A View from the Summit

by Dennis J. Morris

I love Salesforce. I am a Salesforce fanboy. I am not ashamed.

Salesforce is the primary reason why I am here at William & Mary. When the notification wizards delivered the CRM Business Systems Analyst job posting into my email folder, I knew serendipitous vibes were afoot. As I proclaimed my excitement over the possibility of new employment to my friends and family, I continued to receive pretty much the same response:

Salesforce at William & Mary? Why would a university need an application built for sales?”

I understood their confusion, though did not share the sentiment.

My prior experience with Salesforce was with a smallish marketing firm in Glen Allen, Virginia. As an integrator/administrator/optimizer of the platform, it was my job to customize the application to help the company do one thing, increase sales. It was in the early stages of implementation when I realized that Salesforce wasn’t a magical solution in itself to boost sales. It takes great sales people to accomplish that feat. What Salesforce can do, is increase efficiencies to make accomplishing tasks and goals easier, faster, and more visible.

Salesforce is essentially a tool to capture, modify, view, report, import, export, and overall have an intimate relationship with your data and Salesforce makes it super secure, easy and intuitive to accomplish any of these tasks.

Why wouldn’t a university use an application like Salesforce?

Last week Salesforce hosted a conference in New Orleans called Higher Ed Summit. The Summit’s purpose was to bring together a community of higher education professionals to explore all of the amazing possibilities of using Salesforce through a use case lens of higher education. The Summit provides multiple keynote-y presentations, vendor booths, and a myriad of choose-your-own-adventure learning sessions. I have attended a handful of similar Salesforce events in the private sector and though I find all of these offerings beneficial in some regard, I find the real strength of these events in face-to-face impromptu conversations with administrators, developers, and end users. The reason I find these random meet-ups extremely valuable is because Salesforce isn’t perfect.

That’s right. No matter how much I love Salesforce and believe it to be the answer to many organizational woes, it is not without its opportunities. It is through this community of attendees that I’m able to not only prove that misery loves company, but also discover invaluable tips, tricks and relatable solutions users have implemented to optimize their individual Salesforce experience. As strong of a solution Salesforce is for any business or higher education organization, the strength of the platform is based on its commitment to its community of users.

Salesforce realizes the power in its community and through online communities such as its Success Community and its Power of Us Hub (for non-profits and higher education). Salesforce is continually able to harness user submitted content and feedback in order to improve its functionality. In effect, it’s growing its customer base. In its 4th year, the Higher Education Summit brought together a higher education community of over 1,200 attendees, an attendance increase of 60% from last year. That’s not only a promising trend but a whole bunch of people I needed to meet.

Though I was not able to meet everyone, almost always, the biggest takeaway I bring back from these conferences is a renewed vigor to help implement new techniques or utilize knowledge in order to optimize user experience. I get excited about using Salesforce.

Upon my return from the summit, the whirlwind of energy I amassed spun into a week of demonstrations and requirement gathering meetings for our large enterprise Salesforce implementation. The timing couldn’t be any more perfect. Every day this week, I have been motivated to unravel the many manual operational processes that are going to be lifted off the shoulders of our staff here at William & Mary through the power of Salesforce. Exterminating these manual processes and adding some new radical functionality is going to breathe new life in our everyday careers and enable us to focus on a creating a streamlined and more productive ecosystem for prospects, students, alumni, donors, friends, faculty and staff.

I’m pretty sure that when all is said and done, I will not be the only Salesforce fan in the Tribe.


About the Author:

dennisDennis J. Morris is a CRM Business Systems Analyst here at William & Mary. He is a certified Salesforce Administrator and in his free time enjoys experimenting with sleep deprivation and its effects on video game playing performance. He does not have this much hair IRL.