Caveat Executor

Since July, 2004, my division at NJIT had been using a customer relationship management software tailored for the education market called Edgenuiti.  The software package allowed us to schedule marketing and general information campaigns targeted at selected student and prospective student populations using e-mail, telephone and direct-mail strategies.  The information we used to market our services was, largely, gathered through web-based forms hosted on NJIT websites and that information was stored inside the Edgenuiti database. The availability of a wide-ranging set of built-in SQL queries (pleasantly disguised as user friendly plain language options) allowed any technically disinclined office manager to create a marketing campaign, define a communication type and select a target population.

Sounds pretty good, right?

The cloud in Edgenuiti's silver lining, some four-plus years after we put all of our marketing eggs in its virtual basket, is that is has become unsupported.  Over the past year and a half, it's administrative and sales personnel  disappeared and the company was sold to an enterprise in Japan.  For most of that time certain essential features, like campaign scheduling and e-mail delivery, have been in various states of disrepair making those services at best unreliable.  Though the website we use as a front-end to Edgenuiti services remained online, linked contact information no longer worked. Had it not been for a Google search on one of the original software developers names, we, our 14,000 individual contacts, and all of our marketing strategies, campaigns and results would have been set completely adrift.

We located the developer in Japan working on a new project called Ruby Campus and he was able to restore and repair the broken utilities and services on Edgenuiti to the point they at least became usable, again.  But while our short term marketing problem gained some relief, our longer term customer management strategies were left with no clear solutions.

A promised attempt to export four years of data back to us in an archive has, so far, yielded no file. Resigned to the probability of losing our accumulated data, I've researched, built and implemented such business-oriented software packages as SugarCRM and vTiger (and many others).  While they probably work well in a business environment, they are not designed to support the education environment and lack the marketing tools that are most useful for reaching potential students --the ability to use a preexisting web form to export information directly into a hosted database.

I'm still exploring Ruby Campus; it's code was released as open source over the summer. I have downloaded the source code and started the building process on one of my development servers.  The process of taking newly released source code and turning it into a reliable, user-friendly, enterprise level package tailored for our specific marketing environment is a long-term project that may well take longer than I have term.  Certainly, the integration of a new package into our existing webforms will take even more development hours, and staff-training on a new package will require additional hours beyond that integration.

The entire process of selecting, using, and depending on our customer relationship software in education just screams for a fresh and different approach.  I'd love to know what everyone (anyone) else is using to manage their prospective and current student marketing campaigns.


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