Fresh perspectives on operational challenges: Consulting with companies, BCIT Business students provide solutions

Bringing light to operational challenges: Through BCIT’s Business Consulting Projects, student teams work with companies to solve problems in the areas of marketing, human resources, business operations, and information technology

A beverage company in need of a more appealing brand. An autobody shop worried about less-than-optimum efficiency. A grocery-delivery firm wondering how to speed up packing without jeopardizing quality. All complex problems – and all solved by British Columbia Institute of Technology School of Business (BCIT Business) students through the renowned Business Consulting Projects program.

Every year, BCIT Business matches teams of two or three students with many small-to-mid-sized local businesses. Via intensive market research and key-stakeholder interviews, the students investigate a specific operational challenge. A few months later, each team presents their client company with thorough strategic findings and recommendations.

Business Consulting Projects (BCP) students take on problems in marketing, human resources, business operations, and information technology. Clients range widely, for example, from Leavitt Machinery to real estate firms like Onni and Rennie, from the public Tourism Vancouver to the private Sea to Sky Gondola, and many more.

BCP co-ordinator Jason Young, in operations management, welcomes inquiries about bringing students in – always stressing to companies that a team’s role will be professional and work-intensive, unlike traditional internships or co-ops that may involve more of an observational role.

Young explains, “No other school in Canada on the operations-management side does what we do. To prepare students for their real-world work, we simulate different kinds of projects. We try to create an actual physical setting; we role-play different situations, for example, how to ask effective questions of someone. Students then take that tool box out and use it in the field.”

He describes the BCP process: “The student teams go in, integrate, ask questions and basically act like a doctor looking for the root cause of an illness. Each team meets with their faculty adviser once a week, going over what they’ve done. Finally, they detail for the client how and why they reached their solutions, the exact steps for how to get there and how much it will cost.” By this time, Young adds with a chuckle, students are so immersed in the problem they’re talking and thinking like 20-year seasoned managers.
Got a challenge? Bring it on, urges Tom Jopling, the school’s business consulting co-ordinator, who’s in marketing management. “Our students, i.e., those in the department of marketing management, are currently looking for clients/projects and are hoping to have these lined up before the Christmas break.”

Jopling will work with your company to turn the challenge into a doable project. “For an inexpensive fee, you’ll benefit from the teams’ learned skills, their fresh perspective. They’ll provide what client companies assure us is a significant return on your investment. Often these are companies that have engaged with consultants and are amazed that they get the same quality of work for hardly any pocket change.”

It’s also a community-wide ROI, in that participating companies are helping prepare industry-ready employees for British Columbia. With the business school’s applied learning model, grads arrive at a workplace experienced and comfortable in a real-life business atmosphere, Jopling notes.

Win-win for both students and industry

Reza Bafandeh, a BCIT Business graduate who is now vice-president, supply chain, at SPUD.ca (Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery Inc.), recalls, “There’s nothing like that exhilarating hit of real life, that deep-dive realization that it’s up to you and your team to figure things out. As preparation both to succeed in industry personally and make industry more successful, it’s unequalled.”
For his student project, Bafandeh and his team developed a streamlining system for warehouse utilization. The combination of industry and teamwork was demanding but invigorating: “Since then, wherever I am, I’ve always worked to recreate that.”

One way he does this, with SPUD.ca, is hosting students for BCPs. “We give the instructors a statement of work, of the resources we’ll provide, the deliverables we’ll expect. Students do assessments, interviews. For example, one team had the challenge of how to efficiently pack a truck to reduce handling time for our drivers. The recommendations they gave us, we ended up standardizing into our operations model.”

Let a BCP student team deliver a solution to you. With students starting to select projects now, BCIT Business is welcoming companies to reach out now for Business Consulting Projects. Visit bcit.ca/bcp.