CRM Governance: Who Holds the Keys?

Posted: April 27, 2023

Danielle Attanasio CRM Strategist

Has it ever seemed like there are too many hands trying to make changes in your customer relationship manager (CRM)? Have you ever felt unsure about the best way to change something in your system? That is where governance comes into play. Having a strong focus on governance is important not only during the implementation of your CRM but also beyond those initial months. When we talk about CRM governance, we’re referring to the centralization of decision making and ownership of all things CRM. This is different than technical database management, and it might include the answers to questions like:

  • Who is the owner of the data inside of your CRM?
  • Is your CRM the “source of truth” or will you be integrating to a centralized student information system (SIS)? 
  • Who is responsible for making important decisions?
  • When you want to change how something functions in the CRM, who do you turn to?
  • What does the approval process look like for all outgoing communications?
  • Which key stakeholders are at the table during implementation and future projects?
  • Which other departments should be represented on an as-needed basis? 

 It’s pretty likely that your CRM will be primarily used by the admissions office, at least in the beginning. It is also possible that you’ll find yourself sharing your system across multiple offices or functional units like undergraduate, graduate, or international admissions. Even if you are in a single office without any influence from your colleagues around campus, it is still important to consider how CRM governance plays out at your institution.

It’s possible that you’ll share your system across multiple offices like undergraduate, graduate, or international admissions.

One crucial benefit to establishing strong CRM governance is maintaining centralized communication and data. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Will you be sending out messages on behalf of other departments? 
  • Will you ever need to share any data from inside of your CRM to those same constituents? 
  • If you are planning to integrate your CRM with your SIS or other applications, will you need support from your IT department? 
  • Do you think that you will ever get requests from faculty or staff on campus to access your CRM? 
  • Will it be required for certain faculty to have access to your CRM for completing outreach, application review, or other key processes?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, then it’s time to start thinking about CRM governance. 

So where do you begin?

A common approach to governance is building a centralized data governance committee containing 3 to 5 primary stakeholders. This group will serve to manage implementation, ongoing projects, or process changes. They will serve as a “checks and balances” point to avoid your CRM becoming unorganized and difficult to manage. In Slate, we often refer to this group as our “Slate Captains.”

 When selecting members of this core governance team, you will want to look for experienced student success, admissions, or advising staff members who understand current processes and how they relate to each other. Current processes to consider include, but are not limited to:

  • The full life cycle of a prospective student.
  • Processing applications from start to finish.
  • How events are planned, organized, scheduled, and reviewed.
  • How admissions and recruitment efforts overlap with other offices such as financial aid, the registrar, academic programs, orientation, etc.
Choose experienced student success, admissions, or advising staff members for your team.

These staff members should have strong organizational skills and be able to think creatively during projects. You should also select people who are knowledgeable about your institution and office operations and are willing to reimagine new answers to their business process needs. Just because something has always been done a certain way, doesn’t mean that it is the best solution for your CRM!

 We would also advise including individuals who are technically aware of how relational databases and other technical systems function and integrate with one another. These individuals should be informed on the best practices for database management. 

I’ve built my team – now what?

You will want to decide on how your new team will operate. What expectations do you have for staff? How often will you meet? How can you be sure that you will stay consistent in the processes that you build together? We want to leave you with some tips to keep CRM governance at the forefront of your mind as you embark on your CRM implementation journey and beyond.

Tip #1: Set specific goals and expectations.

Establish a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that includes a process for, at minimum:

  • Adding new members to your CRM team – What happens if you have a member depart or a new member join?
  • Approving security and access requests for your CRM – Consider having a centralized request form that keeps all of your CRM access inquiries documented in one location.
  • Scheduling and executing CRM related projects – Would implementing a GANTT chart or project calendar be helpful for your CRM team?
  • Documenting key stakeholder information – If a question comes up about financial aid or housing, do you know who on campus would be the best person to invite to the conversation?
Set specific goals and expectations to ensure your new team operates smoothly.

Tip #2: Funnel all CRM-related inquiries through your governance team.

Even if it seems minor or unnecessary, building consistency in this regard is crucial. Any sort of question relating to user access, data requests, integrations with other systems, etc., should be brought to the attention of the CRM governance committee. This group of individuals should be well versed in the functions and ongoings of the CRM so that they can make informed decisions that keep the larger picture of your office, system landscape, and operations in mind.

Let’s Talk

We at VisionPoint love to help higher ed institutions of all shapes and sizes reach their enrollment goals through CRM work (and more). Ready to talk about your school’s specific needs? Reach out to our Vice President Dana Cruikshank or fill out the form below to get the conversation started.

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