A CIO’s Advice on Staffing in the Age of the Cloud (Part 2)Deborah Gelch | Chief Information Officer, Lasell College
As I wrote about last week, the new generation of cloud-based, configurable solutions empowers a new level of ingenuity and connectivity between IT and business partners. However, just because you can do anything in the system doesn’t mean you should.
Just to set the scene for anyone who missed last week’s article, we recently implemented a new Enrollment Rx CRM (constituent relationship management) system. Compared to the closed systems of the past, with pre-set functionality that only changed with product upgrades, the configurable nature of our new system really opened our eyes to the possibilities.
Today’s article will continue where we left off last week, offering three more strategies to make sure the limitless possibility of a cloud-based solution delivers real business value, and not just busywork for IT.
4. Tap into cross-departmental resources for training
The ability to customize the CRM to our institution’s needs was a new world for us. It has been a pleasant surprise to learn that some administrators or “power users” are doing very sophisticated things in the system, such as: creating new fields or even objects, modifying the user interface (UI), field updates based on simple or advanced criteria—including time-based updates, workflow notifications, automated task creation and data imports—automated report notifications and the creation of powerful dashboard reports, just to name a few.
As a result, with proper governance in place, you can put these functions in the hands of business units, allowing the staff to train each other without a huge dependency on IT. In one case, we had a user from development train the admissions team on how to create reports—without IT’s involvement. You can’t ask for more than that!
Takeaway: Recognize your pockets of expertise and power users and encourage them to be collaborative and share knowledge.
5. Empower business users and clear a path for more stimulating work
What used to take hours of developing code can now be completed in minutes. In most legacy systems, if a business unit requested to change a field or create an alert when a field has been updated (e.g. a student registering for a particular class) or a threshold has been met (e.g. a class is full), IT had to do it, as they were the only ones with access to the back end and the programming skills to make it happen. With our cloud CRM, end users can develop their own workflow and make simple or even complex changes thanks to a very open and feature-rich platform.
In the past we could spend hours discussing and writing requirements for a new business process. Now, we can brainstorm new processes, make changes to the system on the fly, test the new process, and “rinse and repeat” until we were all satisfied.
At first, it seemed like the ease and simplicity were taking away all of IT’s fun. But we quickly learned that the time gained could be put towards even more stimulating work that our team loves to do, like building custom applications and analytics. That allowed us to redirect more basic-level work that used to be created and disseminated by IT, like developing reports and dashboards, to users and power users within the business units.
For example, our admissions office has developed a very comprehensive and advanced communication flow for emails, letters and calls that need to be scheduled for all of the types of students with whom they need to communicate. A separate communication track is set up for domestic versus international inquiries, or transfer/freshman applicants, for example. Counselors and data specialists can easily see (or even manually modify) the current and next status for any constituent in the communication flow at any time. This whole process has required very little involvement from the IT staff.
Takeaway: Embrace an agile culture that puts more power in the hands of the business users, which means that your team can spend time on more stimulating projects.
6. Hire for new IT skill sets
At some schools we’ve talked to, developers are hesitant to move to a system built on Salesforce due to concern about how it will change their jobs. In our case, it’s allowed developers to do more interesting work and has made their jobs more enriching.
It is important, however, to understand that there is a new demand for IT talent that combines mid-level IT skills (e.g. can write some code but doesn’t need to know how to do deep programming) with a real understanding of how the business works. Based on our experience, this type of hire is in high demand, so it can be a difficult position to fill.
Takeaway: Start the hiring process early and keep your expectations high. A team member with skills that combine IT with business process and social engagement expertise can be a critical bridge between IT and other departments using the CRM.
The flexibility of the cloud can be jarring to the status quo if not managed properly. As you transition to new cloud systems, trying to fulfill every one-off request as it comes your way may not be strategic for the business. Instead, prioritize implementation steps, reconsider staffing decisions and resource allocation, and continue to invest in the right team with the relevant skill sets. This will help you effectively manage the transition to the cloud, allowing both the IT and operations side of the university to realize the value in spades, immediately and in the long term.
Author Perspective: Administrator