Microsoft Dynamics 365 in Higher and Further Education

A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution has a key role to play in many aspects of the business operations and student/staff engagement activities of Higher and Further Education institutions

To be successful, a CRM solution must have a very close fit with the institution it serves and to this extent the development and deployment of an education-focused CRM solution has become a specialist activity.

The emphasis on the student experience has led many institutions to focus on the improvement of their recruitment and retention performance. In turn this has resulted in a renewed emphasis on sales, marketing and customer services capabilities in key areas:

  • Student Lifecycle Management – underpins successful recruitment; student welfare and support services; and retention of students. With modern communication technology, most prospective learners expect 24x7x365 service and will want to interact with their institution on their terms.
  • Business Engagement and Innovation – includes the recruitment of students from the local business community; identification and management of research opportunities
  • Social Engagement – in a socially connected world, engagement with customers can happen anywhere, anytime, and it is key to growing your business. Social Engagement puts powerful social tools in the hands of relevant personnel helping them to gain insight into how people feel about your institution and to proactively connect on social media
  • Institution-Wide – some CRM functions provided are beneficial on an institution-wide basis including:
    • Marketing Communications
    • Website Integration
    • Systems Integration (enrich CRM data with information from your student records system)
    • Social Media Integration

Although most customer relationship data is recorded somewhere, it is usually spread across different departments in an uncoordinated manner and cannot be used to provide accurate and cohesive information. This results in:

  • Low administrative efficiency
  • Poor customer experience
  • Non-existent business benefits

A suitably aligned CRM solution is a fundamental part of this and will deliver benefits at both organisational and operational levels.

Why Microsoft Dynamics 365?

Microsoft Dynamics 365 provides a number of significant advantages over competitive CRM systems:

  • Is licensed via the Microsoft EES (Campus) Agreement, providing heavily discounted licensing pricing
  • Often Microsoft provide deployment funding – against a minimum level of spend and only for limited periods of time
  • Works seamlessly with the full portfolio of Microsoft software products used extensively within the education community:
    • Office productivity tools such as Outlook, Word and Excel
    • Infrastructure products such as Windows operating systems, SQL Server database, Exchange Server, Active Directory
    • Collaboration tools such as SharePoint Server, Yammer, SQL Reporting Services, SQL Integration Services
  • Offers flexible configuration capabilities to deliver local operating and reporting preferences
  • Provides maximum accessibility and availability:
    • Cloud or on-premise deployments
    • Web-based and browser independent
    • Accessible via an internet connection from a variety of mobile devices

While Microsoft Dynamics 365 delivers a tremendous range of generic CRM functionality straight out-of-the-box, it is unlikely to have more than a 60% fit with an organisation’s specific operational requirements as it was not developed by Microsoft with any one sector or organisation in mind. Without this close fit, user adoption can be poor and the system will fail to deliver the potential benefits available.

There are Two Problems with CRM

Firstly, despite all the great functionality provided, it is difficult for management and staff to see how the product can help them straight out-of-the-box.

Secondly, to configure the out-of-the-box functionality to the point where it is useful and relevant takes an awful lot of internal resource and this is either not available or already committed to more mission- critical systems.

The first problem is a result of the fact that Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a product and can be deployed out-of-the- box with minimal configuration. While on the face of it, this is good, Microsoft Dynamics delivers generic CRM functionality which does not align precisely with any one sector or organisation’s requirements. Where institutions have deployed Microsoft Dynamics 365 as a product, therefore, they tend to encounter the first problem.

To counter this, Microsoft Dynamics 365 also delivers enormous scope for configuration and customisation to the extent that the standard functionality can be modified and extended to do almost anything. Again, while this is extremely beneficial, it requires knowledge, time and resources fully to exploit and most institutions are unable to devote these in the quantity and sometimes quality required.

So, how can Phoenix help you to overcome these challenges?

As the leading Microsoft Education Partner in the UK, we understand the complexities of Microsoft licensing only too well. Our remit is to ensure that all our customers have access to the highest level of support and consultancy services to help them and their end users navigate the most cost effective, productivity efficient and compliant route to procuring and maintaining their software estate.

Microsoft CRM Partner, Crimson Consultants, is a consultancy and development company working in partnership with Phoenix, which specialises in assisting education institutions implement Microsoft Dynamics 365 to achieve their specific business and/or academic related goals.

The Crimson Dynamics Solution

The Crimson Dynamics solution builds on Microsoft Dynamics to achieve the closest possible fit with each institution’s particular requirements by means of ready-made, functional Accelerators and a consultative implementation process, known as Crimson Fusion.

Crimson Accelerators
A key advantage of its experience within, and focus on the education sector, is that Crimson is aware of sector-wide requirements which all post-16 education institutions have. It has used this knowledge to develop a range of pre-built customisations and enhanced functionality delivered in the form of Accelerators, which simply plug into the core Microsoft Dynamics 365 system. These include:

  • Student Recruitment
  • Student Welfare
  • Business Development
  • Employability/Vacancy Management
  • Social Media Integration
  • Event Management
  • SMS Integration

Crimson Fusion
The remaining functional requirements are normally institution-specific and cannot be pre-ordained. These are provided by means of Crimson’s consultative implementation approach known as Crimson Fusion. This involves a multi-phased design and build approach which results in modifications being implemented to Microsoft Dynamics 365 and/or Crimson Accelerators to achieve the closest possible fit with an institution’s operational requirements.

Crimson Support
Once implemented, all software solutions require support to ensure that user operational problems are resolved, software bugs are fixed and new versions are made available. When purchasing Dynamics 365 licences via an EES agreement or Select Plus with Software Assurance, the issue of software bugs and new versions are met by the Software Assurance benefits. Microsoft does not, however, provide a support desk facility for education users of Dynamics 365.

The Crimson Software Maintenance agreement provides this additional tier of support as well as providing a complete software support desk service for Crimson’s own Accelerators or customer software developments which form part of an institution’s implementation.

Implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365 with other Microsoft Technologies

You can leverage the integration between Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics 365 to improve collaboration, staff productivity and make your organisation more agile.

When you combine familiar Office 365 tools with Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Power BI, your team can achieve their goals across sales, service, marketing, and social, and deliver amazing customer experiences.

The ability to ask questions of your data and turn spreadsheets into rich visuals make Power BI the best option for optimising business intelligence. Spot new trends, monitor performance and reveal hidden stories with all your data in one place. You will be able to collaborate securely from anywhere, at any time, on any device in Office 365 – making your team connected and productive.

Are you ready to learn more?

For further information on the benefits of Microsoft Dynamics 365, please contact a member of the Phoenix Team today on 01904 562200 email hello@phoenixs.co.uk or alternatively fill in the form below and a member of the team will get back to you.


Although every attempt has been made to ensure the accuracy of the above article, Phoenix Software Ltd cannot be held responsible for any opinions or information provided therein and as such is not liable for any damages caused by a customer’s reliance upon this information.