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Higher Ed Learnings from Dreamforce ’12

By October 24, 2012

by Jonathan See, CIO at Pepperdine University

The Foundation is pleased to welcome Jonathan See as a special contributor to the Foundation blog. Jonathan See serves as the chief information officer (CIO) at Pepperdine University. As the CIO, Jonathan provides leadership and support for the advancement and use of technology at Pepperdine University.  In all, Jonathan has worked in higher education for 23 years. Prior to his CIO appointment, Jonathan served in other capacities since joining Pepperdine in July 2005, including senior director for IT Administration and Client Services, and deputy CIO. In addition, Jonathan worked at the Getty Research Institute for three and a half years as the head of administration and at the California State University, Los Angeles campus for 14 years where the last position he held was deputy executive director for commercial operations.

With very little knowledge about Salesforce, attending Dreamforce 2012 was a great way for a formal introduction.

Pepperdine University is a private, faith-based institution, located in Malibu, California. With five schools managing their own recruitment process, the institution recently decided to move towards an Enterprise CRM solution. The driver for such campus-wide solution was based on economies of scale; meaning, have one central CRM solution versus multiple instances of different CRM solutions. Cost consolidation so to speak. While sensible, the driver should be broader than just a simple centralization of recruitment efforts.

As CIO, part of my job is to enhance institutional business processes using technology as an enabler. No different from many other higher ed institutions, Pepperdine operates in silos. I see the campus-wide CRM initiative as an opportunity to break down silos within the institution and for the institution to operate more effectively and efficiently in its efforts of recruitment, retention and advancement – the “cradle-to-grave” approach.

If centralizing recruitment efforts was all I needed to do with a campus-wide CRM initiative, then the task would be very easy. But, I would have failed in my role as CIO.

Dreamforce connected me with many higher ed colleagues. Some of whom are in the process of implementing a cradle-to-grave solution, and some others are in the same exploratory stage as I am.. Networking with fellow higher ed CIOs was great in the sense of meeting many of them for the first time, reconnecting with a couple, and learning from all. It was also comforting to learn that we share many common struggles on our respective campuses. I was thrilled to meet Nicole Engelbert of Ovum and she offered great advice on vision, strategy, and garnering executive support for a cradle-to-grave CRM solution.

It was great to see and learn about what other universities have done with their Salesforce CRM solution, best practices and lessons learned. I heard over and over again the importance of having an executive sponsor for the implementation. This is a message that has stayed with me till today as I continue to engage in conversations with key executives and stakeholders on my cradle-to-grave CRM vision.

All throughout my Dreamforce attendance, I heard about Service Cloud and a lot about Chatter, and I spent a considerable amount of time on the vendor floor looking at them. Chatter is particularly interesting to me because it has the potential of enhancing both communication and collaboration within the enterprise; translating to fewer silos. Using Chatter and reducing the number of emails and meetings also drew my attention.


As a result, we are now in week 3 of a Chatter Free pilot! The Chatter pilot is intentional; we decided to use Chatter as the primary means of communication and I have reduced my senior team’s meetings by 50%. Even though we have only been piloting Chatter for three weeks, I am already seeing benefits of the tool such that my senior team members are better informed and engaged in helping each other. Soon I’ll be expanding the pilot to include the rest of my division of 88 employees. I anticipate that the pilot will go well and as such, my plan is to extend Chatter out to other groups outside of IT.

At Pepperdine, we have just contracted with TargetX to implement a CRM solution for our undergraduate school (read more here). I am in the process of converting their Salesforce instance into an All Pepperdine instance, setting the proper foundation for my Chatter Plus implementation and possibly other Salesforce solution integrations in the future.

I’ve attended quite a few conferences and Dreamforce, by far, trumps them all. I look forward to attending next year’s event and will likely bring along a key stakeholder or two.