CXA Alliance Conference Highlights

By James Imgraben posted 04-03-2019 05:51 PM




With the sun set on Alliance 2019, the CXA advisory group thought we’d take some time to reflect upon the conference and highlight some of the standout presentations that were on offer this year.

We had some excellent sessions in the track, showing off some great innovation, and provoking some insightful discussion around tackling common issues in the Higher Education Space.  Below are some of the highlights from members of the CXA advisory group, please share your thoughts below as well!

We encourage everyone to download the session files and recordings for all of the track sessions when they are made available this month – I will update this post with links to the files for sessions below.

First up, a presentation from our very own Lorne Henne was a well-received, and well attended session this year. Lorne’s presentation titled CXA 101: What is the Constituent Experience and Why is it Important? (Session# 6092) was a high level look at what CXA is, and how it covers the entire student interaction journey.

Marty: As someone who works day in - day out on CX in higher education, I actually really enjoyed the CXA 101 presentation from De Paul University. It was well researched and served as an indicator of the depth of the topic, but also a reminder for those who can lose sight of the crux of the matter when mired in the detail or working on the churn of work.

James: Something we’ve struggled with as an advisory group since the merger of CRM and CR, is the common question from people - what exactly is CXA? Lorne’s presentation was an excellent review of how CXA doesn’t just cover recruitment and marketing, but permeates the entire constituent journey throughout your institution from prospective engagement through alumni, and covers much more than just communications but how they access their coursework and services, and how a poor interaction can create a long lasting impression. It was good to see this was one of the best attended sessions of our track this year, and we had many attendees from other tracks coming along to learn more on CXA!

Next up, a presentation by Jacob Rositano from Moody Bible Institute titled Customized Subscription Centers and You (Session#6162). Jacobs’s presentation outlined Moody’s approach to improving their user experience for all email communications out of Marketing Cloud (Eloqua), in particular focusing on subscription management and email groups.

Marty: A typical Alliance moment for me was attending session that I wasn’t sure of. Luckily I’m curious (and perverse) so I went along to hear Jacob present on subscription centers. This was one of those unexpected nuggets of gold at the conference where something on your backlog of work, and that you thought was going to be easy turns out to be harder, much harder, than you thought, but someone has already gone through it and tells you exactly where the landmines are. I’d highly recommend this session to everyone, make sure you review the recording!

Another AG presentation from our fearless leader John Sauceda, from Moody Bible titled Cloud-Based Master Records for Moody Bible Institute with Oracle Customer Data Management (Session# 5830). John presented along with Bryan Hinz from ApexIT on Moody Bible’s implementation of the Customer Data Management module within Oracle Engagement Cloud to allow them to create a golden constituent record, which will serve as their source of truth for the entire lifecycle.

James: John’s presentation was an excellent overall view of not just what the CDM is, but the journey they took and how both approached the project. We’re going through a similar implementation of CDM at the moment, and for us, this presentation was what made the trip worth it. The work done by Moody and ApexIT is definitely something to aspire to, and the opportunity to pick the brain of both John and Bryan afterwards was well worth the flight!

Last, but certainly not least, was a presentation by Lisa Carr from the University of Colorado (Boulder) titled: Is Enterprise CRM in a single system actually possible in Higher Educations? (Session# 5931) Lisa’s take on the topic involved a pre-conference questionnaire posted to some of the HEUG listservs, with the results dissected and presented as part of the session, with an open discussion amongst the attendees afterwards. The interactive approach that Lisa took with this session stood out amongst the rest of the sessions, and it paid off with great attendance and discussion amongst the group.

Lorne: Lisa posed an insightful question about whether a single CRM for a university was an actual possibility. Despite university communication policies promoting a single communication approach, the fact is that many institution and department structures remain pillared, and with budget autonomy, many “shadow” CRM systems pop up and operate independently of the approved channels. Even with an approved single CRM system, often complementary “approved” systems, such as Learning Management, Service desk or HR systems, or even PeopleSoft Campus solutions, all have built in CRM capability, which make the idea of a single cohesive 360 degree constituent view a challenge or near impossibility to achieve.  In the discussion following the presentation, it was agreed that CRM has continues to have an enormous positive impact on the student experience in many areas, and our challenge as Constituent experience professionals is to work cooperatively within our institutions to ensure that all messaging remains consistent, targeted and relevant to our student populations.

John: Lisa Carr asked the question in her session, “Can an Institution have just one CRM?”  It looks like the evidence would point out that the answer is “no.”  While we see the ease of entry for multiple systems to meet multiple use cases that approach takes away from the concept of a single unified view of the constituent.  If unification along systems is going to be achievable, a centralized view of marketing may need to occur.  That may work in those institutions where those activities are centrally driven.  However, for many institutions, those efforts have been decentralized.  I believe that the laws concerning privacy may begin to move us back towards a central system that allows us to abide by the wishes of our constituents in how they want to be interacted with.  The need to comply gets extremely complex as you need to manage a single individual across multiple CRM systems.  This is something that we’ll need to keep a watch on as we move into the future.



As well as reviewing the presentations, it is also important to reflect on the Alliance conference as a whole, and what it can provide for each individual and institution attending. While it can be a heavy investment of both time and money, the knowledge, innovation and networking opportunities the conference provides make it all worthwhile. Below are some thoughts from Ellen and Ron on what Alliance 2019 meant to them, and their takeaways from the conference:

Ellen: Alliance reminds me how important it is to have good people working on business processes and data issues.  Good software helps, but it’s still just software.  People are what make the difference.  You can just “get by” or people can maximize what the software can do.  As someone whose focus is on alumni relations and fundraising, when we use the technology to effectively engage our constituents, you can see some very tangible results such as more people attending events, volunteering, or donating money.

I met many people at Alliance who are doing some really great work.  Hearing others share success stories (and challenges) gave me some practical tips, as well as “food for thought” to think about how I might be able to help my institution do things in an even better way.  Alliance represents a broad range of types of institutions, with a wide variety of tools and resources to get things done.  Across the spectrum, though, I’m impressed by the amount of creativity and commitment shown by members of the HEUG.

Ron: As I think about the 2019 HEUG Conference, one word comes to mind… “Crossroads”.  I see HEUG, I see Colleges/Universities, I see advisory groups (AGs), and I see Oracle all at an interesting crossroads for the next couple of years.  As we all converge at this crossroad, our interactions with each other will be changing and more complex than ever before.   If I were to look back at the history of my attendance at HEUG conferences, the pattern was very similar from 2003 through 2016.  We would discuss what version of PeopleSoft we were on, what tools version we used, and we would discuss how we used PeopleSoft.    We would share a cool feature of the delivered functionality that we found a way to super-size or twist for our unique needs.  We would present slides of modifications or interfaces into and out of PeopleSoft.   There wasn’t much change from one year to the next.  The focus was on the PeopleSoft product.

This year, the discussions were more focused on “where are we going” instead of “how do we use”.   As we know Oracle is and will be focusing on their cloud solutions as they move forward.  That means the focus on PeopleSoft will eventually change to a break/fix support model.   As customers, that drives our thinking from an in-the-moment focus to a “is Oracle in our future” question as deploying a relatively new technology becomes a greater reality.   The HEUG board is recognizing that as Oracle and higher education’s focus change, they need to also change to represent a more complex future.  What in reality what was a “PeopleSoft” conference will change to a process-solutions conference that may eventually grow beyond the Oracle orientation.   The AGs have been told that the need to focus on the future and the process as opposed to the product that has united the attendees.  How the AGs represent the constituents and how they engage Oracle has and will be at a crossroads for the next several years.  The old model must change to reflect the future.  As cloud solutions become the new reality, we have to recognize that we just can’t modify our way to a solution that fits our requirements.   The configuration model of cloud solutions will require many colleges and universities to rethink business processes and vendor relationships.

The presentations I saw in many aspect reflected that.  I saw and attended more sessions related to lessons learned, to project management, to business intelligence, and to the constituent experience than I had in the past.  In our CXA track, there were great presentations on integrating traditional PeopleSoft solutions with Oracle Cloud implementations.  A session discussed integrating Salesforce with PeopleSoft grabbed my attention.  I attended a very interesting discussion on managing email opt-outs via a custom subscription center that presented a different user experience for Alumni that we have at my institution.  All wonderful learning opportunities.  Whereas I used to focus on how do we do ‘now’… looking for immediate solutions, I focused more on how can we be better at doing the future… when we pass through the crossroads we are facing.

That wraps up our review of Alliance 2019. We hope everyone enjoyed what the CXA track had offer, and we’re looking forward to providing even more for you all next year in Philadelphia for Alliance 2020!


CXA Advisory Group

John Sauceda, Ellen Trantas, Marty Mag Uidhir, Lorne Henne, Ron Babuka, James Imgraben

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