The University of New South Wales has begun consolidating 17 separate customer relationship management systems and datasets, replacing them with Microsoft Dynamics 365 as the core repository for 60,000 students’ data.
It falls under a larger $3 billion program of work to propel the university into a spot in the top 50 of global universities dubbed the the UNSW 2025 strategy.
Work to meet the strategy’s goals is already underway, with UNSW this year doing away with semesters in favour of ten-week trimesters and an optional five-week summer term.
The CRM overhaul - which has been rebranded as a “constituent” relationship management system - is a bid to drive efficiency while fostering deeper relationships with students, industry partners and government, CRM program director Frieda Maher said.
“Obviously, students are a big part of our constituency, but there are also business partners,
research partners, government. For all of those constituents, our goals were to improve the
experience, to grow our revenue base, and to improve our operational efficiency,” she said.
UNSW partnered with KPMG for the project, and over the last two years Dynamics 365 was deployed across all eight of UNSW’s faculties, kicking off with a pilot of 400 students.
Within two months, the small trial had allowed the university to switch off one of its CRMs, saving $40,000 a year in licencing alone. It also saved the university $250,000 in its 2018 marketing and recruitment budget, while also reducing the amount of time it took for each student interaction.
The marketing also ties into the rollout of Adobe’s Experience Cloud announced in December, to help consolidate the uni’s 2,200 websites run using 12 different content management systems and linking to hundreds of social media handles.
An Agile approach was behind the delivery of the first system, with new elements being deployed every week since then, with end users closely involved with the development of each iteration.
Dynamics 365 has reduced the silos of data between faculties and divisions that weren’t integrated in previous systems.
It also means that every service desk around campus a student might approach with a question is better equipped to answer it, whereas previously “we can’t answer that question here” was a frequent response.
Maher said the ability for staff to plug into a central platform to help students will be especially useful as the trimester model takes full effect. Dynamics 365 can also flag if a student is asking the same question over and over again, perhaps due to confusion or in the hope of getting a different answer.
Now, the consistency across systems means admin staff can confidently let students know they’ve received an accurate (and final) answer.
Azure Machine Learning can also follow other student interactions through the CRM, helping to identify students at risk of dropping out or who might need additional support, similar to the University of Canberra’s CRM overhaul which was also underpinned by Microsoft.
Further Microsoft integration happens across Office 365 and Microsoft Flow for scanned documents, with KPMG also helping to digitise and streamline data entry from five paper and 12 electronic forms handling everything from enrolment confirmation through to requests for timetable changes.
Systems that used to handle these tasks have been switched off as a result, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process.