The University of Otago has replaced disjointed back-office and student systems using Fusion5’s industry nous and the Microsoft Dynamics 365 customer engagement platform.
New Zealand's oldest university services more than 21,000 students with 4,000 staff. That was a lot of moving parts to manage, a task that was made a lot harder by a disparate assortment of technology platforms, processes and services.
Microsoft partner Fusion5, already a technology solutions adviser to higher education institutions around New Zealand, was no stranger to such challenges.
“A business transformation is not simply about technology – it’s actually about how you structure your business as well as the platforms and technologies you use," said Fusion5 principal consultant Leon Nguyen.
"A lot of our tertiary customers know what they want at a high level, but not how to get there. That requires a full business analysis, which is where we always aim to start."
Nguyen, who also leads Fusion5's higher education centre of excellence, knew that in order for any new technology to be effective, the right structure had to be in place first.
He and his team worked with university staff to create a roadmap, identify what the university wanted to achieve for its students, staff, business partners and alumni and to put foundational standards and structures in place using Fusion5's frameworks, tools and delivery templates.
“Even something as simple as how you name your stakeholders in the system – as customers, guests, students – needs to be consistent so you can find that information easily," Nguyen said.
Beyond the processes, University staff didn’t have a clear view of their customers and relationship management activities due to multiple segmented systems and tools.
Once the framework had been established, Fusion5 deployed a Microsoft Dynamics 365 customer engagement platform to bring the systems together in one unified platform in which all information will be stored and accessed.
Staff now have a 360-degree view of the whole student life cycle, from course advice as prospective students through to graduation.
This laid the foundation for better and more timely engagement to help students along their journey.
The new platform was also integrated with the alumni database so the alumni relations team shared one view of information with the service management team, ensuring any communications can coordinated and be directed to the right place.
Business development managers can also track their interactions with industry, maintain accurate contact details, and link effort to outcomes.
And there is more to come. Tools such as Microsoft’s Power Automate are integrated into Dynamics to automate repetitive tasks to both create efficiencies and help staff focus on delivering more valuable work.
"Thousands of contacts have been added since go-live in May 2020 and over a million records have been viewed – proof of how valuable the CRM is to alumni relations, the international office, and research and enterprise," Nguyen said.
“We’re changing the whole perception of what a CRM is at the university. It’s not just a database, it’s a powerful suite of tools to build relationships and drive insights.”
What Dynamics does, he said, was to enable staff to identify and focus on "the best next action".
Recording and linking data is enhancing the university’s business intelligence, and will only improve as further phases of the project are delivered.
Phase three is soon to get underway, with Fusion5 weaving marketing and pastoral care functionality into the customer engagement platform.
This will better enable staff to spot signs, such as reduced class attendance, that a student might be having difficulties and to offer support.
The university will also be able to capture data on who is visiting its website, from where, and what sort of information people are looking for so it can ensure its outreach programmes and communications are on point.
Removing siloes is freeing the flow of information and allowing it to be put to best use while staff no longer need to maintain myriad systems within each department.