If you’ve ever looked into enterprise customer (or constituent) relationship management (CRM) services before, there’s a good chance you already know about Salesforce. They are generally considered the industry leading enterprise CRM platform and have solutions specifically tailored for Higher Ed institutions. That being said, there is plenty of competition in the Higher Ed CRM space and it’s important to take a look at both the good and the bad of Salesforce to see whether it’s a service worth looking into further. For the sake of brevity, here’s a list of the top 5 pros and cons of Salesforce in Higher Ed.
1. Industry Leader
There’s a reason that Salesforce is considered an industry leader in enterprise CRM. According to a Gartner report from 2015, Salesforce had 19.7% of the CRM market share, larger than any other vendor, and grew faster that year than the rest of the overall market. While your specific needs ultimately determine which CRM solution is right for your institution, it’s hard (unless one of the cons we list below is a deal-breaker) to go wrong with a service that is at the top of its game.
2. Student Focused
Although students are much more than customers in Higher Ed, Salesforce’s approach to CRM ensures that your institution has the tools it needs to connect with prospective students, engage with current students, and reach out to alumni. Through a combination of mobile, social, and cloud technology, Salesforce brings together all of a student’s information and links each interaction that student has with the institution in one place. Being able to track, analyze, and engage with students at each step in their academic journey is key to ensuring their success.
As an innovator in CRM, Salesforce provides a variety of products and features for Higher Ed institutions. Their offerings include the Higher Education Data Architecture (HEDA), Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud, App Cloud, Community Cloud, Chatter, Data.com, and Customer Success Plans. Each of these services work in conjunction with one another, creating a customizable solution to your Higher Ed CRM needs.
4. CRM SaaS & PaaS
In addition to its CRM SaaS products, Salesforce also provides a platform, called App Cloud, for the creation and exchange of customized solutions that connect with Salesforce. This platform comes with over 3,000 apps already available and allows for the sale of custom apps. It also includes a tool, called Lightning Connect, which allows less programmer savvy users to create apps quickly.
5. Business Analytics
Among Salesforce’s services is a cloud-based business analytics solution called Salesforce Wave Analytics. Wave connects with Salesforce and offers users the ability to draw in data from different systems or departments and create reports with ease. Those reports can then be shared with colleagues within Salesforce, making collaboration easier.
Although the cost of Salesforce is per user, it’s Unlimited pricing tier is still one of the more expensive options for Higher Ed enterprise CRM. Add on top of that that each additional product you may want only increases costs. Of the user reviews on G2Crowd, Salesforce ranked in the 96th percentile of CRM services in terms of perceived cost. Whether or not the end result is worth it, the costs of implementing Salesforce may be outside of some institutions’ budgets.
One of the biggest perks of Salesforce is that they offer a variety of products that each work together. On the other hand, the addition of extra services and add-ons makes the whole system more complicated. The customization options offered by Salesforce’s Cloud Apps platform add an extra layer to an already complex suite of products. It doesn’t help that in a 2015 Stack Overflow survey, 73.2% of respondents reported that they would not want to continue developing on Salesforce. If you are looking for a CRM service that specializes in a specific functionality rather than a suite of products, you may be better off looking into CRM services that have a more refined focus on the functionality that you have in mind.
3. Jack of all Trades…
Salesforce’s diverse array of products means that you have a lot of options for customizing your service, but it also means that Salesforce’s attention is divided. If you’re looking for something specific, you may be better off with a service that focuses solely on what you need. While Salesforce offers both CRM software-as-a-service (SaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) solutions, providers that focus entirely on one of those services may be able to individually provide a better service to your institution.
4. Some Assembly Required
Sometimes too much of a good thing can be a deal-breaker, depending on your institution. In Salesforce’s case, the amount of products and customization they offer may be a disincentive if you are looking for a single service to address your problems right out-of-the-box. Whether you decide to look into Salesforce as a potential option should depend heavily on what you’re looking to accomplish by implementing it and whether or not you’ll actually take advantage of the multiple services that they offer.
5. Learning Curve
No matter what service you’re implementing, there’s inevitably going to be a learning curve. While learning experiences may differ between individuals, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Salesforce’s breadth of services, while robust, also inject added complexity into the learning process. They attempt to make up for this by providing tools to make Salesforce easier for new users, but depending on the services you’re looking to implement, it could end up significantly more difficult for your users to learn than other platforms.
There’s a reason that Salesforce is one of the most popular enterprise CRM solutions on the market, but whether or not it is a good fit for your institution’s needs depends heavily on what you aim to accomplish by using it and what you’re willing to pay. If you’d like a more in-depth analysis of how Salesforce stacks up against its competitors, feel free to use G2Crowd’s handy product comparison tool.
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