Data as a strategic asset for Vlerick Business School
The digital transformation that Vlerick Business School is in the process of implementing hinges on the availability of high-quality data. To ensure that availability, the school has developed an innovative platform that it uses to realize comprehensive customer profiles and optimize processes with valuable data.
We immediately took the opportunity that this implementation presents to optimize our data quality. We didn’t want people to keep working with Excel lists, particularly now that we’re starting fresh with the Salesforce CRM."
1. The Challenge
Cloud-based CRM integration
"There was no unified way of checking and entering data, so there was a chance of duplication or errors occurring."
Vlerick Business School provides international management courses from its locations in Brussels, Ghent and Leuven. The school’s specific areas of expertise are digital transformation, entrepreneurship, and innovation. Every year, Vlerick Business School custom-designs around 140 courses for companies and teaches its courses to some 8,500 executives. The school also has 680 MBA and Master’s degree students from around the world.
At a glance, Vlerick Business School could be regarded as an SME with the processes of a large corporation: the school is capable of offering countless products to a wide range of different customers. To prevent its operating processes from becoming unmanageable and overly complex, Vlerick Business School is working towards digital transformation; among other changes, it is digitizing and automating many of its processes.
Project Portfolio Manager Tom Van Steendam is closely involved in some fifteen projects, including implementing the cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) system Salesforce. 'We immediately took the opportunity that this implementation presents to optimize our data quality. We’d noticed that our people, from account managers to finance, were working with customer-related data at different moments and for different processes: whether to register new customers in the system, to call up the customer history, or to enter changes. We didn’t have a uniform procedure in place for verifying and entering data. This created the possibility of double entries and other errors. We didn’t want people to keep working with Excel lists, particularly now that we’re starting fresh with the Salesforce CRM.'
2. The Solution
360-degree customer profiles
The new CRM system makes it possible to compose 360-degree customer profiles. This was urgently needed. In the past, account managers struggled to put together uniform information: what are we currently doing for this customer, and what is the history of this relationship? Now, account managers can compare the broad range of products and services against the customer’s profile to identify new opportunities. Whether or not this endeavor succeeds will hinge, as Tom Van Steendam knows, on accurate, up to date, and complete source data. Data are dynamic and evolve as companies and organizations change: they are constantly relocating, assuming new entities, merging, or being taken over. Understanding that tracking all those changes itself would present an impossible task, Vlerick Business School went in search of a solution to continually optimize its data quality, and so lay the foundations for new impulses in relationship management.
Finance & Accounting Manager Troyka Vervaeke was closely involved in the market consultation to select Vlerick Business School’s new master data management partner. 'We were looking for a strategic partner to help us realize an innovative data platform. On the one hand, we wanted to be able to process relationship data more efficiently and error-free, and on the other we wanted to improve our analyses, our customer information, and ultimately the services that we provide to our customers. It soon became clear that Altares Dun & Bradstreet was the partner that we were looking for. Firstly, they offer a proven integration with Salesforce: now we have a standardized API. Secondly, the solution – and particularly the interface – is flexible and user-friendly. Users don’t need much instruction before they can use it. The system is flexible also. For example, it doesn’t require you to ‘overwrite’ fields with suggested edits during the data processing. This way, you can retain specific data fields despite the database, such as an international shared-service center for example. Lastly, we established that Altares Dun & Bradstreet’s solution will grow to match our ambitions: it can be scaled up to accommodate increasing data volumes.'
participants each year
MBA and Master Students
Altares Dun & Bradstreet has developed APIs and integrations for diverse ERP and CRM systems, to make it possible for organizations to enrich their data by adding Altares Dun & Bradstreet’s, to create a single comprehensive and carefully structured information source. This is also how Salesforce works, using Dataxess for Salesforce; it gives Vlerick Business School various structural benefits:
- Guaranteed data accuracy: a constant factor that is provided automatically and in real time
- 360-degree customer profiles, to rapidly identify companies, even with multiple locations or a parent company that needs to be identified
- High data quality to utilize cross-selling and up-selling opportunities and target specific prospects.
3. The result
An innovative data platform
To make a fresh start with Salesforce, Vlerick Business School first carried out a comprehensive cleanup. 'We thought that it would be a good idea to start with a clean slate, by which I mean clean data,' Tom Van Steendam explains. 'Working together with Altares Dun & Bradstreet, we cleaned up and completed the database, by linking the unique D-U-N-S numbers to the appropriate business entities in our data sources. We removed duplicates and inactive accounts, and edited all the fields that needed correcting, from VAT numbers to addresses. We were pleased to see that our database was actually in very good shape, and we only needed to make a few changes. Still, we’re glad that we could follow this cleanup by enriching our data by adding Altares Dun & Bradstreet’s, and so help our people further with valuable customer information.'
Besides the improvements that this approach yields for relationship management, Vlerick Business School has also improved its efficiency. Troyka Vervaeke clarifies, 'Our people are spending much less time on the administrative process. We now use a controlled workflow to register new accounts, and the correct data are presented immediately. This saves a great deal of time, for example in the billing process.'
"Our people are spending much less time on the administrative process. We now use a controlled workflow to register new accounts, and the correct data are presented immediately. This saves a great deal of time, for example in the billing process."
Further down the road, Vlerick Business School will have the option also of utilizing web-to-lead, to assure the quality of the data obtained through web forms when the school’s new website goes live. Altares Dun & Bradstreet offers the type-ahead formula for this: all registrations and requests for contact are immediately sorted under the appropriate company name and enriched with additional information. The result is less manual input and a cleaner database.
In the short term, the Belgian school sees numerous other ways to utilize the enriched database – for example contacting individual business relations for research surveys. Step by step, Vlerick Business School is creating a company culture in which data serves as a strategic asset.