From education to employment

Solving the IT challenges in universities

Ambroży Rybicki

Like every industry, the higher education sector has undergone a huge transformation in the way it educates students, does business, and manages its IT. Many universities have embraced a hybrid approach to education, with seminars and more practical work taking place on campus, but things like lectures taking place online.

As such, universities have had to adapt to different technology uses when it comes to cloud, workflow management and document sharing, with many also calling on external experts for support. 

Efficient communication through CRM

In any business, the way you communicate with your employees, customers, and other stakeholders, makes such a difference to the day-to-day running of the company, and how successful it is. And it’s the same with universities. Effective and clear communication between faculty, staff and students is of the utmost importance. But it can also be a huge administrative undertaking.

This is where switching up the type of technology used can help. Many universities are ditching their legacy IT systems and calling on the support of modern, cloud-based CRM platforms to streamline and tailor communications amongst everyone on campus, including emails, reminders, lecture or seminar scheduling, exam dates and upcoming deadlines.

The automated aspect drastically reduces administration time and the occurrence of errors, making sure the right communications get to the right people at the right time. Meanwhile, having a cloud-based CRM means systems will be updated as new innovations and security measures are introduced, allowing universities to focus on education and research rather than the challenges that come with day-to-day IT management.

Storing and sharing assets via the cloud

With remote studying now more typical, universities are also having to embrace a hybrid approach to connecting with and educating students. This transition is calling for a much greater reliance on the cloud for storing, sharing, and accessing materials and universities are turning to the likes of Microsoft 365 platforms to provide access to learning materials and information for students no matter where they’re logging in from.

Although using something like Microsoft Dynamics 365 isn’t a new idea, many in the education space are still taking a siloed approach to cloud-based storage and their CRM platform. However, those with more advanced digital transformation advancements, are integrating the two, allowing for seamless communication and a more holistic approach to accessing information for everyone at the university. 

Furthermore, the use of something like Microsoft’s Education Accelerator can be integrated with Dynamics to help improve resource allocation for student success by enabling teaching and learning in a hybrid environment as well as giving universities a single view of student data, allowing for more personal and effective engagement.

Attracting students and retaining alumni

Although it’s important to focus on how technology can benefit the current student, it’s also vital for universities to demonstrate their communication approach and technology capabilities to their future stakeholders – prospective students.

The majority of people going to university now, or planning to go soon, are well accustomed to the digital era. As such, the expectations students have around universities’ use of technology, efficient communication and access to materials is probably higher than ever.

Many universities offer the same courses, the same sort of experience, and require the same grades for entry. So how can they stand out? Clear, useful and personalised communication is key here. From marketing materials and administrative processes, to providing information on courses and accommodation and answering queries quickly, universities have a lot to manage when it comes to communication.

What’s more, when recruiting, it’s not efficient for universities to send cold approaches to swathes of potential students. Instead, they want to be approaching students who are likely to consider their institution for higher education.

CRM can help universities to gather information on every touch point, be that a click through on an email or what courses are being searched for. This in turn can help inform strategies and build out the student journey – in the same way you would a customer journey – therefore making marketing efforts more effective. Going one step further, universities can also automate their marketing through something like Microsoft Dynamics 365 Marketing to segment audiences and create personalised content targeted at those segments.

Furthermore, when it comes to alumni, universities can maintain relationships through the same information gathering and consequent tailored approach.

Calling in the experts

Although universities can benefit from deploying a standard CRM platform and other cloud-based solutions for data storage, a lot of the time, they will do better with a customised version, designed specifically, and integrated appropriately for their needs and infrastructure.

This is where outsourcing the task can be very effective.

Employing IT consultants is a great option for universities looking to modernise their approach to technology and reap all the benefits available to them without compromising on cost or disrupting their students.

Such consultants will have insights into the latest technology available to universities. Coupled with understanding the university’s goals, they will be able to create customised infrastructure with CRM, cloud storage, and workflows to suit its needs and overcome any challenges it faces as well as support with the creation of low-code pages such as an educational portal or registration page. This will in turn help universities to keep up with the expectations current and prospective students have when it comes to technology, whilst also ensuring students have the best resources and most reliable equipment available to them.

What’s more, universities will also benefit from the knowledge of consultants around new technologies such as AI, as well as their capabilities to expand or alter their IT infrastructure and allow for further integrations down the line. 

Overall, outsourcing CRM and cloud management to experts means universities can be confident they’re using their systems to the fullest and they and their students will always benefit from the latest applications available.

By Ambroży Rybicki, CEO and co-founder of ARP Ideas

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