Friday, February 18, 2022

18 February 2022

Dear OSU Colleagues,

I am writing to inform you that the university will identify, acquire, and implement a single, university-wide approach and tool for facilitating improved communications and engagement with students once they enroll. This approach and accompanying software—called a customer relationship management (CRM) program—provides a central point of contact and engagement that facilitates creating and distributing general and focused communications and managing personal interactions with students. Such a system is commonly used across higher education and at OSU.

However, at OSU, because we’ve lacked an agreed upon and coordinated university-wide approach, individual units have filled the void by building or acquiring their own tools. While units have done so with the best of intentions and the needs of students firmly in mind, the result is the use of over 90 separate instances of CRM software. This is costly, complicated to maintain, facilitates poorer student support than offered by many of our peers, and delivers a confusing and often frustrating student experience. Among the challenges:

  • Transitions of students through their experience at OSU—from applicant, to matriculant, to undergraduate in different programs and degree paths, and from undergraduate to graduate (for those who go on to graduate study)—is disjointed and reflects poorly on the university’s organizational capacity and concern for student care.
  • Students may miss critical information when receiving communications from multiple, narrowly focused CRM systems.
  • Messaging to students originating from different sources can be redundant and sometimes contradictory. The volume of overlapping messages to students is very high. Redundant and high-volume messaging means that students are more likely to ignore communications.
  • Integration with other university-wide systems can be non-existent or inconsistent across software installations, leading to communication channels that are independent and not visible to others who don’t have access to—or even knowledge of—those systems.
  • We lack a single repository of interactions that can be used to avoid duplication and contribute information critical to supporting OSU’s retention and academic progress goals. Frequently, we do not know whether messages are getting through to their intended recipients.
  • Rapid, ad-hoc communications are difficult to coordinate and execute, a serious problem in times of emergency or when timelines for requested responses are short.

The decision to adopt a unified system and approach follows several years of review and discussing options. Certainly, a concern in moving in this direction is the near-term disruption it will cause for units using their own systems and tools. Although I understand and appreciate that concern, the benefits of a unified system are significant. The capacity to reach students with one university voice when necessary, and with focused, customized messages tailored to the mission and services of individual units and programs is essential for ensuring every OSU student has maximum opportunity to achieve their educational goals. One aligned system also will be simpler and less costly to maintain and provides information that facilitates delivering high quality academic and other support.

Three committees have been charged to advance this effort. The Undergraduate Student Success Committee (USSC) with expanded membership is refining planned uses for the CRM. A technical team will assemble requirements for the system and evaluate vendors and a steering committee to provide overall leadership and coordination. A steering committee will recommend a software solution by the end of this academic year so that acquisition and implementation may begin this summer and proceed over the course of next academic year. You can learn more about this project here.

If you have questions about this project, please contact me or Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Senior Vice Provost, Alix Gitelman.

Sincerely,

Edward Feser
Provost and Executive Vice President