Unitec Institute of Technology is New Zealand’s largest institute of technology. It has three Greater Auckland campuses in Albany, Mt. Albert, and Waitakere. It has 21,000 full- and part-time students (equivalent to 11,000 full-time enrollments.)
Initially established in 1976 to provide a range of practical subjects, such as plumbing and building, Unitec now offers more than 130 certificates, diplomas, degrees, and doctorates in a wide range of applied professional and vocational areas, including architecture, finance, engineering, and nursing. The institute employs around 1,500 academic and administrative staff (1,200 full-time equivalents) and contributes US$117 million (NZ$140 million) each year to New Zealand’s economy.
Unitec has grown rapidly in the past decade. In the last five years, it has opened a new campus and significantly increased its student and staff numbers. However, the institute was using an outdated and unsupported PeopleSoft enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to support to its human resources (HR), student administration, general management, and financials processes.
In addition, the institute didn’t have an online, integrated customer relationship management (CRM) system and instead relied on manual processes, such as receiving phone calls, using spreadsheets, and sending information through the mail to answer potential and current students’ inquiries for brochures or advice. Even the online enrollment process required printing and re-entering information into applications.
To streamline its financial, HR, student, and general management procedures, in 2009, Unitec began a major project to upgrade its PeopleSoft 7.6 modules to Oracle’s PeopleSoft Payroll 9.1, PeopleSoft Human Capital Management 9.1 , and PeopleSoft Financials 9.1
On Oracle Consulting Services’ advice, the institute also decided to implement PeopleSoft CRM for Higher Education 9.1 to streamline and standardize CRM processes across its departments; improve its student inquiry processes; better record and analyze student inquiries, applications, and enrollment information; and mitigate the risk of using unsupported ERP and CRM systems.
“We implemented PeopleSoft CRM for Higher Education first, as we hoped it would demonstrate to staff some of the benefits that the more complex PeopleSoft ERP upgrade would bring,” said David Coltman, executive director, student and community engagement, Unitec Institute of Technology. “Oracle’s PeopleSoft CRM enabled us to receive, record, and respond to student inquiries and applications online. This has improved our enrollment rates, enabled us to redeploy two or three administrative staff to more value-added tasks, and helped set up a third student enrollment during the current academic year.”
Unitec is using PeopleSoft CRM for Higher Education 9.1 to gain better insight into the progress of course applications and enrollments.
The institute is now able to record details of students who made inquiries or applied for a place at the institute into a central integrated system, including contact details, time and dates when they made the inquiry or application, and courses they have applied for. Administration and enrollment staff can quickly and easily access this information and deal with inquiries or applications in a more efficient manner. In 2011, these capabilities helped increase the institute’s new student application-to-enrollment conversion rate by 5%.
“Previously, we manually recorded information about student inquiries and applications in spreadsheets, which was inefficient and time consuming,” said Coltman. “We didn’t consistently respond to students in a timely manner, so we weren’t maximizing our enrollment potential. Now that we can see exactly who has made inquiries and applied for a course, we can process this information properly, respond to requests more efficiently, and improve our enrollment rate.”
With a better system of recording and responding to student applications, Unitec has also increased the number new students by more than 10%.The Oracle solution also enabled students to start studying sooner by adding a third round of student enrollments during the current academic year.
“Because we now record student application and enrollment information in detail and in one place, we can immediately see how many students didn’t take up their places and can contact students who had previously inquired about a course—or who had applied but were not accepted in the first instance—about taking up a place,” said Coltman. “In the past, it would have been impractical and too expensive to collate this information from various spreadsheets and act on it, but with PeopleSoft CRM, we could make the decision to add an extra enrollment cycle, contact previously rejected students, and start a new marketing campaign, all within four or five days.”
By standardizing application and enrollment procedures across the institute, the staff can also quickly and easily refer students who don’t meet course requirements to a course more suitable to their skills or qualifications. This saves students from having to start the application process again and helps improve enrollment numbers. It also means that prospective students receive the same high-quality application experience across the institute.
The PeopleSoft CRM system has enabled prospective students to make requests online, rather than over the phone, about things such as course brochures and application and enrollment procedures. Brochures are now automatically e-mailed to prospective students, and this has reduced the manual work required to send them through the mail.
“In the past, we had two or three employees whose main job was to mail brochures and other institute information to prospective students,” said Coltman. “Now that this information can be requested and supplied automatically, online, those staff members can work on more value-added tasks. This enabled us to reprioritize more than US$102,691 (NZ$123,000) worth of resources in 2011.”
Because the majority of requests for brochures are made and responded to online, Unitec has also reduced the risk of human error, as it is no longer likely that a brochure will be sent to the same person twice. Any requests made by phone are also now recorded in the CRM system, so staff can immediately see when the request was made and who dealt with it, improving response times and reducing the risk that a person will be called back twice, or not at all.
By implementing PeopleSoft CRM for Higher Education 9.1, Unitec is able to gain greater insight into who is asking about courses or requesting brochures, and when the requests are made. This helps to better target prospective students for institute and course marketing campaigns.
“We can now see where inquiries come from, how many were received about each course, and where prospective students first heard about the institute,” said Coltman. “In the past, some of this information wasn’t integrated, and we couldn’t drill down to view information by demographics.”
Executive teams can also drill down into the consolidated inquiry, application, and enrollment information to make better decisions about institute and course resources and staff requirements, which helps Unitec better prepare for student enrollments, improve relationships with students, and enhance its reputation.
Unitec is using PeopleSoft Financials 9.1 to improve its purchasing procedures when buying supplies and equipment, such as textbooks or computers. Previously, less than 20% of purchase orders were completed before a purchase was made, which meant it was difficult to track purchases already made and to match invoices with purchases. After upgrading its financials module, around 70% of purchase orders are completed at the correct time.
“Under the previous purchasing system, many purchasing employees would wait until both the goods and the invoice were received before completing the corresponding purchase order,” said Paul Conder, chief financial officer, Unitec Institute of Technology. “After upgrading the system, our purchasing staff has seen significant improvements, especially when sourcing or editing existing purchase orders, and around 80% are now more likely to follow correct procedures.”
PeopleSoft Financials 9.1 has also saved the institute an estimated US$1,900 on printing costs and US$15,900 in postage and handling by enabling employees handling purchasing and payables to e-mail purchase orders and remittance advice directly to suppliers, rather than printing and faxing or posting them.
Unitec is also using PeopleSoft Financials 9.1 to reduce the number of errors and inconsistencies between its financial books and underlying transactional activity. This has reduced the time taken to reconcile these errors from one day per month to less than three hours.
In addition, PeopleSoft Financials 9.1 has improved accounts payables processes by enabling staff to track changes to supplier details and automatically check for duplicate supplier entries. This has reduced the time taken to create new supplier records in the financial system by approximately one hour per supplier, and it has decreased the risk of human error or incorrect payments being made. The financial module’s built-in approvals workflow framework also ensures that any credits or reissued invoices are authorized by the correct person before being issued.
Once Unitec completes the final phases of its PeopleSoft upgrade, it expects further improvements in business processes that will result in lower costs and increased efficiencies.
By integrating its PeopleSoft applications and automating asset lifecycle processes, Unitec predicts it will be able to more efficiently track physical and financial assets, reduce asset processing errors, and improve monthly reporting requirements. The institute also hopes PeopleSoft’s automated and integrated functions will help improve the flexibility of its asset retiring procedures, saving around US$5,900 in asset licensing and maintenance labor costs.
In addition, by consolidating its spending across its campuses and departments, Unitec expects to save between 2% and 5% of its total procurement costs in the 12 months after the implementation and 1% to 2% in each subsequent year. This will equate to up to US$1.1 million in the first year and around US$474,000 per year thereafter. Unitec also hopes to be able to redeploy some staff from its purchasing and accounts departments, potentially saving more than US$80,000 per year in labor costs.
Unitec assessed several ERP and CRM solutions, but chose Oracle, as it was confident from using PeopleSoft in the past that Oracle’s products were developed to best meet the institute’s requirements. It was also impressed with Oracle’s international reputation.
“We were able to see exactly how PeopleSoft would tangibly realize the benefits we were hoping to achieve,” said Coltman. “We were also able to learn from other users in Australasian- and U.S.-based user groups about how they used the products, which extended our thinking and helped us visualize the possibilities Oracle can help us achieve.”
Unitec chose to work with Oracle Consulting Services rather than an external Oracle Partner, as it had already built up a strong relationship with Oracle’s New Zealand-based staff. The institute was confident that Oracle Consulting Services understood the higher education industry and was best able to provide access to a network of regional and global resources. As a result of this partnership, Oracle Consulting Services has developed a series of service offerings to enable universities to manage portions of their student lifecycles using CRM systems.
“As a tertiary education facility, we benefit from our partnership with Oracle, since the company works not only in the higher education sector but also in other commercial fields, so we can take advantage of market and industry developments outside of higher education,” said Coltman. “If we want to rethink, reassess, and redesign what we’re doing, we need to look outside the sector we work in, and the capabilities of Oracle’s products enable us to do that.”
Unitec began the project to upgrade its ERP system in 2009. However, after engaging Oracle Consulting Services to upgrade its PeopleSoft 7.6 modules, the institute decided to implement PeopleSoft CRM for Higher Education 9.1 first, to pave the way for the larger ERP system upgrade. Unitec began implementing PeopleSoft CRM for Higher Education 9.1 in June 2010, while continuing to prepare for the ERP upgrade, and it went live in November 2010. The institute was able to learn from this initial implementation regarding internal capabilities and project planning to resolve internal problems in preparation for the ERP upgrade.
Unitec went live with the first of its ERP modules—PeopleSoft Financials 9.1—in May 2011 and in late October 2011, it successfully implemented PeopleSoft Human Capital Management 9.1 and PeopleSoft Campus Solutions 9.0 Release 2.
Going live with PeopleSoft Campus Solutions 9.0 will enable Unitec to take advantage of the out-of-the-box CRM to PeopleSoft Campus Solutions integration, which will further reduce management costs and increase business process efficiencies.