UNSW bets big on Adobe Experience Cloud to lift digital game

Head of digital experience shares the reasons behind a significant marketing technology rollout and the data and CRM projects all tieing into UNSW's ambitious global strategy


The University of NSW has thrown its dollars behind Adobe’s Experience Cloud as part of a digital experience transformation aimed at lifting its reputation and standing to the top echelons of tertiary providers globally.

In an exclusive interview with CMO, University of NSW head of digital experience, Martin Hoegh-Guldberg, said the significant technology rollout is part of a five-year overhaul of the tertiary education provider’s digital ecosystem and ties to its long-term strategic vision of achieving top 50 global university status by 2025. Three strategic pillars have been identified to drive this: Academic excellence in research and education; passion for social engagement; and achieving global impact.

To support such efforts, UNSW centralised its marketing and communications structure a little less than two years ago. This unified external relations team encompasses communications, content and media, digital experience and a future students group.

The restructuring prompted conversations around right digital tools to enable teams better engage with customers, from students to alumni and faculty, Hoegh-Guldberg said. What it also shone a light on was the fragmented marketing and digital ecosystem, incorporating 2242 websites across 12 distinct content management platforms – not to mention different distribution engines.

“We also have hundreds of social handles across the university – there are 200-odd Facebook handles in operation, for example. So there’s lots of work to be done around how we consolidate and optimise that,” Hoegh-Guldberg said.   

“There are far too many websites for easy browsing – it’s very hard to discover information, and there are different experiences across these platforms: Some are great, some are OK and some are not. This has led to lots of inconsistency and disconnect.

“There was no one single view of the customer, or single reporting of data and combined insight. We needed an enterprise-wide platform to start to lift and shift to, with the aim of having a single view of customers in data, really strong data-driven personalisation, and giving people the right stuff at the right time.”

What’s also important is to help people navigate the large and complex nature of an institution like UNSW. “If you’re coming in from different disciplines, it’s very hard to find content of interest to you. It was about doing more in contemporary sense around digital marketing and communications, but also extending this into our service delivery side as well.”

UNSW’s digital experience team is leading the martech transformation and Adobe rollout now tendering for an implementation partner. The university has purchased the full Adobe Experience Cloud suite including Adobe Audience Manager, Analytics, Target, Campaign and Experience Manager.

The first three areas of customer emphasis are future students, alumni and entrepreneurs. In the future student space, teams will be able to start using sophisticated campaign personalisation to drive engagement, Hoegh-Guldberg said. This work will be across anonymous users and aimed at addressing the best and brightest prospects globally.

On the alumni front, where UNSW has more than 300,000 known and contactable customers, it’s about communicating effectively and re-engagement.

“You now longer have linear experiences in education… we may have five or six careers and we’re constantly going back to universities for career improvement and development,” Hoegh-Guldberg commented.  “We want to keep engaging with the alumni with what we’re doing and offering, and how they can help us drive awareness of the power of UNSW.”

The entrepreneur aspect links to UNSW’s ‘founders’ program, run out of the enterprise division, which looks to help students convert their ideas into startups.

Related: How UNSW's new marketing division is tackling digital strategy

Already, UNSW has been building deep Adobe specialist skills internally. The rollout begins in earnest in January. By October/November, Hoegh-Guldberg hopes to be presenting the benefits already achieved validating the choice of technology and investment.

The Adobe stack will also integrated with UNSW’s existing social media management tool, Hootsuite, as well a separate tag management layer, which will be introduced to deliver a unified data taxonomy across legacy systems as well as new digital properties.

“There is also a huge piece of work around content sitting across our 2242 websites. We’re doing algorithmic scraping and work to understand what that content universe looks like,” Hoegh-Guldberg said.  

To complement this, the team been engaging in customer experience work, building out proposed university-wide customer segments, high-level journey mapping and user flows.

“Various parts of the university have always had a view of who their segments were but there has been no unified view,” Hoegh-Guldberg continued. “We’re trying to build that view so when we go into Audience Manager, we can inject that segmentation into that tool and start tracking behaviour against those and evolve them over time.

“It’s become critical based on the fact we have one platform and want to start building relationships with our constituents. We want to be able to tell which customers we’re reaching, who engages and who doesn’t, then address each of these more effectively. We’re looking to have that view from first to last touch.”

Hoegh-Guldberg agreed it’s a huge project of work, and said it will take up to five years to roll out.

“But universities now need to be far more sophisticated around how they engage with customers. Banks and travel companies have already been doing this for years now,” he said. “Given the competitive nature of universities and our ambition to be a top 50 global university by 2025, we need similar capabilities so we can unearth opportunities.”  

Hoegh-Guldberg pointed to the amazing work happening across the university as a key to competitive advantage. “Making this discoverable is a really important part of what we are trying to do. We want to expose the great academic work being done here... and make our research power discoverable so people come in and quickly find the information of interest to them. They can also understand how powerful we are. That in itself will drive reputation and ranking.”

Stakeholder management and enablement

Getting executive buy-in involved highlighting the revenue uplift and cost reduction benefits. “But no one was fighting the notion that the university needed to modernise how it presents itself digitally today,” Hoegh-Guldberg continued.

“There is a good understanding here that digital flows as a horizontal, and you need to start modernising tools and platforms to build engagement in the right areas and channels with the customers we are after. It’s a large and important investment for the university, but few would dispute the clear benefits around what it brings us.”  

Separately, UNSW has a clear CRM strategy with Microsoft Dynamics as the foundation technology. While that integration with Adobe is expected to be straightforward, what Hoegh-Guldberg admitted will be harder is pulling real-time data into the martech platform to firstly transact with, then pushing it back so others can access and analyse it.

UNSW is also working on its data storage, with teams building data lakes and next-generation analytics.

Diversity and inclusion are important components of the puzzle too, and UNSW has put together working groups around diversity, disability and minority groups to involve them in the project upfront. “That’s beyond accessibility…that’s thinking about how we can do things like voice interface into personalised data to drive inclusion and diversity across the platform.”

Throughout it all, Hoegh-Guldberg saw the biggest hurdle as enablement. “The biggest challenge is how we enable the university to change the way teams think around digital and enabling these bright minds across our university to take advantage of the new toolset,” he said.

“It’s how we get our people on the journey early, and get them to start thinking about the impact of the Adobe platform on their teams, and how they will enable them. That’s the key nut to crack.”

What’s more, a mix of stakeholders will come in and out of the project as the digital experience team progresses.

“It’s a complex stakeholder Game of Thrones we are playing,” Hoegh-Guldberg added. “There’s a big appetite for digital, the issue is more around ensuring all the right people are around the table so there’s clear line of sight to people’s requirements.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu     

 

 

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