Ellumen recently wrapped up the first business case-study initiative of our new partnership with Morgan State University for the Fall 2020 semester. This effort is part of Ellumen’s commitment to ensuring the success of the Veterans Administration’s Medical Logistics Redesign and the Department of Defense’s modernization of its Medical Logistics Supply Chain system. With an optimized implementation schedule imminent, Ellumen reached out to Morgan State, Maryland’s largest HBCU, to assist us with thinking ahead on inventive ways to help with user adoption of the modernized systems.

“With our knowledge of Morgan State’s strong reputation in communications and journalism, education and business, Ellumen knew that our objectives for this project would be in good hands,” said Mary Vogel, President of Ellumen. “Morgan State was just the partner to ensure that we had folks looking ahead with new ideas and concepts to support new systems’ training and communication.” This project continues our history of recruiting the best people to help develop new ideas and groundbreaking strategies for our federal clients.

For years, Ellumen has worked with both VA and DoD to assist with the training and implementation of DMLSS/LogiCole. Ellumen recognized that due to the crashed (condensed) schedule, there was less time for those working on operations to be looking ahead. These circumstances sparked an idea to engage our best and brightest in academia for innovative and creative strategies to assist the VALOR program. “The idea was to pick the minds of young, creative students in addressing processes that would involve the introduction and training of a mostly senior workforce to a new way of doing business,” said Dr. Samuel Deal, Graves Honors Program Director.

Kickoff meeting with Morgan State University

In the summer, our team reached out to Robert Anderson, Director of Marketing and External Relations at Morgan State University Athletics, about forming a partnership where students and student-athletes could gain meaningful, practical experience working on a real business case. Throughout the 2020 Fall semester, students would develop contemporary methods for implementing mindset and behavioral change for the adoption of LogiCole within the VA and Department of Defense. There was immediate interest; Dr. Deal became involved, and we began to organize a plan of execution.

Students from MSU’s Athletic Department, School of Business and Management, Graves Honors Program and School of Graduate Studies were asked to participate at the start of the semester. The Morgan State team recruited students from these departments knowing the project would benefit from having students with the right skillsets and case-study experience, as well as the leadership and adaptability that comes from being a student-athlete. “[Being an athlete has] caused me indirectly to become a leader, to work to gel and make things happen regardless of my title,” said Jaida West, a senior track & field student-athlete majoring in finance. She received an email from the Athletic Department about the opportunity to participate. Knowing Dr. Deal was involved, and having participated in several case competitions before, West was interested.

At the start, students were broken into teams, vetted to ensure a diversity of majors and perspectives in each. Teams were then divided into two groups: one focusing on the marketing component, examining vehicles that include incentive, recognition and change benefits of the project, and the other on the human resources perspective, examining training and peer/focus groups. Jaida, for instance, chose to be on the HR team to fill in where the most help was needed, having already worked on several marketing-related projects.

Over the semester, students worked together to research and determine the best practices for the introduction, adoption and sustainment of DMLSS and LogiCole at VA. The Ellumen team assisted by providing background on the project and Ellumen contact personnel, but mostly left the rest of the work to the students, who would work hard to deliver.

Morgan State students’ final presentation on Microsoft Teams

Beyond being a unique instance of a case study with the potential for real world impact, the project would prove to have its own challenges. Like many of us, the participants had to work remotely during the pandemic, which has already directly impacted medical logistics. “In a COVID world, we don’t have the face to face opportunities on our medical logistics projects we would like to help influence adoption,” said Mary Vogel. “While we always are looking to think outside the box, COVID has forced us to think about using technology in new and different ways.” The students adjusted to this new working environment by utilizing all available electronic platforms – Meet, Zoom, Teams, texting, email and phone. This project was done in addition to the schoolwork and midterms these students already had.

In December, after researching and crafting instructions for execution, students met with Ellumen to give their final presentations on what they determined to be the best practices for introducing and implementing mindset and behavioral change for the VA’s adoption of DMLSS/LogiCole. Students presented a plan that included transparency between leadership and end-users, gamification and focus groups to understand better how to help the end-user.

Their implementation plans emphasized creating a “culture of collaboration and respectful competition.” Collaboration is a key tenet of the Social Interdependence Theory, an idea central to the students’ plan for successful adoption and implementation. They emphasized Subject Matter Experts’ role in providing the balance between collaboration and competition while also ensuring the ultimate end goal of learning. “The importance of SME’s cannot be understated,” said D.J. Parham, MBA Candidate at the Graves School of Business and Management. “They are the vanguard of the implementation of new systems.”

Slide from Morgan State students’ final presentation

This project, the first of the partnership between Ellumen and Morgan State University, was a major success for all parties involved. Students like D.J. see the potential in the growth and future of the relationship. “This hands-on learning approach is invaluable for the students and will prove to be a source of innovation and results-based collaboration for Ellumen!”

Dr. Samuel Deal recognizes what opportunities like this mean for Morgan State students. “Opportunities of this nature afford MSU students exposure to ‘real-world’ business environments and the decision-making dynamics that go into producing successful outcomes,” he said. “We just have to find more companies like… Ellumen who are willing to take the chance on and benefit from, our students.”

President Mary Vogel was extremely impressed by the project’s success and the ideas the students came up with and is excited about this partnership’s future.

“This project was important to Ellumen because it gave us an opportunity to partner with a community of people who are fresh thinkers and excited about jumping in and helping us,” she said. “The students also brought us ideas that were affordable and practical. We are looking forward to future opportunities to engage our new Morgan State partners.”