Case Study: D365 Education for Employer Engagement

Petroc College, Devon

Paul Whiting, Programme Manager

About the College

Petroc is a further and higher education college made up of two campuses situated in Mid and North Devon. It offers a wide range of courses including A Levels, vocational courses, T Levels, degrees, apprenticeships and industry short courses.

Petroc’s Business Engagement team work with over 3500 employers and were experiencing multiple problems due to their CRM which was no longer fit for purpose. “Our old CRM was archaic. It was clunky and nobody used it properly, if at all” explains Paul Whiting, Programme Manager at the College. It was an internally built on-premises system that didn’t integrate with wider college systems.

With 190 users across the college, a more flexible and unitive Cloud-based solution was required.

What made you choose D365 Education?

The decision to choose Active and D365 Education was made because it had the capacity to tick all the boxes required by the College. “It came down to personal rapport with the team at Active, and what system could do, now and in the future” says Paul.

Problems & Resolutions

The main issue was staff not using the old CRM because it didn’t do what they needed it to do, so many stopped using it, relying on their own files and documents to record key information. This meant it was of no real use to those who were trying to use it, and information was becoming lost.


Messy data

​The initial problem for Paul and the College was the state of their employer data. The old system had left them with thousands of messy and incorrect records. With no automatic way of deduping records, there were multiple records for many contacts, each with different information and many incomplete records. Active were able to help with the data cleansing and importing into D365, reducing over 25,000 partial and incorrect records down to 3,500 good ones!


Difficulty in tracking leads and enquiries

Another critical issue was tracking enquiries from initial contact through to outcome. Any inbound enquiry from a prospective learner or employer was processed by the front desk and passed on to the relevant individual by email. This left communication trails susceptible to getting lost or delayed, with no means of tracking progress. Naturally this led to customer frustration and lost leads.

“After so many years of people using a system that didn’t really work, we’d found people were meeting employers and there was no evidence or trail, or ability to check conversion of enquiries.” comments Paul.

Now any system user can see a historical view of the enquiry from initial contact, to see what’s been done and when. This has resulted in happier prospects and a better rapport with businesses.​


Finding information and creating reports

The old system was lacking in basic reporting functionality, making it difficult for teams to build contact lists or find key information. Active helped develop bespoke drop-down menus and reporting dashboards to enable this task to become much easier and more productive. Different types of record categorisation, such as industry (SIC) codes, have been added to employer records, enabling similar employers to be identified, grouped, and downloaded. “Little things like this we would never have thought of” says Paul.  The team can now instantly create lists and find key information, knowing that it’s up to date.


Pipeline visbility

Previously, each manager had a view of their pipeline but there was no way of easily sharing progress within the College. Active has worked with the team to create bespoke lead and opportunity views for users, enabling full pipeline visibility by college executives. “There is a wider understanding now that the data belongs to the College, not to the individual!” comments Paul.


Recording interactions with employers

Once contact with employers had been successfully made, it became apparent there was a need to be able to document those interactions, particularly discussions regarding Local Skills Improvement Plans. Previously, all discussions would have been saved as individual Word documents across the college network, with no way of easily collating or recording what had been said, by whom and when, or knowing where to find it.

Within D365 Education, a new interactions form has been designed which records all these interactions regarding LSIPs. It enables the College to easily collate and provide the evidence which is required by Ofsted.

“Now it’s all on the system. It will be saving a lot of time for a lot of people” says Paul.

Collaboration during the build

During the project scoping, Active put Paul and his team in touch with two other FE colleges and Active customers who were also in the process of rolling out their D365 Education systems. Paul said it was really helpful to collaborate with others at a different stage of implementation, and the sharing of ideas was eye opening.

“We knew the system could be adapted for us, but we didn’t really know what was possible! The system evolved from what we initially saw, and it’s still evolving to meet our needs. That’s the beauty of it” says Paul.

Petroc now have a steering group with the other colleges using D365 Education to regularly share ideas.

Overall benefits of D365 Education

Driving best practice

As one of the D365 system champions at the College, Paul is using the implementation of the system to drive best practice and emphasising at every opportunity the importance of inputting and recording good data across the college.

“If you’re in department X, taking a minute to add the information to a record might save your colleague in department Y an hour by having that information readily to hand. It’s encouraging everyone to think about the wider college, not just their own needs.”

Single source of truth

D365 Education is the single source of truth for any customer interaction with the College, whether that’s a course enquiry, a work placement or a business looking for an apprentice – the query is logged on the CRM allowing for effective tracking and day to day management.

“Everyone has to use it – that’s working really well. People are starting to see the power of what it can produce.” Says Paul.

Next steps

The College is not stopping with employer engagement. The next steps are underway and include the following elements.

Events marketing

D365 Education integrates brilliantly with third party platforms. Petroc’s marketing team are looking at incorporating Eventbrite for their events marketing, to manage all bookings and track event leads through the CRM.

Automating the enrolment and sign-up process for apprentices

The next steps for apprenticeships at Petroc is to get all templates and sign-up documentation linked with apprenticeship recruitment to tie in the apprenticeship sign-up process from initial enquiry right the way through to completion and ensure everything is automated to save time.

Working with Active

Paul explains the benefits of working with Active on the project:


“I have such a great relationship with the Active team it’s fantastic. Having a close rapport with the team and getting to speak to the same person each time is so beneficial.”


Active operated a ‘train the trainer’ method for Petroc and dedicated several hours of training along with user guides to assist those within the College who are responsible for training colleagues.

Paul explains “The training was absolutely fantastic – certainly helping me feel more confident using the system. We have our own ‘CRM experts’ internally now who help to train others across the College. And we can always turn to the Active helpdesk at any time if we have any queries.”

Would I recommend D365 Education to others? Without a doubt

Paul Whiting

Programme Manager

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