All together now: Managing data campus-wide gains traction

College IT officials are looking for ways to connect department databases.

Databases constantly updated with student and faculty information is nothing new in higher education, but linking those myriad systems to each other and sharing information between campus departments is gaining traction, especially at one major university.

Colleges and universities large and small have for years used Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) software to handle reams of student data that must be kept readily available to campus decision makers.

In other words, campus staffers who collect and maintain student applicant information often have no communication with school employees who handle alumni information.

If a student tells one department that his or her contact information has changed, the message won’t be relayed to other departments that need to know, IT officials said.

Indiana University announced last fall that it would use a CRM software that would soon connect databases and departments across the school’s network of nine campuses.

“It became very clear that some [department heads] were picking one direction and others were going in another direction” in departments that had little, if any, direct communication with each other, said Brad Wheeler, chief information officer and vice president of IT at Indiana. “We took a little time out and looked at what was happening, and we realized … you had two locomotives about to hit each other.”

A system-wide CRM software, Wheeler said, would allow the university to keep accurate files on and stay in contact with students from the time they first inquire about attending Indiana until they are alums willing to contribute to fundraising efforts.

Indiana will use a CRM system made by Florida-based college software company Campus Management, which works with more than 1,700 colleges, universities, and foundations.