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Understand the HEDA Account Model

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
  • Describe the difference between the Salesforce account model and the HEDA account model.
  • Describe the major objects in HEDA, including contacts, relationships, and affiliations.
  • Explain what an administrative account is.
  • Explain why leaving the account field blank is so important when creating a contact in HEDA.
  • Create a contact and associated administrative account.

Salesforce and the Account Model

Salesforce was originally designed as a business-to-business (B2B) application to help companies improve their sales processes, and by extension, maximize their sales. In the traditional B2B scenario, each company keeps track of their accounts—the other companies or businesses that they are selling to. Each account has people associated with it (contacts) and other things such as opportunities, cases, and tasks. How all these things relate to and interact with each other in Salesforce is known as an account model.

Salesforce account model

In the higher ed world, however, we track things a bit differently. Yes, we manage activities with companies and businesses that we partner with to attract potential students, high schools we recruit from, and other institutions that we receive transfers from. But in addition to all that, we care about our students—what they’re doing, the classes they’re taking, and the clubs they belong to. In higher ed, we also want to keep track of things like departments, sports teams, and alumni networks. How then, is one supposed to manage all these components in an application designed for business?

With HEDA and the HEDA account model, has designed a great solution!

HEDA Account Model

The HEDA account model is closely aligned to the standard Salesforce account model. It gives you all the power of Salesforce without forcing you to customize the business side to suit your needs. You can still do business tracking in Salesforce if you want to—standard Salesforce objects like opportunities and cases don’t go away. But with HEDA, has created an application that provides first-class, custom functionality geared toward higher ed audiences and workflows.

In the HEDA account model, the standard Salesforce account object acts as a container account, referred to as the “administrative account.” It has a single contact, which is often a student but could be a faculty member, alumni or other person related to the educational institution, associated with it. The relationship between the account and contact is one to one. So for each contact that you create in HEDA, you also have a unique administrative account.

HEDA account model

Salesforce creates the administrative account for you each time you create an independent contact (that is, a contact that is not part of another account). The name of the new account uses the last name of the new contact. For example, contact Pete Peterson belongs to the Peterson administrative account. On the contact record, it looks like this:

HEDA admin account

The reason we’re emphasizing this concept is because contacts are the center of your HEDA system. In Salesforce, each contact must be associated with an account. Let’s listen to Kari as she tells us more about contacts and administrative accounts in HEDA.

Contacts, Relationships, and Affiliations

So now we have a contact and an associated account, but the contact record doesn’t mean anything unless you can do something with it. When you first create it, the contact is a blank canvas. It simply represents a person that you have basic information about. But, now you need to define how that person relates to your educational institution. Is the contact a student, a faculty member, or an alumni? Does the contact play sports or belong to specific clubs? And does that contact have connections to any other contacts at your educational institution? Is the contact the child of an alumni member? Is the contact married to another contact? This is where relationships and affiliations come in.

As part of the HEDA account model, HEDA offers two important custom objects that work in conjunction with your contacts.
  • The relationship custom object tracks relationships between contacts.
  • The affiliation custom object tracks affiliations between contacts and other accounts.
HEDA contact and account

What’s another account? Well, in HEDA that could be a department. It could also be a sports team. It might be a prospective employer. The architecture is flexible! The important thing to remember is that affiliated accounts aren’t other people. They’re bigger things such as departments, universities, and other institutions. And as part of the affiliation, you determine the connection the contact has to the account (student, faculty, athlete, and so on) by including the contact’s role. Connections between people—technically other contact records in Salesforce—are created using the relationships object.

HEDA account relationships


A main account—in our example, the Peterson Administrative Account—isn’t an affiliated account. It’s the parent account that’s required for your contact. When you create affiliations to other accounts, such as departments, sports teams, and so on, Salesforce relates those accounts directly to the contact (in this case, Pete Peterson).

As we mentioned, the architecture is flexible and provides a way for you to organize, track, and retrieve your data. For instance, you might want to see a list of the sophomores on the tennis team, email the parents of all theater majors, or send a solicitation to alums who majored in biology over the past 10 years. Standard Salesforce functionality like reports, dashboards, and campaigns, coupled with HEDA, gives you the ability to do all kinds of things like this.

But one of the most exciting things HEDA has to offer is a window into a contact’s full history. A student has switched majors seven times and you want to see that history? No problem. Need to see which institutions a dean has worked at in the past or where the dean might be going? You can do that, too. HEDA maintains a history of everything you enter in Salesforce. You have access to a full array of data, even when contacts have transitioned to other places or roles.

Now that you understand a little bit about the architecture, let’s go ahead and create our first contact and administrative account.

Create Your First Contact and Administrative Account

To create the administrative account, you don’t have to do anything special—just create the contact! Salesforce creates the administrative account for you based on the new contact’s name.

Remember, the administrative account is simply an umbrella account that acts as a container for the contact.

umbrella girl

  1. In Salesforce, click the Contacts icon and click New.
  2. Enter all relevant details for your new contact, including Social Security number, phone numbers, email addresses, and addresses, but leave the Account Name field blank.


    Leaving the Account Name field blank is the key step to creating the required administrative account.

    Create Contact detail page
  3. When you’re finished, click Save.

Salesforce creates an administrative account, deriving the name of the new account from the name of the contact, using the format [LastName] Administrative Account.

Contact format


You may notice that when you created this contact, you didn’t designate the person as a student, faculty, employee, or other role. That’s because a contact may have many “roles” at an educational institution. The contact may be a student of the History Department, a teaching assistant in the English Department, and an athlete on the basketball team. Or the contact may be a faculty member in the Chemistry Department, a former student of the University, and a coach on the tennis team. The flexible architecture in HEDA accounts for the fact that a contact can wear many hats, and lets you set the role for each accordingly. We’ll discuss this more later...

Great! You’ve now got your contact and administrative account. There’s much more to the HEDA account model, and we’ll talk about that later. But understanding how these basic building blocks fit together is enough to get you started. In the “Building Your Higher Ed Architecture” module, Kari will begin taking you through some of the most important first steps of building your data architecture. So go ahead and get your badge for this module, and then let’s dive right in!