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April 28, 2016

Technology corner: What’s your relationship with the University

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You may identify yourself as a staff member or a member of the faculty. But perhaps you’re also an alumnus/a, a donor, a season ticket holder to both Pitt Stages and Pitt basketball, and the parent of a high school student who is taking a College in High School course here.

An Enterprise Relationship Management System (ERM) will give Pitt the ability to collect and share information about an individual among areas of the University in a managed and synchronized manner. A holistic picture of someone (the constituent) is created as information about the person is added in all of their relationships and contexts.

Benefits of an ERM system
Some departments within the University already are using constituent relationship management systems, generally abbreviated as CRMs. An ERM (enterprise relationship management) is a relationship management system that collects and shares constituent information across the entire enterprise; in our case, that “enterprise” is the University.

Significant savings can be realized by providing an enterprise solution rather than multiple departmentally based systems. These cost savings include software licensing, maintenance costs and consolidated consulting support.

An ERM is particularly valuable at a large institution such as Pitt because it can collect and hold data from other enterprise systems that house student, faculty and financial information, library system data, and course management information.

Maximizing the opportunity for targeted and strategic communications is an important ERM asset. Complete records of institutional communication/interaction with an individual helps to ensure that communications are not duplicated and that communications can be prioritized effectively.
And an enterprise system can serve as a single source of information on student interactions, allowing communication that is tailored appropriately and providing data to inform follow-up action and decision-making. In this way, an ERM plays an important role in supporting the University’s student recruitment and retention efforts.

Finally, but critically, because information in an ERM is centrally maintained and secured, the University can significantly reduce risks associated with storage of sensitive data in multiple locations.

Selection process
As directed by Chancellor Gallagher, I am chairing an ERM selection committee made up of 19 members of the University. The committee represents academic, business and service areas from across the University. (See box.) Our technical project management team is headed by Dwight Helfrich, director of enterprise initiatives in CSSD.

Members of the selection committee identified individuals to serve in critical requirements sessions that began in November and ended in January. Twenty-four of these sessions were held, with more than 230 individuals attending. Representatives from a full range of University areas participated.

Seven vendors responded to the committee’s request for information, and the committee then used evaluation criteria it had established through discussion and critical-issues sessions to identify two of those vendors for further consideration.

Oracle and Salesforce are conducting demonstrations for the selection committee this week. Those demonstrations will include a product overview and roadmap, plus breakout sessions attended by additional Pitt staff and faculty identified by committee members. In those breakout sessions, we have the opportunity to look more closely at capabilities related to admissions and recruitment, alumni relations and advancement, general academic and general administrative functions.

We expect to identify a vendor and an initial pilot project by the beginning of the fall term.

Additional information
An enterprise relationship management system will allow Pitt to expand engagement, enrich connections and — critically —share information between areas of the University in a managed and synchronized manner.

Additional information and updates on the project can be found at

Jinx P. Walton is the University’s chief information officer.

ERM Selection committee members

• James Baldwin, vice president of enrollment management, Pitt-Bradford.
• Fern Brody, interim director, University Library System.
• Michele Colvard, executive director for staff personnel and senior assistant dean, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.
• Tom Crawford, associate vice chancellor for corporate and foundation relations, Institutional Advancement.
• Chris Ferris, executive associate athletic director for external operations, Athletics.
• Laraine Hlatky, associate director of external relations/alumni programs, Institutional Advancement.
• Kellie Kane, director of operations and strategic planning, Office of Admissions and Financial Aid.
• Jason Killmeyer, HR project and data manager, Human Resources
• Charmaine McCall, assistant dean for admissions and financial aid, School of Law.
• Joe Miksch, interim director of news services, University Communications.
• Gwen Pechan, director of information technologies, Health Sciences.
• David Chao, IT consultant, Student Affairs.
• Karri Rogers, director of administration, Katz Graduate School of Business.
• Kannu Sahni, director of community relations, Community and Governmental Relations.
• Brian Vidic, director of the technology group, Swanson School of Engineering.
• Jinx Walton, chief information officer, chair of the ERM selection committee.
• Thurman Wingrove, controller, Office of the Chief Financial Officer.
• Travis Wisor, senior associate University registrar, Office of the Registrar.
• Jennifer Woodward, associate vice provost for research operations.

Project Team
• Dwight Helfrich, director of enterprise initiatives, Computing Services and Systems Development.
• Fred Medley, project manager, CSSD.



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