will also feel more engaged, contributing to alumni engagement and advancement efforts down the road. This is one of the big benefits of having a “connected campus” through the Salesforce platform.

Because the Salesforce Advisor Link is built on the Salesforce platform, it is a mobile-first solution. This means that truly anything that can be completed from a web browser can also be completed by students on their mobile devices, whether Apple or Android. Some of the key features that it provides are:

  1. One-stop-shop: Students are able to log into their student portal and access all of the key information they need to succeed on campus. The portal is mobile-friendly, and allows them to not only view, but create and edit key information and requests as well.
  2. Success team at their fingertips: Whether students have a single advisor or a success team assigned to them once they enroll, now it is easy for students to understand who their main points of contact are across campus for major declarations, finance-related questions and more. They can even create appointments based on topic, and the correct staff member will be automatically selected for them!
  3. Appointment booking: Gone are the days of waiting outside an office for drop-in hours, signing up for advising time slots on a piece of paper and never-ending email chains finalizing appointments. With Student Advisor Link, students can simply select a time for their appointment that works for them. And thanks to integration with your campus calendar system, advisors, faculty and staff can rest assured that their time and efforts are being used appropriately.
  4. Self-service resources on the go: Through the Salesforce Advisor Link’s student portal they can access any key FAQ’s or documentation that is instrumental to their success on campus. Students can also log in and view any advisor-assigned actions and tasks on the go.

Salesforce Advisor Link’s Place on Campus

“OK,” you’re thinking, “The Salesforce Advisor Link sounds pretty cool. But we don’t want another system for faculty and staff to have to log into. We’ve got enough of those!” Here at Cloud for Good, we’ve worked with over 1,600 nonprofit and higher ed clients, and we hear this all the time. Schools have their SIS, LMS, ERP and other systems – in addition to the single applications that each department or unit may be using on their own.

The beauty of the Salesforce Advisor Link, and in turn the Salesforce platform, is that it was built with integration in mind. Through Salesforce’s robust APIs and the vibrant ecosystem of integration solutions, you can rest assured that Student Advisor Link will not be another disconnected system. This means that only the most important data from your systems on campus needs to flow back and forth between the Salesforce Advisor Link, helping cut down on storage concerns while allowing your different systems do what they do best.

An additional benefit of utilizing the Salesforce Advisor Link for student success is the flexibility and customization that the Salesforce platform allows for when dealing with permissions and visibility. As an example, user profiles and permissions can be set so that staff only see the data and information relevant to their work in the platform. This also allows leadership across campus to have access to the high-level data they need.

Finally, because the Salesforce Advisor Link utilizes the Higher Education Architecture, or HEDA, colleges and universities can expand their use of the platform across different areas such as recruitment and admissions, career services, operations and vendor management, advancement and much more!

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Eric McCune

Eric McCune