Is Your CRM Working With You or Against You?

Posted: April 13, 2023

Danielle Attanasio CRM Strategist

When you look up the definition of a CRM and how it can be used at your institution, you will likely find a definition to the effect of “a technology for storing all your school’s relationships and interactions with students and prospective students;” or “a tool to help colleges stay connected to students, streamline business processes, and improve efficiencies.”

If your school is utilizing a CRM, then you already know the power and capability of having a single source of truth for your students’ journeys. But did you know your CRM can likely help you to automate some of those pesky tasks that take up so much time for you and your team? Did you also know it’s possible to over do it with automation, causing more harm than good in your operations?

The golden rule to remember is “just because you can automate something doesn’t mean you always should.” When we begin to leverage workflows and process automation within a CRM, we must always ask ourselves: “Will it be more work to maintain than just doing it manually?” We want to help you to determine when automation can be used to take your business processes to the next level and when it might end up turning your CRM against you, producing more work than intended.

Let’s take a look at Slate by Technolutions, for example, and see just how this CRM can level-up your work. In Slate, automation is controlled by rules. You can use your rules to:

  • Move a record throughout a workflow.
  • Set or reset the value of a field.
  • Set an interaction or activity code to a record’s timeline.
  • Update a person’s status within your CRM.
  • Set or reset a custom tag. 
  • Add checklist items to an application.
In Slate, automation is controlled by rules.

And sometimes automation might take place outside of rules and inside of form calculations, transactional communication triggers, system email messages, etc. That is a whole lot of power at our fingertips, not only considering the basic actions Slate rules can take, but acknowledging you’re able to command these actions based on all of the data stored inside your CRM.

When you add in the use of custom formulas, exclusivity groups, populations, and more – there isn’t much you can’t do with a Slate rule. But this is where you must stop, take a breath, and remember: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Okay, so you’re officially scared of automation now – which is definitely not the intention of this article, so let’s talk about what steps you should take to determine when automation can help your CRM work with you instead of against you.

Step 1: Document Your Current Processes

The first step in implementing CRM automation is to be fully informed about the processes currently in place for the task in question. Are you absolutely sure the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) you are looking at is up to date? Are you positive your staff hasn’t implemented their own custom workarounds?

When you build improvements to a process your team has already been performing a certain way, you want to try to anticipate all of the responses like “Well, what about this step?” and “Oh, we haven’t needed to do that in years!” Document the current process well by:

  • Building a Business Process Map (BPM) for the task.
  • Allowing key staff members to review the BPM for accuracy.
  • Highlighting areas of the current process that can be improved immediately.
  • Identifying spots within the process where an automated rule might help to increase efficiency.
Document the current process well by building a Business Process Map (BPM).

Step 2: Test, Test, and Test

And it probably also makes sense to build in your sandbox or test environment first. Automation can cause instant changes to your database that could be very time consuming to fix if done incorrectly. If you are updating field values, sending communications, or altering your records in any way with automation – don’t forget to test what you build! Often our processes are dependent on student type or identifying characteristics about our prospective students, so you can effectively test your new automation by:

  • Running your automation in your test environment and documenting the changes required after each round of testing.
  • Developing a testing spreadsheet that includes: the student type/description of each test record, the expected outcome, the actual outcome, and any changes required to your rules. You can then clone and reuse this sheet for all of your rounds of testing until it is working as expected.
You can effectively test your new automation by developing a testing spreadsheet.

Step 3: Don’t Forget the Humans

As much as automation is meant to free up time and energy in your staff, there is always a human element that remains. Do you have a technical staff member who will now be asked to perform quality assurance on this new process? Be aware that sometimes these process changes can also end up shifting the responsibility of a certain task from one team member to another.

Our goal is, of course, to “set it and forget it,” but we must be responsible CRM users and take ownership of what we build. We always want to be sure we aren’t accidentally creating a setup that takes more time to maintain in the future.

We must be responsible CRM users and take ownership of what we build.

Final Thoughts

Automation is a powerful tool that can unlock another layer of productivity within your office. It has the potential to save you and your team hours of work when used responsibly, leaving you with extra time to dedicate to making meaningful connections with your prospective students. Just remember: document all of your processes, test your new automation, and don’t forget about the humans who are still the owners of your operation.

Work With Us

Maybe your CRM feels overwhelming, or maybe – like so many higher ed institutions – you just don’t have the time to focus on this with so many other things needing your attention. We get it, and we’re here for you. Reach out to Dana Cruikshank or fill out the form below to start a conversation about how VisionPoint’s CRM services can help you succeed.

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