In the spring of 2023, Salesforce officially unveiled new-and-improved offerings for educational institutions, nonprofits, and their respective constituents. These newly-launched products, Education Cloud and Nonprofit Cloud, sparked immediate interest among industry professionals and ecosystem players alike. This curiosity was all the more pointed among legacy Education and Nonprofit Cloud users, who reasonably wondered just how different the new, homonymous products are from the original managed packages — and whether they should care.
Gerent's Senior Director of Solution Engineering for Education and Nonprofit, Chris Hoffmeyer, says that organizations should indeed care quite a bit.
"Salesforce didn't just put a new coat of paint to the metaphorical house — it rebuilt that house from the ground up, foundation and all," he said. "As core Salesforce products, the new Education Cloud and Nonprofit Cloud are more functional, flexible, and adaptable than any industry solution developed to date. It's hard to overstate how empowering and game-changing these solutions will be for institutions and not-for-profit organizations."
Summary: What's new with Salesforce Education Cloud and Nonprofit Cloud?
- Education Cloud and Nonprofit Cloud are now "core" Salesforce solutions rather than managed packages.
- Both solutions now provide significantly more functionality and drive better experiences for organizations and their constituents/donors/beneficiaries.
- Users can access features from other core Salesforce products (e.g., Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Financial Services Cloud, Health Cloud, etc.).
- Organizations receive 3x/annual updates from Salesforce.
- Institutions can more easily customize their solution with OmniStudio's low-code toolset.
Meet the New Education Cloud and Nonprofit Cloud
Education Cloud and Nonprofit Cloud have officially launched — or, more accurately, relaunched — as core Salesforce solutions. Adopters will gain access to a much-expanded library of industry-relevant features and tried-and-true capabilities from other core products (e.g., Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Health Cloud, Loyalty Cloud, etc.). Salesforce also plans to roll out thrice-annual updates for each product to ensure that both continue to meet customers' ever-evolving needs. For example, while Education Cloud already offers tremendous value to higher education customers who want to address use cases relating to Recruitment and Admissions, Salesforce intends to provide even more features relating to Student Success as early as its next release in June 2023.
This transition onto the Salesforce core is a significant shift for both products. Previously, customers who wanted an industry-tailored solution had to rely on a managed package (i.e., a licensed compilation of application components that provides industry-specific features). Such solutions layer atop Salesforce's CRM foundation but exist outside the company's main product library — and thus require separate maintenance. Additionally, institutions could not take advantage of new features and tools developed by other Salesforce industry verticals. As a result, some stakeholders required custom-build options replicating other industry innovations.
Why was this the case? The data architecture for legacy Education Cloud and the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) was developed outside of Salesforce by Salesforce.org: a then-independent coalition of mission-driven organizations dedicated to innovating Salesforce solutions for educational institutions and nonprofits.
In Education Cloud’s case, the coalition developed an industry-specific data model and a suite of industry-specific managed packages, which were collectively compiled and rebranded as "Education Cloud" after Salesforce acquired Salesforce.org in 2019. Now, that legacy product — which includes legacy EDA, Admissions Connect, and the Student Success Hub managed package — has been rebranded once more to Salesforce for Education to avoid confusion between the original and new solutions.
"Before, Education Cloud and Nonprofit Cloud were off on an island; now, both solutions are smack dab in Salesforce's downtown," Hoffmeyer said. "And, as core products, these solutions now share a codebase with Sales & Service Cloud, Financial Services Cloud, Health Cloud, and more. There's incredible potential for cross-pollination and feature-sharing across Salesforce's industry offerings."
Unlocked: Key Features Available with Education Cloud 2.0
- Salesforce Scheduler — Make booking appointments with relevant stakeholders easy for your prospective and current students.
- Action Plans — Build flexible templates that define the tasks and time required to complete a business process (e.g., enrollment, roommate selection, etc.).
- Actionable Relationship Center (ARC) —View constituent relationships in one easy-to-navigate chart.
- Business Rules Engine — Create business rules that perform complex lookups and calculations; this tool can be used to determine eligibility, facilitate data-driven decision-making, etc.
- Care Plans — Help your constituents take actionable steps towards specific improvement or achievement goals.
- Decision Explainer — Provide automatic insights into why a business rule generated a specific result; can be used to explain eligibility status for program applications, aid, etc.
- Document Checklist — Process applications and their supporting documents more efficiently by extracting and storing data from constituent-submitted documents in one place.
- Interaction Summary — Use Salesforce's structured note-taking features to capture conversational details and create summaries for constituent interactions.
We’ll be unpacking how organizations can leverage these and other shared features in an upcoming blog. However, for an immediate illustration of just how valuable cross-pollination can be, we can consider the Action Relationship Center (ARC). Originally developed for Financial Services Cloud (FSC), ARC enables users to conveniently view their customers' relationships with businesses and individuals in a single, user-friendly, and interactive chart. In higher education, recruiters could use the feature to take a more informed and holistic approach to student outreach by visualizing the ancillary players in a student's life, such as a mentor, guidance counselor, or currently-enrolled sibling.
"The ability to feature-share will be a game-changer for Education and Nonprofit customers," said Gerent's Senior Vice President of Education and Nonprofit, Jenny Hall. "Organizations no longer have to wait for Salesforce to develop a particular feature exclusively for their industry. With Salesforce's shared codebase, adoptees can leverage relevant functionalities from other Clouds and integrate them seamlessly into the appropriate business context."
"The original and new iterations of Education Cloud might share a name, but the two are entirely different products — it's meaningful development that should be a catalyst for innovation," she concluded.
Looking beyond out-of-the-box functionality: OmniStudio enhances Salesforce’s customization potential
In addition to delivering a vastly-expanded feature library, the new Education Cloud and Nonprofit Cloud will also facilitate an unprecedented degree of customization via OmniStudio. Originally launched in 2014 under the brand name "Vlocity," OmniStudio is a powerful suite of task-based components and services that empower businesses to craft branded, dynamic customer and employee interactions quickly and with minimal code.
With OmniStudio, Salesforce customers and their implementation partners can take control of the development process. Rather than waiting for Salesforce to develop a particular feature or functionality, users can leverage OmniStudio to build it themselves — and, because the suite is low-code, aspiring innovators don't need an extensive programming background to do so.
"The new Education Cloud, for example, was designed to give institutions the tools they need to overcome pain points and better serve students," Hall noted. "OmniStudio adds to that utility by allowing institutions to attune their Salesforce platform to their unique operational needs. For example, a university might leverage OmniStudio to build a custom interview scheduling process for prospective students."
Of course, not all Salesforce customers will have the necessary time, resources, or interest to complete such customizations on their own. Even as a low-code tool, OmniStudio has a learning curve and can require some specialized knowledge. Organizations that prefer not to take on the challenge alone may find collaborating with an experienced implementation partner like Gerent worthwhile.
Our consultancy has long prioritized OmniStudio proficiency; before Vlocity's acquisition by Salesforce in 2021, we maintained a dedicated Vlocity practice. We've continued to keep up with our Vlocity (now Salesforce Industries) training; our team collectively held 130+ Salesforce Industries (OmniStudio) certifications as of writing. Our specialists are well-versed in the development engine and know how to leverage it to make Salesforce solutions more functional, customized, and impactful for our clients.
"I think I speak for Gerent's entire team when I say we're excited to get started," Hall said. "Salesforce’s new Education Cloud and Nonprofit Cloud solutions will be a force of empowerment for institutions all over the world — and it's our privilege and a pleasure to help institutions take full advantage of it."