Transforming a Legacy Technical Environment for Modern Advancement Data Management

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Summary

Coming off a record-setting capital campaign, the Advancement group at a world-leading educational institute wanted to update their tech stack and address friction points within their data practices so they would be ready for even higher goals in the next campaign. Sagence worked with a broad range of internal and peripheral stakeholders to create a data platform architecture that fit within the client’s unique environment and allowed Advancement to take a leading role in campus-wide data management.

Challenge

Institutional Advancement was outgrowing its technical infrastructure and beginning to feel drag as it pushed to expand engagement and fundraising. Their end-of-life CRM was at the center of years’ worth of organically grown, point-to-point integrations and customized workflows, and they needed a migration path forward to its cloud-hosted SaaS replacement. This was complicated by an extremely decentralized data management approach on campus, where groups and departments maintain discrete, individualized systems to process their workloads and significant effort is required to share and reconcile common entities between them. They asked Sagence for a data platform architecture that supported critical processing workflows and consolidated campus-wide data sharing, and a roadmap to roll it out while minimizing dependencies and competing priorities.

Solution

Sagence recognized that shared approaches and widespread buy-in were essential for successful transformation in the decentralized environment and set out to find solutions with broad appeal. Campus-wide interviews took place, cataloging interested parties with related pain points, as well as technical capabilities or existing standards that could be reused in a common solution with broad adoption. Institutional and departmental strategy was examined, finding shared imperatives that depend on data consistency and justified prioritizing effort and change to accomplish it. Established management and hygiene processes were compiled into a data governance framework that could expand beyond Advancement.  Q&A sessions were conducted with technical and business end users, walking through numerous real-life use cases in detail and showing how specific requirements would be satisfied in the new design. In parallel, systems and workflows were analyzed to find logical boundaries where new components could be inserted seamlessly, accomplishing gradual replacement instead of a painful “big bang” launch.

Results

Sagence’s data platform architecture, use case documentation and facilitation workshops resulted in alignment and acceptance of a go-forward technology design among the three distinct groups responsible for supporting Advancement’s needs. Initial skepticism regarding the ability to achieve meaningful change turned into open enthusiasm by the end of the project and stakeholders became “quite enamored with our new architecture.” The client’s central IT organization agreed to host the core data exchange functionality within its existing shared infrastructure, reducing Advancement’s build and maintenance effort and making it broadly available to other departments. The program sponsors brought the platform design and roadmap institutional leadership as the core of the transformation plan for achieving Advancement’s strategic goals.