Thursday, October 6, 2011

What Programs and Products Mean in Higher Education

The word "program" is very interesting in its application to higher education. If you ask any higher education administrator or staff member whether his or her institution offers programs, 99% (if not 100%) of the time you'll get a quick and confident "yes". But dive a little deeper and start asking how programs fit into the scheme of CRM, especially within the Salesforce framework, and you may run into a lot of unanswered questions (depending on which institution you're at).

At the crux of the confusion: What exactly is a program?

Merriam-Webster provides one definition of the word "program" as "a plan or system under which action may be taken toward a goal"; Merriam-Webster also provides an alternative definition as simply "curriculum". Great, now what?

Translated into higher education lingo, a program may be defined as a curriculum of study under which a student may enroll in classes with the goal of earning a degree or certification. In the world of enrollment, a program boils down to just another tool to entice people to purchase the products sold by a school, college or university.

At this point, another question may arise: Aren't programs the same thing as products in higher education?

The answer is "no", unless someone can give a convincing argument to support a different position. Products in higher education are the courses offered by an institution. Some may argue that students buy degrees, not courses. "A student comes to us saying that he wants a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Accounting; the student doesn't come to us saying that they just want to take ACCT 101 and ACCT 102." This argument sort of makes sense but misses the mark in describing the true business relationship between institution and student. In reality, students buy courses and get degrees when enough courses are purchased and completed at an established standard of achievement.

So, in short, courses are the products, not programs. Programs exist to get customers to buy more products, which in the case of higher education are courses.

Armed with these two answers to two high-level questions, the conversation can now move on to how to setup this business model in Salesforce for effective CRM.