Case Study

A history of partnership — McGill University uses Envoke to keep staff and students informed

“As Envoke developed through a collaboration with ourselves, other universities, and businesses and organizations outside higher education, we have all benefited. We don’t face communications challenges on a daily basis because Envoke has grown in line with our needs.”

Simon Labonne
Digital Content Specialist

“It's very efficient. Even though our user base has increased significantly in the past few years, our administrative load hasn’t.”

Simon Labonne,
Digital Content Specialist

Background

Founded in 1821, McGill University is one of Canada’s oldest and most prestigious educational institutions. For generations, McGill has ranked highly among the world’s top 50 universities and today it boasts some of Canada’s most diverse student demographics. 150 nationalities comprise the 40,000 students that study at McGill annually — over one-third of the McGill student population are international students.  

With some of the highest admission standards in Canada, McGill has educated Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, and heads of state. Legislators, authors, actors, and leaders of industry also make up a significant portion of the McGill alumni. It is an illustrious list that grows with each new generation.    

Challenge: Ensuring effortless, compliant communications across multiple university departments and a diverse user base

McGill relies heavily on email as a method of communicating with 275,000 living alumni, 40,000 active annual pre- and post-grad students, 6,750 administrative employees, and an academic staff totaling 3,500. The university’s many different departments and faculties send over 8 million emails each year.

“We have two or three power users that each send more than a million emails every year,” explains  Simon Labonne, Digital Content Specialist, McGill University, and the university’s Envoke account administrator. “Generally speaking though, McGill has a variety of different faculty, units, and offices that don’t have communication experts that specialize in multimedia creation — they need a platform that is easy to use so people can simply log on and enter and send their content.” 

Moving away from old unsuitable tools to meet modern requirements

McGill wanted to maintain that diverse user base under a single solution. It also wanted to ensure each department maintained a distinct contact and subscription data set. In addition, many of McGill’s users were faced with aging legacy email software like LISTSERV and turning to more modern alternatives that weren’t necessarily fit for purpose.

“People complained about the legacy tools for years, and it drove them to more commercially-focused broadcast email marketing solutions,” says Labonne. “But McGill doesn’t do major email marketing campaigns. Our core business case is not collecting leads, it is using email to communicate with our students, staff, and faculty.”       

McGill’s largest concern was maintaining up-to-date email and subscriber lists while meeting Canadian data residency and CASL compliance requirements.

“Most email platforms, especially those based in the US, didn’t accommodate privacy, anti-spam requirements, contact expiry dates, or reconciling user information,” says Labonne. “With as many users as we have, we needed a solution that addressed all those issues automatically.”

A decade of growth and cooperation

McGill is one of the Envoke email communications tool’s earliest institutional adopters. The university has been using the CASL-compliant email solution to facilitate effective communication since 2012. Describing the company’s long-term partnership with the university, Martin Millican, Envoke CEO, remarks, “The story of Envoke at McGill is the story of the product’s evolution over a decade.” 

“McGill’s needs were simple at first,” adds Simon Labonne, Digital Content Specialist, McGill University, and the university’s Envoke account administrator. “As Envoke developed through a collaboration with ourselves, other universities, and businesses and organizations outside higher education, we have all benefited. We don’t face communications challenges on a daily basis because Envoke has grown in line with our needs.”  

Keeping everything organized with multiple departments and sub accounts

One area where Envoke features and McGill requirements have evolved in tandem is its tiered user management and user account creation. Although McGill administers its Envoke accounts centrally, each university department operates and maintains its contacts independently. Using Envoke sub-account and department management functionality, Labonne easily manages over 300 registered users across more than 150 different sub-accounts without the cross-contamination of subscriber lists. 

“Within Envoke, the McGill departments and staff are essentially autonomous — each department or sub-account sees only its own information. All I need to do is create an account and assign access based on a user’s department and role,” says Labonne. “It’s very efficient. Even though our user base has increased significantly in the past few years, our administrative load hasn’t.” 

Intuitive and ever-improving features reduce support overhead

Labonne attributes much of McGill’s ability to efficiently oversee such a large user base to Envoke’s usability and intuitive feature set. Core Envoke tools like the email and forms editors and centralized template management save Labonne and the McGill communications team significant overheads when managing the university’s many individual accounts. The continual evolution and improvement of Envoke tools encourage increased independence for the university’s growing user base. 

“Even recently, new Envoke email editor features have further simplified creating buttons, dragging and dropping email elements, and embedding video and images into emails,” says Labonne. “Each small change makes our lives easier by reducing the amount of time we spend answering client support requests. Each new development, whether to the email editor or the reporting and analytics modules, improves our ability to communicate.”  

To illustrate, Labonne points to one recent Envoke feature improvement that allows McGill users to simply revert to an earlier draft if they run into difficulties while editing or creating an email or form template. 

“The version history rollback is a huge time saver we weren’t expecting. It is a great addition to the product because now when a user introduces errors or corrupts their template they can simply turn back the clock to a previous version on their own,” says Labonne. “Each new feature like that is another set of issues we no longer need to address. It all adds up.”    

Envoke CASL and privacy features keep McGill compliant

According to Labonne, of all the benefits Envoke has brought to the table at McGill, automated CASL compliance and privacy regulation support combined with the ability to automatically sync contact data between systems are the most significant.

By fulfilling these mission-critical criteria, Envoke saves the university time and effort on two fronts. First, McGill’s IT department effortlessly runs automated nightly scripts to ensure its Azure Active Directory databases sync with the Envoke contact lists and add, remove, and update user records. 

Second, Envoke’s native CASL support automatically tracks a wide variety of consent states, manages consent expiration dates, sends consent expiration reminders, and even accommodates the US and European GDPR opt-out requirements.

“With so many people at McGill using Envoke, its high level of CASL automation ensures the university doesn’t run into privacy and compliance issues,” says Labonne. “Everything is already there, I don’t need to worry about it. Envoke has done such an excellent job documenting all that each user needs to know to maintain compliance that 90% percent of the time I can just provide links to the Envoke product knowledge base before they start using the system. Our users are good to go because Envoke support has already done the work for us.”

A shared vision for future collaboration

Moving forward in the partnership between Envoke and McGill, Labonne sees Envoke’s work with API integration and increased data warehousing capabilities playing an increasingly important role at McGill. Envoke is also upgrading its user security with multifactor verification and configurable password rules and expiration limits. 

“Our future involves migrating to more cloud-based solutions and services while maintaining greater connectivity between multiple databases and CRM systems,” says Labonne. “A part of that mission is to move remaining users on other marketing email platforms over to Envoke, because of the incredible support the company offers — every time we have needed something, Envoke has added it to the platform. Due to that level of excellent customer service, McGill will be using Envoke for the next 20 years.”

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