Ideas with Impact
UNB Faculty of Management

Return on investment for UNB

Author: Ideas with Impact

Posted on Feb 3, 2015

Category: Programs , Students

When UNB staff member David Shipley began his studies with the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at UNB Fredericton, he had no idea how much both he and the university would benefit. David Shipley, director of strategic initiatives for UNB’s Information Technology Services, says that his experiences as a part-time MBA student have helped UNB save hundreds of thousands of dollars and transformed its use of mobile technologies.

“I love it when I can tell friends, family and acquaintances that studying for my MBA helped save the University of New Brunswick nearly $500,000,” he says.

That’s the amount UNB will save over the next three years as a result of a comprehensive overhaul of its mobile device service contract including how it purchases and provisions mobile devices for faculty and staff.

It’s a pretty good return on investment for the university, which pays part of Shipley’s tuition costs as part of the benefits offered to full-time employees.

“Helping UNB implement its ambitious mobility strategy, including overhauling our mobility contract and support services was only possible thanks to the tools and confidence the MBA program has given me,” adds Shipley.

For Shipley, various MBA areas of study from statistical analysis to finance to marketing, communications and strategy were all important to helping the yearlong effort succeed.

“When I started as an MBA student in 2010, I couldn’t have imagined how much it would change my life or how many lessons from the program in and outside of the classroom that I would be able to successfully apply to my day-to-day work,” says Shipley.

He had always hoped to pursue graduate studies after he completed his Bachelor of Arts in Information and Communications Studies at UNB Saint John in 2005. After several years as a business and politics reporter for the provincial newspaper, Shipley knew he wanted to focus on sharpening his business skills and knowledge.

Shipley began the MBA program in 2011 while he was the senior web content strategist for UNB with the Communications and Marketing Department. Pursing his MBA opened up an opportunity to move to UNB’s Information Technology Services (ITS) department in 2012 as a strategy analyst and in 2014 he was given the title of director of strategic initiatives within ITS.

In the fall of 2013 his supervisor, Terry Nikkel, the associate vice-president of Information Technology Services, tasked Shipley with implementing the next phase of UNB’s mobility strategy. To do that, Shipley realized that UNB would need to change how it purchased and provisioned mobile devices and equipped faculty and staff with those devices, including setup and training.

To accomplish this service overhaul, the mobility strategy envisioned the opening of a dedicated mobile technology centre where faculty and staff could try out the latest devices and receive training and support.

“What I realized, thanks to the MBA program, was to get to that objective I needed to understand the current processes and evaluate carefully the business relationships needed between UNB and its mobility provider to achieve that vision,” says Shipley.

“As I and another MBA student, Wayne Solomon, who was also working for ITS, delved deeper into UNB’s existing mobility plans and vendor relationship, we realized it was time for UNB to develop a new mobility relationship based on its unique needs.”

At the time it relied on a tender for mobile services available through the provincial government.

“As a result of our analysis, we realized UNB could achieve significant savings by moving to a unlimited, nation-wide calling plan with unlimited texting and larger data packages for smartphones and tablets that were pooled together to reduce variable costs,” says Shipley.

That was a different approach than the model used by the provincial tender.

“We also realized that by moving from a subsidized device model where two-thirds of a device’s costs were hidden in monthly service plans that we could reduce the average total cost of purchasing a device by 32% while making device costs more transparent to those making purchasing and spending decisions,” he added.  

As a result of their analysis, a comprehensive Request for Proposals (RFP) was developed and executed, with TELUS eventually landing the contract with the winning proposal.

Shipley then planned and oversaw a complex but carefully organized transition from UNB’s previous provider to TELUS that began in the spring of 2014 and was largely completed by the end of July, moving more than 400 devices to the new provider.

The end result of this entire effort saw UNB dramatically cut its costs while also significantly improving service to faculty and staff, which will result in increased productivity for the university.

It’s also made UNB a leader among universities in Canada when it comes to leveraging mobile technology to reduce costs and improve efficiency, helping UNB meet its strategic goal of building a better university.

“A large part of the success of this initiative is owed to the lessons learned from faculty, staff and my fellow students in the MBA program, which will likely remain one of the most valuable lessons for me from the entire program – that every success is built on the hard work, skills and knowledge of many people,” says Shipley.

“It’s also taught me that as a leader, one of the best things I can do is support efforts to invest in the professional development and continuing education of team members,” he adds. “It’s clear the pay-off can be huge.”

Shipley estimates that the cost of his degree to UNB was around $10,000, while his contribution was around $6,000.

“Getting a $500,000 return on a $10,000 investment is a pretty good deal for UNB,” he notes.

Shipley is planning on graduating this spring after completing his final two courses in the MBA program.

“I’ll be forever grateful to UNB for the opportunity to pursue my MBA and to my boss for being so supportive and encouraging in my pursuit of my degree,” says Shipley. “It has been an amazing experience.”

For more information, contact Liz Lemon-Mitchell or Dave Shipley.