Solving The Beast Hacking for Defense - James Madison University

Our Problem

The Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) requires a holistic scheduling system to manage various requirements they face throughout the year. They need a more efficient system to meet Joint, Interagency, Intra-governmental and multinational requirements. Currently, they use a complex excel spreadsheet to schedule personnel against these various requirements. This system is inefficient, leads to double bookings and is largely inconvenient for administrators to maintain.

The following video helps visualize our problem in a more simple context. We believe that by creating a role-playing situation, the pain points of the current system will be easier to understand.

About "The Beast":

"The Beast" is the current name for the JPRA's schedule reporting tool. It has been used to schedule multi-function, multi-national and inter-agency requirements but has lagged behind in terms of modern day advancements. Because of this, it has become a cumbersome process for JPRA employees to request time off for personal time or unexpected emergencies. It has become our mission to assist in finding the best solution to tackle the beast and the JPRA's resource planning and personnel scheduling inefficiencies and provide them with a platform solution that enables them to save both time and effort in scheduling these activities.

Sponsor: Rob Liston CIV JS JPRA (USA):

Robert started in the Marine Core and went on to receive his MBA in Education. He now works at the JPRA as the operations chief.

Meet our Team:

Brittany Ryan: Junior Marketing Major- Sales Concentration; Business Analytics, Global Supply Chain Management and General Music Minors
Brenden Hogan: Senior Marketing Major-Digital Marketing Concentration; Global Supply Chain Managemnent Minor
Tyler Pla: Senior Management Major-Innovation and Entrepreneurship Concentration
Alex Rodriguez: Senior Political Science Major; Political Communications Minor

Progression Timeline:


Schedule Anywhere Roleplay

This next video is a closing visualization which shows the ease and modernization with advancing to a scheduling software outside of Excel.

Solution Matrix:

This is the actual decision matrix we created to evaluate our top solution choices.
This is the scoring system we used to establish the scores for each software.

Summary of top Software Solutions

Schedule Anywhere: It is a multi-functional, dynamic, cloud-based employee scheduling software that enables users to create, manage and view schedules from any location. It is currently used by the DoD as well as other government and military institutions, making it a particularly attractive solution for the JPRA. Their servers are hosted by AWS (Amazon Web Services) which has some of the highest standards of cloud-security to protect data privacy and sensitive information used by the JPRA. In addition to high security measures, Schedule Anywhere offers full support for software implementation and user training. The initial setup takes roughly 4 hours to implement, but there are a variety of tutorial videos on their website to make sure users are fully prepared to use the system to its full efficiency.

Microsoft Access Plugin: This is a fully functional and adjustable, on-premise scheduling system that enables users to create and manage their own employee schedules. Since it is within the Microsoft suite of applications, the security levels meet the strict requirements of the JPRA and will allow them to control almost all aspects of data privacy. Access will allow JPRA admins to create and manage the system through their own computer, ultimately giving them a more efficient way to manage their organizational resources than they currently have. One major benefit associated with this solution option is that the cost is a one time purchase, without the need to commit to long contracts or engage in a subscription-based model. In terms of support, there are videos on the plugin creator's website that provide details for more dynamic ways to use the system specific to the organization's needs.

Appointment Plus: This solution is a web-based, dynamic scheduling system that is currently used by many branches of the government, military and DoD affiliates. We initially considered it one of our best solution options until we scheduled a demo with an Appointment Plus sales representative. We learned that the requirements the JPRA had for scheduling were not offered in Appointment Plus' offerings. Through this call we were able to understand that Appointment Plus was more specialized to serve personnel scheduling in individual meetings rather than employee scheduling, PTO and resource planning. Even though we were unable to consider this as one of our final offerings, it allowed us to better understand the specific details that differentiate each system, ultimately allowing us to identify Schedule Anywhere and the Microsoft Access Plugin as our top options.