Published by Tania Camacho on 7 October 2019 

Nelson Mandela University

Nelson Mandela University and their success

One of South African’s youngest universities, Nelson Mandela University, was founded in 2005 through a merger of three higher education institutions with a hope to restructure higher education in South Africa, a shared focus by the Department of Higher Education. They have seven geographically dispersed campuses, located in the Eastern and Western Cape.

The technological challenge

With around 27 000 students attending yearly and just over 4000 administrative staff, one can only imagine the amount of emails, requests, complaints, queries and other administrative tasks that flow though this university daily. Every one of these students are allocated an email address as well as a login to the university online environment.

Without a system in place, Nelson Mandela University experienced internal challenges that many organisations tend to encounter, such as dealing with high volumes of calls that need to be logged, allocating requests and tracking queries from department to department. Often, minimal processes exist to monitor the number of queries in relation to the amount of people dealing with it.

Nelson Mandela University knew their responsibility was to help the students and make their lives as easy as possible, taking the responsibility of admin away from them so they could focus on their studies, and knew that their employees needed to be enabled to do this. But how?

The EC team, an evolved bunch of problem solvers, took to understanding the dilemma and proposed the following approach:

  1. Start by laying down a digital platform foundation to manage all staff and student requests – this platform should centrally receive, control and coordinate all activities and communication required to resolve the request, query or complaint
  2. Ensure the system becomes the central communication mechanism between stakeholders – to monitor service levels, turnaround times, and satisfaction

Roll it out one department at a time – to ensure that the university receives measurable improvement before moving onto the next department

Laying the right foundation

The university provided a clear mandate to deliver excellent student and staff experience with a strong focus on ensuring high levels of satisfaction and rapid service turnaround. The journey therefore began with EC implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365 as the systems foundation. This platform would provide the scale and flexibility required to ensure all needs were met.

EC took on the role to configure this system to match the existing processes of the university which needed to be simple and easy-to-use, making sure that adoption throughout the change-over was not only embraced, but encouraged, a large part of guaranteeing project success.

Departmental roll-out

Implementing a Service Catalogue to service ICT was the first step in solving these typical challenges in the department. It provided a central definition for how all service requests would be handled, including:

  • simplified call logging
  • routing the requests to the correct team or individual
  • assigning priority and severity
  • applying applicable Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to ensure the requests are turned around and resolved as quickly as possible

The system delivered successfully against these objectives and provided management with deep levels of insight into the operation, to spot people and process bottlenecks as well as alleviate pressure on overworked team members. This drove down resolution time and increased stakeholder satisfaction.

This solution was then also adopted by the HR department, giving staff the ability to clearly communicate service expectations with other staff members, simplifying interactions, reducing back and forth, and providing management with insights into performance and service levels throughout the department. Due to Dynamics’ robust security model, the solution provided additional capability to deal with highly sensitive information, protecting confidential matters of the students.

EC then extended the system to accommodate the everyday HR processes and activities executed in the department, and created a simple-to-use, yet powerful portal that would effectively handle:

  • More efficient and structured processes
  • Improved turnaround times
  • Self-service (to enable staff and students to help themselves)

Not only did it solve these important things, it served as an internal and external knowledge base. Employees could access the portal to find out how to solve common problems and search FAQ’s or procedure guidelines when something wasn’t clear. It wasn’t a replacement of the HR system; it was a tool that allowed the orchestration of requests to flow effectively through the organisation.

Finding victory within adversity

These system implementations to ICT and HR provided simple and effective solutions to their challenges, changed the way the university worked, and improved communication between students, colleagues and management.

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