Lincoln University

Streamlining student enrolment with Dynamics CRM and SharePoint

“Getting the right information, at the right time, to the right person is easy now thanks to the MyLinc system,”

Director of Student Administration, Rachele Allan.

Founded in 1878, Lincoln University is the third oldest university in New Zealand. Lincoln specialises in land-based study methods and focuses on knowledge, wealth and productivity disciplines.

Over 4000 students apply to Lincoln each year, with international students making up 30-40% of the current roll.

Disparate Systems and Dispersed Data

Like most universities, Lincoln used a range of systems to manage the enrolment process. Students engaged with a number of systems for similar enrolment tasks, and these interactions generated a lot of paper records for both students and University staff.

Stuart Reilly, IT Director at Lincoln University, was charged with streamlining the enrolment process. “We had three different disparate systems. PeopleSoft is our main enrolment system and it manages the process of collecting a student’s details, including which courses they want to do, and how they choose and pay fees. Then we had a separate system for accommodation.

If a student on our website moved from enrolling to seeking accommodation, the first question asked is ‘what is your name?’ They then have to supply their personal details all over again.’’

Reilly says Lincoln’s paper-based interactions were typical of university enrolment systems. “Students downloaded a PDF form from the website, printed it out, filled it in and posted it to us.” This reliance on paper trails made things difficult for Lincoln’s recruitment team in particular.  Prospective students’ details were collected at shows and schools, and recorded on spreadsheets. Reconciling them against the paper system was problematic. The University used Microsoft Dynamics CRM to assist the student recruitment process, but Reilly knew its full potential and capabilities had not been explored.

The MyLinc Single Portal Solution

Lincoln’s vision was of a fully integrated online system that streamlined the entire enrolment process for students and staff alike. It would make student interactions with the University positive and pain-free, increase overall enrolments, and provide world-class data security protection.

Lincoln put the project out to market in mid-2014. While open to other options, the University’s preference was for a solution which included Microsoft Dynamics CRM, so they could maximise a return on their previous investment.

Reilly was tasked with finding a reliable partner and building the necessary relationship for the technical journey that would unite the University’s data sources and create the ideal student experience. He also had to manage outcomes and control costs. The University selected Fusion5’s solution design, impressed by the team’s ability to understand what Reilly and Lincoln were trying to achieve, their commitment to delivering the desired outcomes and their eagerness to work tightly with the University.

The MyLinc system was designed by Fusion5’s award-winning Dynamics CRM team, with their highly experienced SharePoint team providing the student-facing portal and document storage.

The system brought the University’s applications process into line with best current technologies, and moved the enrolment system from a paper-based to a digital environment.

The new user-friendly system automates behind-the-scenes procedures, cuts out duplication and opens communication channels between applicants and university staff. Potential students now receive tailored course advice and assistance during the application process.

Making a Lasting Connection

Reilly explains how the improvements help students: “MyLinc enables us to manage prospects right from that initial expression of interest. From the moment we capture their details, we start building a relationship with them. We send targeted information to them based on their areas of interest, and encourage them to enrol. Once they do, Dynamics CRM shares their data with our enrolment, accommodation and scholarship systems. So, from the students’ perspective the entire enrolment process is almost seamless.”

Instead of the tedious print, fill out and post procedure, students now upload supporting documentation as they complete web forms. Kristy Brown, NZ General Manager - CRM/CX, Fusion5, says that the coupling of Fusion5’s innovative design with Lincoln’s business process knowledge has resulted in a system that facilitates end-to-end enrolment applications by using a dynamic checklist for each type of application. “Administration time has been vastly reduced as there’s no need to manually follow up any missing documentation, for example the written references required for student accommodation. The student is prompted by the system to upload the document and can’t progress their application without it. Students can save their progress to date, and pick up again at the same point later.” 

Microsoft SharePoint is integrated directly into PeopleSoft, providing front-end storage for documentation such as CVs and references.  To present a single, central experience for the students required some powerful integrations behind the scenes. Fusion5’s consultants used Microsoft SQL Server Integration Services together with an SQL Server database to connect Dynamics CRM with Lincoln’s PeopleSoft student management system, with SQL Server’s stored procedure capabilities enabling integration with the University’s accommodation management system. Lincoln’s team provided knowledge and expertise around the data inside their student and accommodation systems, and Fusion5’s consultants designed, implemented and managed the multi-system integration project. 

Interacting with the University through one system also makes it easier for education agents to manage international student applications. 

The system runs via the Microsoft cloud, providing vital protection for student data. The security jointly developed by Fusion5 and Lincoln University has received praise from Evan Blackman, Education Sector Director for Microsoft New Zealand.

Partnering Up

Fusion5 were deeply involved in creating the right student experience and worked closely with the University throughout a long and complex project. This close engagement saw potential problems addressed in advance, and the ultimate solution design accurately reflected the needs of the University and its students. 

The result was “the project having a very positive outcome,” according to Reilly. “Their key consultants understood us as an organisation; they really got what we were trying to do. The consultants offered the insightfulness we needed. They told us when we shouldn’t make changes to our processes, as well as when we should.”

Student-Centric and Successful

Fusion5 and Lincoln ran focus groups to make sure that the solution met the needs of prospective students from the outset. The investment in first-hand student feedback helped hone the process of choosing to study at Lincoln and make it simple and student-centric.

When the first stage of MyLinc was completed, in mid-2015, a significant increase in application numbers from the previous year was quickly apparent. With prospective students empowered (and happy) to do much more online, the level of calls coming into the University dropped, leaving staff to concentrate on sorting out those complex or exceptional circumstances that require personal attention. 

Student Connection Services Manager, Siobhan Nettle, says the single portal system has also increased applicants’ awareness of Lincoln’s funded scholarships, which now appear right alongside study and accommodation information. 

Lincoln have unequivocally made their mark in the education field with their MyLinc solution. “We believe our single portal solution is unique in New Zealand,” says Reilly. 

The Vision for the Student Journey

Reilly says that over the next year Lincoln and Fusion5 will make a series of well-considered small improvements to add maximum value to the University. After this consolidation process, they’ll look towards expanding the solution to support the entire student journey, including checking exam results and completing the graduation process. The expectation is to use Dynamics CRM to capture increasingly rich data about students as they progress through Lincoln. 

“Getting the right information, at the right time, to the right person is easy now thanks to the MyLinc system,” says Director of Student Administration, Rachele Allan.  “Our long-term vision is for MyLinc to span the entire student journey from applicant to graduate and alumni.”

 

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