About Relationship Management

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This website aims to help UK (United Kingdom) HE (Higher Education) and FE (Further Education) institutions to consider ways of improving their relationship management. There are many different types of relationship within the university and further education environment, however, this site focuses specifically on BCE CRM (Business and Community Engagement Customer Relationship Management) and SLRM (Student Lifecyle Relationship Management). These two terms are explained in a little more detail below.

This site has been developed by the JISC CETIS RMSAS (Relationship Management Support, Analysis and Synthesis) Project, which has been running since July 2009. Starting as a means to supporting over 35 projects, it has now developed into a resource that can be used by the HE and FE sectors as a whole. We have created a number of resources to help the sector trial relationship management approaches based on the findings from the Relationship Management Programme.

The RMSAS team consists of:

You can find our contact details can be found on CETIS contacts.

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Key Resources

You can find a variety of resources on our Resources page. However, you might find the following key resources a good place to start:

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History of the JISC Relationship Management Programme

The JISC Relationship Management Programme was created in order support the complex interactions with both students and external business or community partners, in order to improve the experience of the customer (student or external partner) and to improve the effectiveness and the efficiency of the tertiary education sector in managing their relationships.

Fact-finding Studies

Two fact-finding studies, commissioned by JISC, informed the development of the JISC Relationship Management Programme, which resulted in a number of different projects being funded to improve their customer relationships.

The first, Study of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Issues in UK Higher Education Institutions (PDF format, 1.28Mb) by Haywood et al (2007), focussed on the UK HE (Higher Educations) and FE (Further Education) sector's attitudes to CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and its importance in managing relationships in the BCE (Business and Community Engagement) arena. It also tried to identify some of the issues faced.

The second study, JISC Landscape Study of Student Lifecycle Relationship Management (PDF format, 970Kb) by Chambers and Paull (2008), looked at the relationship an institution has with its students. It found that although many institutions have powerful student information systems to support student relationship management, they were not necessarily being used either in a holistic way, or to their full potential. This study made suggestions for areas of further investigations.

Relationship Management Programme: Phase 1

The first phase of the JISC Relationship Management Programme ran from July 2009 to April 2010. The Programme was divided into two strands and was supported by the RMSAS project:

Whilst the two strands can be viewed as focusing on two different types of institutional stakeholder (external business contacts in the case of the BCE CRM strand and students in the SLRM strand) many of the issues regarding the way in which the relationship is managed by the institution are similar. The synthesis work from this phase, Relationship Management in UK Higher and Further Education - An Overview (PDF format, 3.6Mb) by Perry and Corley (2011), provides an overview of the findings from this Phase of the Programme.

Relationship Management Programme: Phase 2

Phase 2 of the Relationship Management Programme has built on the findings of Phase 1 and ran from March 2011 to July 2012. A much longer Programme compared to Phase 1, it has allowed projects to more fully test improvements made. The Programme was divided into three strands, with greater focus on SLRM, and again with support from the RMSAS project:

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BCE CRM (Business and Community Engagement Customer Relationship Management)

Relationship management is becoming increasingly important in the tertiary education sector as institutions try to meet the challenges of funding cuts and increased student and community expectations. Employers and other external customers may have the potential to help the sector navigate through these difficult times, however good customer relationship management is necessary to maintain and develop such relationships. Many of these relationships grow from friendships or discussions at conferences and are often handled unofficially. Such links may be 'point-to-point', i.e. where a contact at a university has a contact at a business. Whilst this may work for the people involved, it can become unproductive and inefficient if there are multiple (and often unknown to each other) point-to-point contacts between the organisations (CaRM Project: Final Project Report (PDF format, 476Kb) by Awre et al, 2010). Many of the institutions involved in Phase 1 of the JISC Relationship Management Programme reported that staff employed in BCE activities generally work in silos, thereby making collaboration virtually impossible because there is no shared view of the customer nor of the BCE activities themselves. Effective CRM can tie together the strands of such activities and help institutions provide a professional and consistent approach (Awre et al, 2010).

BCE CRM in the tertiary education context focuses on the management of relationships between the institution and its external (business and community) customers rather than on students or suppliers. It is far more than a means of storing contact details but should be viewed as a combination of strategy and software. For example, it can be considered as: "...a strategy with the overall aim of increasing value for our Schools, Departments and Central services that build and maintain links with business. Through coordinating information about businesses and other organizations, we can see the range of links we hold with each individual organization" (Helen Lawrence, Head of Business Relations in It’s all about the ‘customer’. Customer Relationship Management: Making Strategic Intent an Operational Reality – A Vision for Higher Education, The Birkbeck Example (PDF format, 1.09Mb), by Nduka, 2010).

The projects funded in this strand of the Programme focused only on BCE approaches rather than on implementing CRM software. The aim was to take a more holistic approach to CRM by ensuring that the three associated areas of people, processes and technology were analysed, understood and improvements made where necessary. The institutions taking part were at differing levels of CRM maturity and fell (informally) into three different categories:

Institutions are increasingly under pressure to implement technical CRM systems, but they need to be aware of the issues that must be addressed before reaching this stage. The goal of the CRM approach, therefore, is not just to implement a technical system, but also to consider (and make any improvements to) the inter-related interactions between people (culture), processes and technology. Although this approach will be time and resource intensive, such preparatory steps should be completed before any technical implementation takes place, if such an implementation is to succeed. This philosophy was mirrored in the work of the BCE CRM projects, which examined the interactions between people, processes and technology, prior to considering any (or further) technical implementation. The aim was not to implement a fully fledged CRM software solution, but to take a more holistic approach to CRM by ensuring that a firm foundation was established as a result of analysing, understanding and making improvements (where necessary) to those interactions.

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SLRM (Student Lifecycle Relationship Management)

The HE sector is currently under increasing pressure to respond to challenges from a number of quarters. These include: reduced Government funding leading to a diversification of funding sources; changing demographics producing a more diverse student base; increased competition as a result of local and international challenges; and rapidly changing technologies; to name but a few. There is also an expectation that universities can adapt quickly enough to meet the changing needs of students, employers, and the community.

Many institutions already use CRM approaches and technologies to help manage their relationships with external customers, such as employers and enterprise agencies. As students also clearly exhibit certain customer attributes, such as paying for a service and expecting higher levels of choice, quality and experience, it therefore seems appropriate to apply commercial techniques, such as service design, to selected stages of the student lifecycle. By adopting an SLRM approach and placing the student firmly at the heart of the process, it is anticipated that the "overall quality of the student experience, the efficiency and effectiveness of [institutions'] administrative processes and relationships [will contribute] to adding business value and delivering success" (Chambers and Paull, 2008).

A student will come into contact with many different institutional systems and processes during their journey through the student lifecycle – from integrated institutional software systems, such as VLEs (Virtual Learning Environments), webmail and online registration systems to open day tours of departments, collection of keys for accommodation and contact with tutors. By identifying the interface points with these different aspects of institutional life and reviewing the operational processes from a student perspective, it is possible to make improvements that will benefit both the student and the institution (Grant funding 05/09: Relationship management - Business and community engagement: Customer relationship management. JISC organisational support: Student lifecycle relationship management. Call for pilot projects (Word format, 344Kb) by JISC, 2009).

SLRM can help improve the quality of services provided to students as well as increase the efficiency of university processes and systems. Chambers and Paull, 2008 describe SLRM as: "...the development of strategies, policies, and use of ICT, to support institutions, establish, build and manage relationships with students through a range or interactions and engagements they have with them across the lifecycle of their involvement with them..."

Some aspects of SLRM have been in existence for many years, such as policies and strategies around the application, pre-enrolment and alumni relationship stages of the student lifecycle. However, the focus has been mainly on developing policies and procedures to improve the institution’s administrative processes, rather than on understanding the student perspective. There is nothing wrong with this emphasis, as efficient university processes will also benefit the student. Nevertheless, making further improvements as a result of understanding the student viewpoint can have a positive impact on the institution and may even provide a competitive edge.

The projects funded in this strand of the Programme trialled the use of service design techniques to improve the student experience at several stages of the student lifecycle (specifically pre-enrolment, enrolment and induction). Unlike most of the projects in the BCE CRM strand, these projects actually tried to make some improvements based on the findings from the service design approach.

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