Laurea University of Applied Sciences needed a partnership system to collect, update and refine information on students’ cooperation with public and private sector organisations. The solution was found in a CRM system originally developed for business needs that was harnessed for use by students. Now Laurea gains an overview of all its cooperation.
Thanks to Digia’s operating model and quality management, the work has always remained under control. Everything we’ve agreed on has been done. We’ve been able to focus on our work.
Teemu Ylikoski, Director, External Relations and Marketing, Laurea
In adapting a typical corporate CRM system for student use, visionary ideas and boldness are required. Information on partners was previously scattered. Laurea University of Applied Sciences sought a solution for managing, collecting and refining it. The result was a partnership system into which students feed information about their work with different organisations.
Laurea’s partnership system is unique due not only to its nature, but also to its exceptionally large user base. It’s used by about 500 employees and as many as 8000 students. A massive amount of information has to be managed. Now all of it is available in one system where it is easy to find and maintain.
“Laurea has several campuses in six different localities and engages in extensive cooperation with organisations in both the corporate and public sectors. Our projects range from ones carried out by individual students to large-scale EU-funded projects,” says Teemu Ylikoski, Director, External Relations and Marketing at Laurea.
“The partnership system enables us to have an overview of all our cooperation and significantly bolsters our regional impact.”
The centralised partnership system provides a unified, university-wide view of work with partners. Within the institution, this yields significantly higher operational efficiency that clarifies operating models, saves resources and enables high-quality documentation.
It is also essential to ensure that the work done by students is noticed and appreciated more. Students in different fields carry out interesting and timely projects that often do not get the recognition they deserve. The system makes this information available to the entire organisation.
In addition, the partnership system strengthens Laurea’s influence as a developer of regional services and as a social actor. The collected data makes it possible to measure impact: how much cooperation is done and in which sectors, and what the work involves.
“The kind of transparency that this system aims to achieve is highly unusual. We seek shared visibility and open sharing of information. All our students have the opportunity to use and produce content for the CRM system,” says Teemu Ylikoski.
Laurea’s partnership system was set up agilely and fast in a few months. The launch phase is currently under way: the system is being tested and put into operation one unit and team at a time. In autumn 2017, all user groups should have the capability to utilise the solution.
The core of the system is MS Dynamics 365, cloud services for business applications. The solution provides a flexible, complete platform, whose services can be adopted as necessary.
The organisation also benefits from this continuously developing platform, which makes it easy to plan ahead.
The Laurea project created ingenious solutions with respect to usability. The largest user group comprises university students. A dedicated portal was created for them. Thanks to its intuitiveness and user-friendliness, anyone can use it. The personnel UI is more detailed and includes more administrative functions.
“With the student portal, we wanted to ensure that they will actually use the system,” says Anssi Kuusela, Regional Service Manager at Laurea.
“We’ve made it simple to add, modify and find content, and we expect to gain high-quality information.”
The system provides invaluable help to students when, for instance, they have to find a traineeship or a partner for their thesis. Usually, this hunt requires plenty of time and effort. The partnership system provides helpful tips, necessary materials and contact information. The solution also enables students to draft their own project CV, which comes in useful when applying for jobs.
Even before introducing the partnership system, Laurea has proactively forged contacts with working life - and the employment rate of its students is high. The new system is also expected to further increase the student employment rate, contacts and important work skills. There is now a lot of talk about the challenges young people face in gaining employment. Laurea’s solution could be useful in other educational institutions.
Few people are aware of the potential applications of CRM solutions, for instance. Educational institutions could use the system to manage admissions, recruitment, networking projects, software and suppliers.
Digital solutions can be employed to work across sector boundaries, create networks and help educational institutions bolster their cooperation with companies.
“Higher-education institutions would benefit from greater use of business applications,” says Anssi Kuusela. “CRM could also support social impact.”
The experiences of the test group, which represents different user groups, have been very positive.
“So far, all we’ve heard is shouts of excitement,” says Teemu Ylikoski.
Kuusela and Ylikoski say that the project and cooperation with Digia have been surprisingly easy.
“Thanks to Digia’s operating model and quality management, the work has always remained under control. Everything we’ve agreed on has been done. We’ve been able to focus on our work.”
Laurea already has a long list of additional plans that it wants to implement. It can’t rush into this, but must proceed step by step. For instance, in the future, the university intends to enable partners to use the system, as well. More detailed data on user experiences will be collected as from the beginning of autumn, and used to decide on new plans and schedules.