How can universities surf the second wave of digital transformation?

The first wave of digital

Over the last decade, universities have given considerable attention to meeting the escalating expectations of students, especially when it came to student’s growing appetite for a fully-integrated digital campus.

The importance of this effort is visible in both how students select their preferred institution, and how they engage in learning once enrolled.

In a survey of 1,500 tertiary bound students in Australia, India, Singapore, the UK and the USA, 85% said that digital capabilities heavily influenced their choice of a uni or college1.

Research by Charles Sturt University indicates that 87% of today’s student’s access online lecturers, of which 74% say they’re positive online lecturers enhance their learning2.

This is what I like to call – the first digital wave of digital transformation, and it placed many institutions at the forefront of online learning


The second wave of digital

Today, innovative universities are harnessing a second wave of digital transformation as they adapt and differentiate, ensuring they continue to attract and retain students.

In our work with universities across Australia, we’re seeing many institutions looking inwards, at how they operate, for the next step in their digital transformation. Shifting their focus to more creative thinking about people, processes and technology.

Universities have traditionally struggled with siloed data, in disparate systems, scattered across departments – in spreadsheets, legacy systems or even sitting idly on an individual’s computer. From prospective, current and graduated students, to staff, industry, business and community partners, it’s become apparent, that institutions are in need of a centralised system to manage their data, relationships and workflows.


A fresh tide in CRM

By better leveraging the full power of CRM systems, universities and colleges can have the digital toolkit needed to:

  • reinvent business processes
  • drive staff productivity
  • cultivate effective student/alumni relationships
  • control admin, marketing and communication costs
  • meet rising student expectations for a smart and personalised tertiary experience

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is one platform that delivers much more than just CRM.

Below we explore just some of the ways universities could be leveraging Microsoft Dynamics 365, as they grow and thrive in the challenging 21st century education sector.


1. Preparing for the Common Grant Scheme (CGS)

With the January 2018 changes to the Common Grant Scheme (CGS), subsidies provided to universities will be subject to efficiency dividends. Come 2019, another slice of funding will be susceptible to cuts as government contribution will be judged on University performance in areas like student retention, outcomes and transparency.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 includes business intelligence tools that allow data to be stored and analysed to produce reports, dashboards and projections ready for the CGS. Combining information from typically disparate systems, Dynamics produces reports from which organisations can determine overall institution performance, metrics and rankings. By anticipating this need and preparing a centralised data management strategy, universities will be well prepared to secure as much funding as possible under the new CGS conditions.

2. Personalised recruitment strategies

From the first touch, to application, offer acceptance, enrolment and beyond, effective recruitment and admissions processes allow universities to improve their conversion rates. Microsoft Dynamics 365 allows you to capture prospective student data from anywhere, in real-time and automate strategic marketing campaigns across a variety of channels. Dynamics 365 can also tailor communications to the prospective student – increasing engagement and interaction.

3. Reinventing the student communication experience

Student engagement with university administration is largely transactional, or financially-centric. To balance these sometimes less-than positive interactions, universities are focusing on enhancing the student experience through smarter communications. Capturing personal information, communication history, scholarship applications, internship participation and academic results, in a single profile for each student enables intelligent communication.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 paints a rich, consolidated picture of each student. Empowering universities to deliver a relevant and personalised communications strategy, from first enquiry, through to graduation and into their working life. By utilising the robust Web API, universities can seamlessly integrate Dynamics 365 with their existing education enterprise applications to create a complete student management and communication platform.

4. Investing in community engagement

Maintaining alumni relationships and increasing the university’s traction with industry is key to finding rewarding placements for work experience, funding scholarships, donations and mentoring.

Better managing external relationships, to fully leverage the potential they hold, requires a centralised solution. As a cloud-based, easy-to-access system, Dynamics 365 provides a single view of all types of university relationships.

Stakeholder details, history and engagements are compiled in customer profiles and can be easily accessed from a mobile device anywhere, anytime. Not only does this facilitate richer, transparent interactions at every point of contact, it positions the institution as responsive and collaborative. Helping you ‘stay in the know’ with business partners but also internally among departments.

5. Driving donations through smart automation

As a crucial source of funding for universities, donations from charitable sources – individuals, corporations, foundations or alumni – can deliver substantial funding boosts. Microsoft Dynamics 365 can be integrated with many email marketing platforms, helping institutions tap into the potential of current and future donors.

With Microsoft Dynamics 365, marketers can create automated sequences that deliver targeted and engaging information to prospective benefactors. This strategy not only nurtures and maintains annual donations, it can unearth new donors to increase overall revenue.


To stay ahead of the competition, universities need to surf the second wave of digital transformation and begin their self-reflection of people, process and technology. Click here for more on Dynamics or visit The Anywhere Classroom for more next-generation education technology.

For help and advice identifying your institution’s CRM needs, or to make better use of the systems you already have, Data#3 has the skills and resources to assist. Contact us to start the conversation.


1 Hillier, M (2015). e -Exams: The story so far. [Online] Available at:
2 Holder, I and Welsh, S (2016). Student Learning Technology Survey Report. [Online] Available at:

Tags: Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Digital Transformation, Education, Microsoft, Microsoft Dynamics, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Tertiary Education, The Anywhere Classroom



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