University of Newcastle transforms with Dynamics 365, strengthens links to students and strategic partners

One of Australia’s leading regional institutions, the University of Newcastle (the University) has its main campus in that city, with satellite facilities throughout the Eastern Seaboard of Australia as well as a campus in Singapore. It offers graduate and postgraduate programmes to domestic and international students and boasts a major research portfolio.

Until recently it also wrangled a huge array of disparate customer relationship management (CRM) systems that had been implemented across the University over many years and for different purposes. While they each served their purpose at the time, the University recognised the benefits that would accrue from building a single source of truth and transparency about its engagements with multiple stakeholders; it would ensure efficiency – and also enhance the experience for students.

Working with KPMG the University is undertaking a university-wide CRM transformation, with Dynamics 365 providing the digital foundations for a reimagining of the way that it engages with stakeholders.

Chad Coutman, is Capability Lead in the University’s IT Services team and acknowledges that at the start of the transformation; “We’d had numerous CRMs in place across the University, purchased independently over time, and being supported independently.” It is an expensive approach and imposes a significant management burden.

Determined to consolidate and streamline its CRM portfolio, the University has commenced adoption of Dynamics 365; chosen given the University’s existing use of Microsoft platforms such as Microsoft 365, meaning that personnel were comfortable with Microsoft solutions already.

Given the scale of the transformation the University launched a tender process for an external specialist to partner with them. KPMG was the successful tender and began working through a strategy and roadmap in 2018 – with the first pilot solution deployed at the end of 2018.

Since then says Coutman; “We’ve taken an iterative approach to the program, so we’ve tried to bite off particular business processes, one chunk at a time.” Where the new platform replaces an existing CRM the transition has been straightforward – where it has been implemented as a first time staff have needed additional support in terms of change management. Since the initial pilot the University has gone live with a major release every six months.

 

We now have much greater visibility of where prospective students are in their journey with the University.  For example, we know how many active inquiries we have at any point in time and how many, and when, people are converting from the inquiry to applicant stage. All the different stages that a prospective student would work through, we can see that in Dynamics.” Chad Coutman,  Capability Lead in the University’s IT Services team 

 

One of the marquee users of the CRM is the University’s international student office where just about the entire team uses Dynamics 365 in their daily role.

Coutman explains; “Inquiries from international students are captured in CRM, as well as applications for admission. This has really streamlined the process for the team managing this process and the feedback has been positive.”

It has also improved the student experience as efficiency has soared and applications and inquiries are dealt with much faster than was previously possible. Dynamics 365 has also streamlined the University’s engagement with overseas education agencies which act as the front door for many international students.

“Implementing a more efficient approach to managing international inquiries and applications has improved the University’s interactions with overseas agencies, which enhances our reputation in this competitive market,” says Coutman.

Shane Parsons, Director, Microsoft Business Apps, KPMG says, “Dynamics 365 has delivered to the University much needed transparency about student applications, and the ability to act much faster and to move swiftly and efficiently through the application to acceptance process.”

While the initial focus has been on streamlining engagement with international students the University is now extending Dynamics 365 into other areas such as recruitment, admissions and higher degree by research applications.

For the University, having access to a central source of information is proving very useful, with much more granular understanding of who is applying for which courses, and providing the university a real opportunity to identify and create valuable international strategic partnerships. The system also helps to identify any bottlenecks in the process that it can then address.

It means, says Coutman, that; “We now have much greater visibility of where prospective students are in their journey with the University.  For example, we know how many active inquiries we have at any point in time and how many, and when, people are converting from the inquiry to applicant stage. All the different stages that a prospective student would work through, we can see that in Dynamics.

“The management team can then use this information for analytical purposes and to identify opportunities for improving the student journey. “

Coutman stresses that the focus has been on achieving both efficiency for the University and a better experience for the student.

“It was about having visibility, that single view of customer, and the data available in one place to be able to provide a higher level of service to our stakeholders.”