The education space gets more competitive every year. Departments need to fill classes or they can fall dangerously short on funding. Institutions are increasingly relying on technology to help give them an edge. And now a tremendous edge has hit the market.
Schools often invest tens of millions of dollars on educational ERP systems such as Banner, PeopleSoft, etc., that do many important tasks very well, but tend to fall short at the crucial point of communication with prospective students. It’s like landing a luxury airplane on an old crumbling runway. What starts as a promising trip ends with spilled drinks and crying babies.
These higher education ERP systems perform vital functions such as managing enrollment, scheduling classes, allocating classrooms, managing fees, and many other core tasks required to run the institution. These systems are big, secure, and powerful - like a tank. But like tanks, they plod along slowly, rigidly, and are far from nimble. Given that students frequently enroll at the first school to accept them, anything slow risks losing them.
So how exactly are ERP systems dropping the ball? Consider a fairly common occurrence: several hundred applications come in with incomplete information. How does a typical educational ERP handle this? It will print a stack of reports, with codes indicating what’s missing. Admissions personnel will need to handle hundreds of papers with these different codes, and manually populate data into new letters. Each letter can take from 15 to 30 minutes to process. Multiply this by hundreds, and it can consume and exhaust the admissions department. Plus opportunity for error exists at every step.
What’s the solution?
Innovative schools have discovered a product called Constituency Relationship Management (CRM), built on the renowned Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform. It’s a software that connects to their ERP, boosting its functionality exponentially. The result is efficient, timely, accurate, and customized student interactions that help institutions fill classes.
In the above example the ERP system would still generate the reports, but electronically to the CRM system. CRM would then automatically interpret the missing data codes, and populate PDF letter templates personalized to each student. Human hands never intervene. What took 15 to 30 minutes and was fraught with errors, is now accomplished automatically, error-free, in seconds with CRM.
CRM can cost $100,000. Should an institution who has already invested millions of dollars spend even more? Yes. In a heartbeat. The extra functionality attained makes that supplemental investment an absolute steal. Think of it like retrofitting your car with a brand new state-of-the-art turbo, which costs less than 1% of the price you paid for the car. Your car may have seemed pretty good before, but soon you’re enjoying passing your friends on the highway. And by the way, you will now use 30% less gas, so the turbo will pay for itself in a matter of months. It truly becomes that proverbial “no-brainer.”
Let’s look at a real-world example of the power of CRM. Imagine a course is starting in 5 days, and you still have five spots to fill. You want to send an email to prospective students who have the prerequisites, to try to get them to enroll. You couldn’t do it with a typical educational ERP because an on-demand query simply takes too long. You’d need to:
- identify lists of qualified potential candidates
- extract data from multiple lists and extracts
- merge lists into a processing file
- speak to IT and have them generate a custom template
- merge file with template, and submit
This would take at least three weeks. Not to mention how error-prone the process would be, because each step is manual. Those five seats would go unfilled. And maybe you’d cancel the class.
Contrast that with CRM, where an on-demand query is effortless:
- select marketing list
- select existing email template or create a new one
- click send
The entire process would take from 1 to 16 minutes, depending on whether you used an existing template or created a new one. It’s amazingly fast, painless and error free. And you’d actually get those five students and fill that course.
Never before has spending $100,000 been such a good idea. CRM for higher education is a bonanza of indispensable features whose time has come.
If you’d like more information on adding CRM to your ERP,
Greg Kligman is a Business Development Manager at
He can be reached at [email protected]
CRM Dynamics Ltd.