What Do You Do with CRM?

In the last two years, I’ve had the honor of experiencing two incredibly transformative responsibilities:  being a first-time father and leading the implementation of Technolutions Slate CRM. While there is no “one right way” to be a parent or to build out a new database and information system, I was fortunate to have these roles at the same time. That overlap allowed the children’s book collection “What You Do Matters” by Kobi Yamada to serve as inspiration and fuel throughout the implementation process.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Slate implementation process, it is centered on a group of admissions process and policy experts, not IT professionals, being the driving force behind 95% of the work that lay ahead. While you still rely on the support of colleagues across campus, the implementation process requires that the architecture, philosophy, design, policy, and work centers on admissions professionals. I can now say that being deeply-involved in the lifting of a new system is the most challenging and most rewarding professional experience I’ve experience, and it’s one that I would highly recommend.

As with the beginning of any major project, our work began with information gathering and ideas. Simultaneously digging deeper into our current database while constantly imagining new possibilities. Suddenly you are restructuring data storage and categorization, leveraging automation, creating new user interfaces, reinventing events scheduling, and redesigning operations workflows. The goal of a project like this is to challenge our preconceptions in order to see our work in new and better ways – to create efficiencies, new capacities, and a better student experience.

While we were in these early stages of implementation, Yamada’s What Do You Do With an Idea? was heavily featured in the story rotation at home. Thankfully, every night I was reminded that these ideas, particularly those that upset the status quo, needed our commitment, time, and belief in order to flourish. I was reminded to work to see things from different perspectives, to give each idea focused attention, and not to give up on an idea when it met resistance. Who knows, that idea could truly be one that effects tremendous positive change for your institution.

Obviously, the road is not always smooth and not every idea can flourish. As you put your ideas into motion and build layer upon layer of your new system, you will encounter problems. Early ideas for new data storage techniques will fall flat. An amazing idea for data collection won’t connect like you’d hoped. Even with the ability to do extensive testing, the inability to determine an immediate solution to important issues can be deflating.

Fortunately, more because of my personal need than my then-18-month-old’s interest in it, What Do You Do with a Problem? became a new evening tradition. The development of any new system, particularly one filled with new ideas, is going to have problems. Facing those problems leads to the discovery of hidden opportunities. The opportunity to become more knowledgeable and familiar with your institution’s data and data infrastructure than previously imagined. The opportunity to make connections with colleagues across the country who can give you guidance. The opportunity to learn the “how” and “why” behind so many important aspects of our offices and central to our daily functions. Embrace these opportunities because they will transform your understanding of our shared work.

The final book in the series, What Do You Do With a Chance?, came around at the end of our implementation with the message of fully committing to the attempt when you have “your chance.” There are so many “chances” that you will encounter along the path to full system implementation. Moments to lean into hard but meaningful work, or to stay comfortable and safe. But, more importantly, the book emphasized taking the time to be prepared when “your chance” comes along. At NACAC – Salt Lake in 2018, I spoke with a professional I deeply respect, and she shared a simple message that solidified like a billboard in my mind, “If you ever get the chance to implement a CRM, take it.” I heeded her advice and sunk myself into understanding how the systems we rely on in admissions really work. I sought out more and more opportunities to learn about new trends and technologies in admissions operations. All so that I was ready when my chance came along.

What do you do with your chance? Be ready for it and take it without hesitation. What do you do when you run into problems? Look for the opportunities for growth and development. What do you do with an idea? Give it your attention and your belief.

So, what will you do? Whether you want to take some time to learn more about your data and systems, share an idea that you think could improve your data and processes, help identify the opportunity for improvement inside of a systems problem, or have the chance to be part of a team that tackles a truly impactful project – get ready, believe, and go for it.

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