How Salesforce.org Connects Cloud Technology and the Education Community
Salesforce is a company that’s known for managing customer interactions for complex businesses and organizations.
But a university isn’t just a business. And students aren’t just customers. So how does Salesforce create specialized tools for higher ed institutions to interact with students?
To find out, I spoke with Allyson Fryhoff of Salesforce.org.
But much to my surprise, Allyson didn’t just tell us about the cloud-based software Salesforce is providing to colleges. She also told us a few ways that the nonprofit branch of Salesforce is giving back to education overall.
Listen to our interview to find out how Salesforce is connecting cloud technology and the education community through Salesforce.org.
Hannah Nyren: This is Hannah Nyren with EdTech Times, and today we’re talking about higher education’s technology transformation to the cloud with Allyson Fryhoff, chief revenue officer at Salesforce. Hi Allyson, How are you today?
Allyson Fryhoff: Great how are you, Hannah?
Hannah Nyren: Good. So in a sentence or two, could you introduce yourself and your role at Salesforce?
Allyson Fryhoff: Sure. So my name is Allyson Fryhoff, I’m responsible for our distribution team globally at salesforce [dot] org. Salesforce, as everyone hopefully knows, is the number one CRM and connected platform for corporations. Salesforce [dot] org is the nonprofit, social enterprise arm of Salesforce. And our mission is to bring technology to education and nonprofit organizations. And make sure that they are accelerating their impact, with their constituents. So within salesforce [dot] org, we like to think about constituent relationship management.
Hannah Nyren: Great. So tell me a little bit about what has been your experience within higher ed of getting higher education institutions onto the cloud integrated into tech cloud technologies.
Allyson Fryhoff: Well, I think it’s about the transformation overall that higher education is making to really be much more student-centered and to be much more flexible in how they roll out technology. So cloud computing is about being able to be flexible, to scale and to be able to utilize all the modern technologies that frankly, higher education’s customers or students expect.
Allyson Fryhoff: So we’re talking about digital…natives who expect everything to be mobile…expect everything to be at their fingertips. And so what we’re hearing from all of our clients in higher education is, how do we move there faster? And cloud technologies allow them to do that because it’s about getting to scale faster, it’s about having that flexibility. It’s about not having to put servers in and all, everything that goes with running the data centers. So, that’s what we’re hearing from the community. It is a change and it is a transformation from thinking about really, “How big is my data center?” and “How am I going to do that?” versus, “Huh. How do we really take the service-first approach for our students?”
Allyson Fryhoff: And really think about their success, and really think about the lifecycle and how can cloud technologies help that to happen.
Hannah Nyren: That’s a really good point. And as you mentioned before, Salesforce is known for CRM software. Which, if people don’t know, stands for customer relationship management software. And, I mean the word sales, in the title. So people typically affiliate Salesforce with, you know, customer relations. So…what other tech solutions are you bringing to higher ed organizations?
Allyson Fryhoff: Right. So first of all, Salesforce was born in the cloud, and as you said, born as a CRM organization. Certainly salesforce has expanded their technology to include sales and service in marketing communities, analytics and commerce, etc. At salesforce.org, what we’ve done is taken those underlying technologies, and made them specific for higher education. We started with what we call our higher education data architecture. Which really turns the CRM into a constituent relationship management, allowing you to think not about accounts and sales, but to think and see in your system students, and family, and grades, and their success and household. So that’s number one, what we did was create this higher education data architecture. We then started to build with the community solutions for everything from recruiting and admissions to… student success to advancement to marketing and communications, analytics. One stop.
Allyson Fryhoff: So Arizona State University, for instance, wanted to create a one-stop shop for students to be able to connect with the university. So you didn’t have to go separately into a student information system an SIS system. In all of those systems, there was one place to go.
Allyson Fryhoff: But we are super excited about an announcement that we just made at Dreamforce, for Salesforce Advisor Link. Uhh… Salesforce Advisor Link will be generally available December 12th. And this is built with our community. It was built with… uhh …organizations like University of Florida, and Babson, and Oregon State, that told us what they needed around student success. And how the advisor experience was really getting tough because you needed to be looking at the whole student, not just their grades. And to be able to make these connections.
Allyson Fryhoff: So Salesforce Advisor Link will allow that. Allow you as an adviser to have at your fingertips a console that shows everything about a student. But it also empowers the student to take control of their success through the mobile application, that will allow them to schedule with their, with their advisers, have tasks that come up that say here are the next best things for you to do. To be successful in your career at whatever school that you’re at.
Hannah Nyren: Great. And it’s funny that you mention ASU, because I spoke to them earlier today.
Allyson Fryhoff: Oh great. A great team. They’re really creating, trying to create an entirely new environment for their students. And knowing that those students come in wanting their mobile apps, wanting to be able to connect really in a whole new way. And so it’s really exciting that we have this incredible partnership with ASU, where they are part of this community and helping us build the next best products for higher education.
Hannah Nyren: True. And it’s so important to stay connected in this day and age and it’s also important to stay relevant. And to you know meet the students where they are. You can’t just give them technologies that are 10 years behind that don’t match the technologies on their phones.
Allyson Fryhoff: Exactly. And what we are seeing, what the community is telling us, is that starts even from the prospecting. And that’s a huge part of what schools are doing, is trying to, first of all, find the right students that we’re hoping to be the most successful at their institutions, so using analytics to do that. Using analytics to be able to connect with them wherever they are, whether they’re on Facebook or they would rather get a text message. Or they’re out on Instagram or on the latest and newest technologies that some of us don’t even connect with yet.
Allyson Fryhoff: Michigan State, for instance, has just re-imagined the whole applicant and admissions process to make sure it’s about that student, what they want to know about, how to connect with them, appropriately. We’ve seen these silos of legacy systems, and students want to know that you know them. And that you are helping them take the next best step. So…Advisor Link and all of the organizations that have been utilizing Salesforce for student success beforehand, want to make sure they get on campus, you know who they are. They know what they need to do next.
Hannah Nyren: Yeah, that it is really important. So what are some special considerations that need to be made when working with higher education institutions, using Salesforce solutions?
Allyson Fryhoff: So…what again we saw from the community was that they really wanted this to be purpose-built for education.
Allyson Fryhoff: I think the other thing that we’re starting to see and hear from the community is that service-first approach, which wasn’t always the way that higher education worked.
Allyson Fryhoff: We love friendship work. for instance working with Dr. Mark Lombardi at Maryville University. He has a great quote which I repeat all the time, because, I love it. That everything in a classroom should be challenging for our students. Everything outside of the classroom and that learning needs to be a service.
Allyson Fryhoff: So how do they make it easier? And that’s what we’re starting to hear.
Allyson Fryhoff: So sometimes it’s a slightly different mindset that we see the trailblazers in higher education bringing on that service approach versus, “This is the way we always did things.” This is how we have to do it. Students are not going to accept that…very much longer. And it’s not just the students, it’s the parents, right? The parents are and much more involved, and they want to be able to have appropriate access to appropriate information as well as your supporters and your research partners. So it’s really about creating all of these connections.
Allyson Fryhoff: And it is a slightly different mindset, but we like to think that we are…Particularly the most important place for schools to have and create those connections because our focus is on creating those experiences, creating those… connections. We need engagement with students.
Allyson Fryhoff: That’s very true.
Hannah Nyren: I’m kind of interested as someone who has worked for companies that have used Salesforce. I’m kind of interested as to, from the students perspective, or from, you know, the staff’s perspective. How does Salesforce look different within an institution than it would within a company?
Allyson Fryhoff: So, I think so much of what we’ve done comes together again with the underlying data architecture, but for the users, it’s that view of your information. So let’s take Salesforce Advisor Link. Built on that same technology underlying platform that you may have used at a commercial organization. But now it’s about the students. So there’s a console, that for instance rather than showing maybe the stages of a sales cycle. What you’re seeing is the stages of a student on-boarding, making sure they get their financial aid, making sure they’re going to their advising appointments. Of being able to show the next best action maybe, not that a salesperson would take, but an advisor would take, based on the information that may be coming from these backend systems that we pull together into this one view. And so it’s about thinking through the kind of things that you might do at a commercial organization.
Allyson Fryhoff: But we put them in that context and actually create a product that is the semantics of higher education. It’s the semantics that a student’s going to understand. But utilizing all the most modern technologies that you can, whether thats mobile, or big data, or artificial intelligence, analytics. To be able to think through, What is the experience? That that student needs to have, or that advisor needs to have. Because we certainly want to make life easier for them as well, so they spend more time with their students and actually connecting face to face than they do kind of doing back end reports, or looking up information about a student, and trying to find everything they can possibly find.
Allyson Fryhoff: Hopefully we are creating that experience for them, and it’s all right there. Advancement or fundraising is a slightly similar process. But, again, we change the semantics. So it’s not about an account. It’s about the donor.
Allyson Fryhoff: And so all of that — those words, those semantics, the conversation, is built into the system.
Allyson Fryhoff: But then we also have special things, like the gift processing pieces that we announced at Dreamforce, that are very particular to how donors want to give, where they want their money to go. Things like that.
Hannah Nyren: That’s interesting. So so it does function very similarly to the original software. It just you know uses different data points and different language, in kind of different, uhh a re-brand, if you will, of the core sales force product.
Allyson Fryhoff: Although the process flows are very similar. Some are very specifically for the higher education environment.
Allyson Fryhoff: Another area you might think about is marketing and communications. So some higher education departments have marketing. Some have communications. And our marketing solutions really help you target and create one-to-one journeys with the student. If you’re a student that’s trying to decide between a number of schools, that school that can connect with you in a personal way that can create personalized messages because they know where you’ve been on the web maybe, or how you’ve interacted in the past with the school, that means something…to a student.
Allyson Fryhoff: And if you use all the analytics to target the students that you think are the most successful at your school. That’s an incredible feeling that you’re getting targeted communications. Hopefully not 100 communications from the same school. Things that mean something to you, at the right time in the process that you’re going through.
Allyson Fryhoff: So that’s another way that…Salesforce is being used and the technologies are being used to create that student experience.
Hannah Nyren: So it’s not just for organizing administrative systems, but actually helping the students with their own experience and with their academics and uh, their path. [57.8]
Allyson Fryhoff: And their path to success. We think about that all the time. How do we empower the students to be on a path and a journey to success? How do we empower the advisors to do that? How do we empower staff and faculty to do that? So there’s all of these really exciting ways that we think about the higher education market.
Allyson Fryhoff: The same as Salesforce does, but also entirely differently. Because it is different. It is different in so many ways.
Allyson Fryhoff: And so that’s where we spend our time.
Hannah Nyren: So how long have you been working for Salesforce…[dot] org.
Allyson Fryhoff: So I have been with Salesforce for seven years now. I was part of our dot com platform organization, and recently about two years ago, moved over to salesforce dot org. I actually trained to be a teacher and grew up in a very philanthropic household. And to help now create great experiences in higher education and nonprofit has been really a dream job, as we say, for me.
Hannah Nyren: And so in that time that you’ve been working within this space, how have you seen the attitudes in higher ed change toward cloud transformation?
Allyson Fryhoff: I’ve seen just in the last few years, an incredible transformation, actually. The Cloud, even three, four years ago was pretty new.
Allyson Fryhoff: In so many ways, software as a service obviously was was starting to be recognized. But I think what we a seeing, and again our community tells us, that it’s about that flexibility to change that flexibility to be innovative. Because it is no longer going to be good enough to put a system in and know that that has to be good for 20 years. You know. Some of those systems are obviously still there and that’s what we’re starting to see is this now the sort of inflection wage versus say well there’s something else out there. That can make a difference for us whether that’s cloud in the backend systems or truly taking that step with being able to create these experiences.
Allyson Fryhoff: That’s the transformation that we’ve seen. We’ve also seen, you know, data center consolidation on the back end. But really as you try to get operationally efficient and effective from an IT organization, there’s this whole world of cloud and software as a service that you just can’t ignore anymore. And so being able to adopt that in a way that makes sense for each institution is what we’re starting to see.
Allyson Fryhoff: And we are so thrilled that we have this incredible community within higher education that shares. It’s bringing together the network and the community to share his practices. And that is what we hear over and over again from the community, that that’s the best part of being with Salesforce, because we do help create that community. We listen to them, but they also get to listen to each other. And higher education is so special in that way that they do share. And they’re starting to share the best practices around how cloud computing is making a difference for them. We’re thrilled to be a part of that.
Hannah Nyren: Great. And that is really important because you know the more, the more institutions that start this process, the more information there’ll be, and everybody is at a different point right now. Nobody’s come to the end of it. Everybody’s figuring it out, so they can all learn from each other.
Hannah Nyren: Because someone might implement one thing first, someone might implement another thing first, and you know, they can all share notes on that as they’re moving along with the process.
Allyson Fryhoff: Absolutely. And I think in this day and age the journey is never done with change. That’s probably the other thing that I’ve seen over my many years in technology, is that the change is so rapid now. And the innovation is so exciting, that it’s about sharing those best practices, so everyone can be on top of the pieces that are most important to them at the moment.
Allyson Fryhoff: I mean it’s just so amazing to me when I see sir Westmont College which is a small independent college in Santa Barbara. Talking with USC about advancement. Right? And fundraising and learning from each other. Even between like a Michigan and a Michigan State we even see them talking to each other.
Hannah Nyren: You got Michigan and Michigan State talking to each other.
Allyson Fryhoff: They’re really sharing their best practices. And Rob Kurdi from Michigan State really coming forward and talking about what they’ve done with admissions for instance, reimagining that process, and sharing that with the entire community. So we get very excited when we can help to convene that.
Hannah Nyren: Wow that’s really cool. So it sounds like you’re doing a lot more than just pushing out software.
Allyson Fryhoff: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, just a little bit back on salesforce.org. So as a nonprofit social enterprise. We are very different than every other vendor that anyone probably works with. Because we are mission-aligned. As a matter of fact, part of our mission, in addition to bringing technology to higher education, is a lot of our grants go to education.
Allyson Fryhoff: So we believe the equality begins with education. And our grant budget is funded by schools purchasing from Salesforce.org, by non-profits purchasing at affordable rates from Salesforce.org. And then we turn that back around into the community. In addition to creating products we then are branching as well. This year, for instance, we’ll do thirty seven million dollars in grants.
Allyson Fryhoff: Also everyone at salesforce and salesforce.org can do matching grants. And we do voluntary time off, of which many are doing their volunteering at their schools. So for instance I work with the Bret Hart Middle School in Oakland Unified School District, where we work with the principal to make sure that they happen to the principal’s innovation fund. From a funding perspective. But then also we our volunteers and our employees help with whatever they need. Whether that’s shoveling mulch or cleaning up the classrooms like we did this year to help get ready for the first day of school.
Allyson Fryhoff: So Salesforce.org is committed to education in a really big way. Yes we bring technology, but we also bring our time, umm, and our funding, and all of our community engagement to the education space.
Hannah Nyren: That’s really great. I again I have no idea of her going into this that you all were doing so much.
Allyson Fryhoff: Absolutely. It’s an incredible place to be. And we’re thrilled that we have this opportunity to tell our story even more and to help all the higher education institutions and K-12, to do more with technology. And to meet their mission goals of really creating. The leaders of the future, creating a talented and skilled and diverse workforce.
Hannah Nyren: What are the benefits of cloud transformation for higher education? For higher education institutions. What are some specific changes that students and staff will see once these technologies are implemented?
Allyson Fryhoff: First of all we believe that cloud computing provides a just a different way to think about technology to.
Allyson Fryhoff: Whether it’s students faculty staff. And what I mean by that is cloud computing allows you to move. Faster. To be more innovative and to be more flexible. It’s no longer about putting in a system. That you have to think about every single thing that you need that system to do for the next 10 years now. I think that’s the difference that we hear from from our clients is that. They move faster. They can be more responsive. The IT departments can be the yes department, instead of the no department.
Allyson Fryhoff: With cloud computing and with the sales force technologies in particular, you can consider those. You can make changes.
Allyson Fryhoff: So cloud computing is about innovation. It’s about flexibility. It’s about scalability. It’s about being able to be more responsive to your organization.
Hannah Nyren: That is very true. And you’re not the only one who has said that. it’s a lot of that you have to adapt. You have to respond. You have to be flexible. That’s what’s important now. It’s not so much what you know, it’s how quickly you can learn something new.
Allyson Fryhoff: Exactly. And the other thing I would say is that.
Allyson Fryhoff: The expectation is that the users actually have to be even more involved. You can’t say OK users, we’re going to come up with a new way to do something. Tell me everything you might ever want to do. We’re going to go away for a year and we’re going to come back and hopefully it’s still what you want. It’s this ability to iterate and create and to do things. But the users have to be more involved. And that’s I think a change from oh, IT is over there. The users are here. Sometimes we talk then we go away, then we come back years later, or months later. It’s a constant process and I think that’s a change that both the users.
Allyson Fryhoff: We’re always convening the community and making sure that we’re helping the community to share best practices.
Hannah Nyren: Awesome. Well thank you so much for speaking with me today. It’s been a blast and I’ve learned a lot about what Salesforce is doing to help higher ed.
Allyson Fryhoff: Thank you so much, Hannah. I really appreciate the time.
Listen to the full series, Transforming Higher Ed with Cloud Technology.
This episode is brought to you by Huron.
Huron is a global professional services firm with an extensive history in higher education. For nearly two decades, Huron has provided consulting services for over 500 educational institutions, including all 100 of the top research universities in the United States.
You can learn more about what Huron does by visiting huronconsultinggroup.com.
Hannah Nyren is the General Manager of EdTech Times. A Texan by birth but a Bostonian at heart, Hannah is an educational writer, AmeriCorps alum, and one-time StartupWeekend EDU (SWEDU) winning team member. She started her career at a Pearson-incubated edtech startup, but has since covered travel, food & culture, and even stonemasonry in addition to education.