Making student recruitment and retention systems more user-friendly

As we move towards a more consumer-centric world of IT in education – for example, as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) models are sprouting right across Higher Education, TAFE and schools – there’s pressure too on the big enterprise systems that users are forced to use (finance, CRM, management reporting) to become more consumer-friendly. For example, there are two very different approaches to things like online procurement platforms:

  • Corporate online procurement systems tend to be complex, require end user training and complex support help desks and top-up training
  • Consumer online procurement systems (aka online shopping) then to be simple to use, require no training and if they are not intuitive, they fail (sometimes, along with the business that built them)

With the same mindset impacting corporate IT systems, then we’re going to see a shift in systems and interfaces. If employees are walking around with a web-connected tablet, how do we help them do their job on that?

One of the areas where this is a definite opportunity is in the area of student recruitment and student retention in universities and TAFEs. I’m involved in lots of projects where the Dynamics CRM system is being used to support student recruitment and reduce student attrition, and what’s clear is that there are two types of users of a system:

  • People who spend most of their time in student recruitment activities, and use their CRM or other system on a daily basis
  • People who’s role involves student recruitment, but only occasionally have to record activities or look up information in the main system

One of the things I’ve noticed is that the people who occasionally use the system tend to have workarounds to avoid actually using the system – for example, they keep information offline in a spreadsheet, on paper or in their heads. Whilst it might work for them, it means that there’s no visibility of progress and activities to others.

So how do you encourage more people to actually use your CRM system as the core place to record information and activities on student recruitment, or student attrition activities? Part of the answer has to be to make it easier for your users to use the system, so they don’t feel the need for extensive training, or experience disorientation if they are only using it a few times a week/month/year.

We’ve just announced a new release of Dynamics CRM, called Polaris, which is designed to improve the experiences of every day, and occasional users, by:

  • focusing on streamlining processes for users
  • improving the experiences for specific users across browsers, mobile devices
  • improve the integration with Microsoft SharePoint and Lync, as well as Skype and Yammer

There’s plenty more detail on Polaris over on the Dynamics website, but the best way I’ve seen the journey described is the video below, which demonstrates the vision that the Dynamics team are working towards, and shows what the future interface for Dynamics CRM might look like:

If your users across the campus had this kind of intuitive, and simple, application, would it make it easier to encourage them to use your CRM system holistically, rather than having separate silos of information on paper, cards, spreadsheets and hand-built systems?

Learn MoreRead more about the long-term vision for Dynamics CRM (PDF)

Read more about the features of the Polaris release in the Release Preview Guide (PDF)