Share with your friends

Creating a connected 50-year student journey

Creating a connected 50-year student journey

The need for universities to attract and retain students is critical, but siloed departments and poor system design have resulted in a fragmented ‘customer’ experience. The ‘front office’ needs a clear view of the customer from prospective student through to alumni to deliver the most effective service.


Also on

Three students looking at a laptop and laughing

Amid debate over funding models and institutional accreditation levels, increasing domestic and international competition and a rise in online education courses, universities face many challenges to remain viable.

Key to the success of their business model is attracting and retaining students, providing quality service and outcomes, and encouraging loyalty as their customers transition from prospective students, to students, and become alumni.

However, front office management of this potential 50-year customer journey can be poor. Siloed organisations can mean universities don’t have a central, ‘single view’ of a student, so departments can be contacting them in multiple, non-cohesive ways. Likewise, students will contact different parts of a university in search of information, so not having visibility of previous discussions and communications can lead to less satisfactory outcomes. This can result in poorer attraction, retention, and ongoing engagement.

A key cause of this is that many universities are working with legacy technology that doesn’t allow for seamless integration or multi-channel communication.

Instead, they need an ‘extended relationship management’ (an xRM) approach that offers a 360-degree view of the student across their 50-year journey, built on a flexible and scalable platform that can be upgraded as the university’s business model shifts. This needs to offer self-service capabilities i.e. ChatBots and 'knowledge base’ articles, as well as integrated reporting and timely analytics to support decision making. It needs to be agile enough to incorporate Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning as these capabilities develop, to meet the changing expectations that customers have of service.

A connected university

This holistic view of the student needs to be part of an overall ‘connected’ university, which has integrated systems across the front, middle and back offices.

In the front office, it needs systems that focus on student communications and associated marketing activities, for example, events, enquiries and application processing, on-boarding activities, student risk management and interventions, as well as misconduct management, etc. The system also needs to help gauge student satisfaction and engagement levels to enable the university to proactively spot issues or opportunities and act.

In the middle office, it needs systems for teaching, learning and research that allow for effective collaboration and documentation of processes and outcomes. And in the back office, it needs integrated and efficient administration systems for HR, payroll, IT and finance.

This connected approach will enable the university to offer a more satisfying student experience, and give it the best chance of being proactive, responsive and viable amid constant disruption.

Legacy technology

A hurdle to achieving front office integration and a 360-degree view of the student is legacy technology. Many universities are locked into inflexible systems with expensive subscription or maintenance costs. The systems don’t allow for integration, or for the multi-channel services (online/phone/SMS/in-person etc.) that people now expect.

Universities can adopt middleware solutions to help reduce this challenge. However, this does not necessary solve the issue of poor system design, particularly around data capture and analysis, and making the approach scalable.

Universities need an xRM approach, with an agile platform that can support changing business requirements. It needs to be cloud based so that it is continually updated to best practice incorporating the latest in AI, machine learning and customer experience.

However, while many acknowledge this requirement, a lack of success with past technology upgrades has made them wary. Off-the-shelf on premise software implemented without a whole-of-organisational view has created siloes, and a lack of common methodology has made it hard to roll out a system beyond a single department.

KPMG’s transformation approach is designed to address these needs and complexities.

A powered approach

Using Microsoft Dynamics 365, we help universities transform their front office operations to build a clear view of the student across their 50-year journey.

We build a strategy for a cross-departmental, standardised integration framework and data platform leveraging off our sector experience. Our approach enables visibility on all communications, meaning it’s simple to track and access multi-channel interactions across the student lifecycle.

Examples of functionality that we can support across the student journey include:

  • Prospective students: Marketing and communications, enquiry management, lead scoring, application management, offer management and scholarship management.
  • Current students: On boarding, events management, enquiry management, misconduct and complaints management, scholarships, risk ratings and interventions, marketing and communications, clubs and membership, engagement scoring and student satisfaction. There is also self-service functionality, such as knowledge management, appointment booking and using ChatBots or live chat.
  • Alumni: Marketing and communications, events management, donation management, scholarship management, volunteer and mentor management, enquiries management, managing of preferences and employment history, networking, clubs and memberships associations, and more.

For one leading Australian university, we have used Microsoft Dynamics 365 technology to unify their customer relationship management between every faculty of the university. They now have clear, continuous and shared information across all constituencies about each student, helping to facilitate a seamless transition of individuals from prospective students through to alumni.

Our approach to technology implementation is backed by our deep experience in the education sector, our knowledge of business strategy, the customer journey and expectations, data analytics, change management and more.

We focus on an agile rollout, delivering change in releases, based on the university’s strategic priorities. We work with our change management experts to foster stakeholder engagement so that everyone is aligned with the goals, leading to more successful outcomes.

Seizing opportunities

With students expecting the same seamless service from their university as they receive from other major organisations, no university can afford to sit on poor relationship management processes and technologies.

When universities have a holistic view of their students, they are better able to attract and engage students though dynamic content offerings, personalised service, and determining the next best actions. They can tailor education and assistance, which can help to improve retention and engagement. And they can target alumni communications to be more effective and meaningful.

Further reading

A fully connected university doesn’t just focus on the front office, but also its middle office, where teaching, learning and research happen. Empowering teaching, learning and research at universities explains why.

Equally important is the back office. See what this looks like in Building a connected back office in universities.

©2020 KPMG, an Australian partnership and a member firm of the KPMG global organisation of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Limited, a private English company limited by guarantee. All rights reserved. The KPMG name and logo are trademarks used under license by the independent member firms of the KPMG global organisation.

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

For more detail about the structure of the KPMG global organisation please visit

Connect with us


Want to do business with KPMG?


loading image Request for proposal