NECHE Institution Portal Leads to Digital Transformation
By Angela Adams
August 30, 2021

The New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) is a voluntary, non-governmental membership association that serves as an institutional accreditor and promotes educational excellence and quality assurance to its member institutions. Its members are degree granting post-secondary educational institutions offering higher education and located inside or outside the United States, including, but not limited to, the States of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.  NECHE currently accredits over 200 institutions across the globe. After accreditation is granted, institutions are reviewed regularly via self-study and peer evaluation. 

 

Until 2019, NECHE’s Accreditation Management System consisted of an outdated Microsoft Access database, siloed spreadsheets, online forms, and lots of paper documents. Institutions could not update their own data and had to submit materials both via email and in paper format. Access was manually updated by NECHE staff, resulting in a high administrative burden. Reporting was query-based and limited staff knew how to run queries, making reporting inconvenient or inaccessible. In addition, NECHE relied on printed letters and individual emails for communicating with their institutions.

NECHE partnered with Presence to design and build a digital Accreditation Management System that would better support NECHE staff in managing their accreditation processes and serving their institutions. First, Presence implemented Salesforce’s Service Cloud for Account, Contact, Campaign, and Activity management. Next, Presence completed custom configuration and automations that would streamline accreditation workflows. This included numerous email templates to permit automated, yet highly personal, written correspondence with evaluation teams, institutions, and commissioners. Presence also implemented Experience Cloud and developed an online portal for institutions. FormAssembly was used for data collection and event registration. Additionally, numerous merge templates were configured via Apsona to allow for complex reporting and document generation.

The launch of NECHE’s Salesforce implementation in January 2020 coincided with the emergence of COVID-19. Instead of putting the roll-out on the backburner and going back to paper and Access, NECHE determined they would face the challenges of COVID by leveraging Salesforce as much as possible. The result is what Dr. Laura M. Gambino, Vice President of the Commission, calls a “digital transformation.” According to Dr. Gambino, “Over the past 18 months, the shift has been remarkable. This wasn’t just a shift from one database to another, there were significant changes to our processes, to how we interact with our institutions, and how they interact with us. Throughout all of this change and transformation, the real prize is that we are still able to maintain the strong, individualized relationships with our members that NECHE is known for.” 

Remarkably, even though the original timeline for this digital transformation had to be accelerated, staff adoption has been high. Dr. Gambino shared, “We’ve had staff meetings where someone will say ‘Can we use Salesforce to make that easier for us?’ From my perspective, that's a real marker of change being adopted.” As a result, NECHE will be fully paperless by August 1, 2021, a full five months ahead of schedule. 

Staff who formerly were unable to view or utilize data in Access can now leverage Salesforce with ease. Institutions can log in to the Institution Portal that Presence developed to update information and complete their accreditation workflows online, including online document submission. NECHE staff are able to run reports and evaluate data as needed. Presence will soon begin developing a second Community for use by the volunteer peer evaluators. 

To learn more about The New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), please visit their website at https://www.neche.org/. To learn how Presence can ready your organization for a true digital transformation, email us at  contact@presencepg.com or call 415-970-5770.