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Leveraging IT for Student Recruitment

CIO Michael Statmore explains how Post University ramped up its prospective student system with a little help from his eight-member central IT team and a cloud-based customer relationship management system.

Post University generates a lot of prospective student interest electronically. But until about eight months ago, the Waterbury, CT, institution had to handle those leads manually, with multiple staffers reviewing, downloading, uploading, and redirecting the correspondence into the appropriate university system.

Compounding the problem was a legacy student information system that was showing its age, and that also required a high degree of manual intervention to run properly. Inputting new information into that system, for example, required several staff members and hours (and sometimes even days).

"We want to always provide the highest level of personalized service to students," said Michael Statmore, CIO. "We were at the point where in order to improve our student management--and achieve that goal of personalized service--we needed to introduce new technology into the mix."

Determining the Right Solution
Working with Post University's senior management team (of which he is a member),  Statmore began looking for a solution in early 2011. After some investigation into available applications, he said the choice boiled down to either a new student information system or a customer relationship management (CRM) package.

The first option was eliminated pretty quickly, based on the potentially lengthy implementation process (about 18 months, according to Statmore) and the $1 million-plus price tag.

"Despite what vendors say, that's the actual cost and implementation time," said Statmore, "even if you are fleet of foot."

CRMs, on the other hand, promised faster implementation times, workflow improvements and the enterprise-wide reporting capabilities that Statmore was seeking. After shopping around, he and the college's senior management team selected the Oracle CRM On Demand.

Because it resides on the Web and is paid for on a subscription basis, the application required little upfront financial investment and was rolled out rapidly across Post University's online, graduate and undergraduate admissions departments.  Student leads now come in automatically through the CRM, and each one is automatically assigned to an admissions counselor.

Immediate Results
Statmore said the school started seeing positive results within 30 days of implementing its CRM. "We streamlined a process that was largely manual, cut out the middlemen and, in some cases, put the students directly in touch with admissions counselors," he explained. "Internally, we now have a 360-degree view of our students. Everyone from the counselor to the financial aid office to the advisor knows what's going on with every current and prospective student."

The CRM has also reduced the volume of "unnecessary communication between departments," said Statmore, who remembered a time in the not-too-distant past when staff members used e-mail and the phone to obtain student information from the various college departments.

"Now all of that is handled through notes in the CRM, which assigns tasks to certain staff members," Statmore explained. "Everyone understands the workflow and is focused on what they should be doing, rather than chasing their tails."

Administrative employees whose days were consumed by manual data entry, for example, have been reallocated to more productive tasks. "We haven't let anyone go, but we have been able to put some of them on the phone to speak directly with students," said Statmore, whose eight-person IT team supports about 250 staff members. "They doing things that matter, instead of just entering data all day."

Training and Implementation
According to Statmore, adoption of the CRM is 100 percent across the departments where it was implemented. "No one asked why we were doing it, or what purpose it would serve," said Statmore. "That's not always the case with IT projects of this size."

Credit a solid training program with helping to create a smooth transition. Statmore said he and his team trained "power users," who in turn trained the 200-plus users of the CRM system. The training approach included education on the CRM's basic functions (like the ability to create lists and reports) and on its overall benefits (such as the system's automated processes and the related workflow improvements they would provide).

"Our power users served as touchstones and sources for other employees to go to with questions," said Statmore. "They helped us achieve the most amount of training in a short period of time, and with a small IT team."

From a strategic point of view, Statmore said Post University's new CRM is the cornerstone for future IT initiatives. For example, he said the school will now search for and implement a new campus-wide phone system to tie into its CRM. A document management system is also on the agenda, according to Statmore.

"We want to reduce paper and also give more people easy access to data," remarked Statmore. "That's something we can't do right now with our current systems, and that we'll be looking to add to our lineup in the future."

About the Author

Bridget McCrea is a business and technology writer in Clearwater, FL. She can be reached at [email protected].

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