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Reaching for Utilization Success

University Business, October 2012

While a CRM system might revolutionize people’s ability to do their jobs, getting everyone on board isn’t always easy. Technology isn’t necessarily the challenge with a new initiative, says Alan Walsh, functional chief, lifetime engagement at Indiana University, Bloomington. “The true challenge, as is often the case, is with the culture. But culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

When a new system is being deployed at Lasell College (Mass.), CIO Deborah Gelch says the first step to encourage adoption is training provided by IT. Then if someone tries to drop back to the old system, “we’ll remind them of their training and show them how to use the new system again.”

Department champions and the cliché of top-down leadership are also important factors. The team at Transylvania University (Ky.) admits that Ellucian Recruit languished virtually untouched for a year after it was purchased. “We had to abandon the old system and adjust what we do to what the [new] system can provide,” says Johnnie Johnson, associate director of admissions. Even then there was still resistance. “People didn’t understand why the system couldn’t do one thing or another.”

“We pretty much had to change everything we did,” adds Bryan Conover, assistant director of admissions. “It took fresh eyes and removing obstacles for us to jump in. I think a lot of institutions struggle with that.”

With the push to utilize the new system, the staff has examined all their business practices and work flows. They shifted their perspective to focus on what the system could help them do rather than trying to force the system to comply with existing methods.

Encouraging office champions and working closely with the IT staff has moved the process along, they say. Fresh eyes helped, as well. Since both men started in the same month, they didn’t fall into the “this is how it’s always been done” mindset. Another way they got people on board was by minimizing the negative impact of converting to a new system by focusing on the positive things it could do and highlighting the shortcomings in the old system, Conover explains. Small things, such as adjusting naming conventions to match those in the new system, helped ease the transition, as well.

Even when the staff is on board and has requested a new system, it’s sometimes necessary to just flip the switch. “It was either feast or famine,” says Josh Sine, director of new student programs and services at Dixie State College of Utah. “They either didn’t access data or they could use Enrollment Rx.”

“If you are getting a system on campus and you don’t generate excitement, it will just sit there and no one benefits,” says Amanda Fuentes Lorens, manager for CRM and special projects, Hunter College (N.Y.). They get people on board by highlighting the benefits of a new system, then assign them a task to perform to encourage use.

“CRM can do so many things,” she cautions, “that you can get overwhelmed by all the options and ideas.”

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