This spotlight is part of a series of profiles about constituent relationship management (CRM) users across campus, partners in the success of the OneBadger CRM initiative.
For Megan O’Rourke, it was basically a professional dream come true.
(If we were talking personal dreams, O’Rourke’s might involve a wistful reunion with her beloved Trek Madone, otherwise known as “The Ultimate Road Bike That Got Away”—but we’ll get to that later…)
Back to the professional dream: After working in higher education for her entire career, O’Rourke landed at UW–Madison in 2013, managing career services for the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. With a strong background in career management systems, one of her endeavors at UW was serving on the campus-wide implementation team that brought Handshake online, a careers and recruitment application that connects college students to hiring employers and job and internship opportunities.
“Managing all the aspects within the career management systems was always part of my life,” O’Rourke recalls. “I always loved it, working in these technical solutions. I loved that being the first application I opened up every day.”
So when O’Rourke joined UW–Madison’s Office of Business Engagement (OBE) in January 2019, she quickly raised her hand when OBE was selected as a pilot group to implement the Salesforce constituent relationship management (CRM) platform as part of the OneBadger CRM Initiative.
As the campus-wide hub that connects businesses and industry with the resources they need to form partnerships with the university, the Office of Business Engagement sought to jump onboard the CRM initiative to more efficiently and effectively manage these strategic partnerships.
And by implementing Salesforce together with OBE’s campus partners, the goal was for external relations professionals throughout the university to be better connected—with a powerful platform at their disposal for collaboration and information-sharing, spanning several UW–Madison schools, colleges, institutes and other units.
“It was kind of a dream come true,” O’Rourke explains, describing her excitement to apply her previous experience in higher education and implementing career management software to this groundbreaking CRM project.
“And it’s been one of the most professionally fulfilling and challenging experiences of my life.”
With OBE leading the implementation in collaboration with campus partners, the core team began working in spring 2020 with implementation partners from Huron Consulting Group. In addition to OBE staff, the core team included representatives from the SuccessWorks career center in the College of Letters & Science, the School of Human Ecology career center, the Wisconsin School of Business and the College of Engineering Corporate Relations.
“It was a fun challenge,” O’Rourke recalls, noting that one of the hardest pieces of the configuration process involved designing “engagements” within Salesforce, or record types that would describe CRM users’ varying types of interactions with businesses and community organizations.
“When we initially designed it, it was very focused on our work in OBE,” O’Rourke recalls. “But when we took the engagement type list to our core team, we quickly found out we needed to have a record type specifically for a research collaboration strategy, or a talent recruitment strategy, or one specifically about professional development strategy.”
With so many different types of activity to document in the CRM, the implementation team needed to ensure they were creating record types that captured the many nuances of external relations work “without having a list that was a mile long,” O’Rourke says.
A focus on outcomes and growth
The core team also leveraged the expertise of the Huron implementation partners to develop meaningful metrics capabilities within Salesforce. Similar to the challenges inherent in setting up different “engagements” to describe widely varying external relations activity, it was also a worthwhile challenge to set up comprehensive dashboards of various outcomes from those interactions, O’Rourke says.
“For OBE, our number one metric or goal is to increase financial contributions to the university from industry, largely around research collaboration,” O’Rourke explains. “But that’s not an important metric for the career center staff, or to those working in community relations and state relations. So we needed to develop the right record types to capture all those outcomes.”
Launched in June, the Strategic Partnerships instance, or “org” within UW–Madison’s Salesforce platform, currently includes about 56 users in schools, colleges and groups across campus. O’Rourke is looking forward to the next challenge, to increase the number of users across the university who perform external relations functions.
It’s all about user adoption, and that’s one of the biggest challenges,” O’Rourke said, adding that the core team worked hard in the implementation process to ensure that the Strategic Partnerships Salesforce org is flexible enough to paint a holistic picture of diverse activities across the university.
Life on two wheels
Now, back to that Trek bike…
When she’s not reveling in the endlessly customizable inner workings of Salesforce, or serving as a Business Engagement Director for OBE, O’Rourke spends a lot of time on two wheels.
“I do a ton of road cycling,” O’Rourke says. “I love learning about bikes, and I’ve always got some sort of new bike toy.”
Ask a cycling enthusiast how many bikes one should own, and they’ll tell you the answer is “n + 1”—where “n” is the number of bikes currently owned. You always need one more.
It’s an equation O’Rourke wishes she’d remembered shortly after she moved to Madison from Washington, D.C. Her first really good road bike made the move with her—that trusty 2011 Trek Madone. She had ridden it all over Maryland and Virginia (even working as a bike tour guide in D.C.), and she also rode it in a 112-mile loop around Madison in her first Ironman triathlon—a feat she also calls “the single best day of my life.”
“The biggest regret is that I sold it,” O’Rourke admits. “I still regret it. I already have my eye on the next bike, and it’s going to be very similar to that Trek Madone.”
In addition to tinkering with bike toys at her east side home, O’Rourke is also learning about other new toys as her partner, Vanessa, builds a house in the country and O’Rourke “helps” (aka, holding tools).
“I’ve learned a lot about home improvement, even though I hate absolutely every part of it,” O’Rourke says with a laugh.
O’Rourke admits she’d much rather put down the saw and hammer and spend quality time with Vanessa and the pair’s aging dog, Charlie, their “adopted adorable mutt.” And as the cold weather and windy conditions put a winter pause on the road cycling, the Minnesota native is excited to hit the hiking trails as she continues to get to know Madison and Wisconsin’s terrain.
“My kick right now during COVID is to try to hit as many of the Dane County parks as I possibly can,” O’Rourke says, adding that she’s already hiked several Wisconsin state parks during previous pandemic months. “I’ve been blown away at how many there are. I love putting on some political podcasts and going out hiking on the Ice Age Trails.”