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Understand the EDA Account Model

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Describe the difference between the Salesforce account model and the EDA account model.
  • Describe the major objects in EDA, including contacts, relationship, and affiliations.
  • Explain what an administrative account is.
  • Explain why leaving the account field blank is so important when creating a contact in EDA.
  • 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 K-20 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. We also want to keep track of things such as departments, sports teams, and alumni networks. How then, is one supposed to manage all these components in an application designed for business?

With EDA and the EDA account model, Salesforce.org has designed a great solution!

The EDA Account Model

The EDA 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 EDA, Salesforce.org has created an application that provides custom functionality geared toward how education audiences work.

In the EDA account model, the standard Salesforce account object acts as a container account. EDA offers two kinds of container accounts. One kind, referred to as an “administrative account,” has a single contact associated with it—this is often a student but sometimes a faculty member, alumni, or other person related to the educational institution. The relationship between the account and contact is one to one. So for each contact that you create in EDA, you also have a unique administrative account. You can think of an administrative account as the account-level representation of a contact.

Administrative account model

The other type of container account is a "household account." It functions just like its name suggests, to represent the household a student contact belongs to. Unlike the administrative account's one to one relationship, a household account typically contains multiple contacts besides the student, such as parents or guardians, siblings, and other members of a shared household. 

Household account model

Which account model is best? Every institution is different and you can choose an approach that works best for your school. If you’re working with an implementation partner, your consultant can recommend the best approach for your situation.

Whichever account model you go with, Salesforce creates the container account (administrative or household) 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. EDA allows you to customize the naming convention of the container account too! For example, contact Pete Peterson belongs to the Peterson Administrative Account. On the contact record, it looks like this:

Salesforce contact example Pete Peterson

The reason we're emphasizing this concept is that contacts are at the center of EDA. Placing the contact at the center enables a full 360 view of that constituent, allowing you to answer essential questions about the contact such as, "What are their interests?" or "Who do they know?" In Salesforce, each contact must be associated with an account. Without an account, a contact is only visible to the person who created it. 

Contacts, Relationships, and Affiliations

So now we have a contact and an administrative (or household) 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, an alumni, or more than one of those? Does the contact play sports or belong to specific clubs? And does the 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 EDA account model, EDA offers two important custom objects that work in conjunction with your contacts.

  • The relationship custom object tracks relationships between contacts (who do they know?)
  • The affiliation custom object tracks affiliations between contacts and other accounts (what are their interests?)

EDA contact and account

What do we mean by other accounts in this instance? Well, in EDA 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, academic programs, universities, and other companies or organizations. 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. 

On the flipside, connections between people—technically other contact records in Salesforce—are created using the relationship object.

Let’s look at an example. Pete Peterson (a contact) is connected to people (other contacts) through relationships. He is connected to programs and interests (accounts) through affiliations.

EDA account relationships




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 EDA, gives you the ability to do all kinds of things like this.

But one of the most exciting things EDA 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. EDA 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.

Umbrella girl

Create Your First Contact and Administrative Account

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



We’re using administrative account in the example. If your organization uses the household account model, you can follow along and think “household” whenever we say administrative.

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

  1. In Salesforce, click the Contacts icon and click New.
  2. Enter all relevant details for your new contact, including Social Security number, addresses or other contact information, 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 EDA takes into consideration that a contact can wear many hats and lets you set the role for each accordingly. More on that later...

Great! You’ve now got your contact and administrative account. There’s much more to the EDA account model to discuss later. But understanding how these basic building blocks fit together is enough to get you started. In the EDA Data Management module, we highlight some of the most important first steps in building your data architecture. So go ahead and get your badge for this module, and then let’s dive right in!