Watson is a complete scheduling solution for the BBC’s in-house training department, The BBC Academy, which delivers training courses to thousands of staff members.

Watson provides a simple interface that allow BBC staff to book thousands of rooms, trainers and resources

The Brief

To design and build a web application to manage all aspects of course scheduling, including employee sign-ups, room and equipment allocations, and trainers’ diaries.

Watson searches trillions of potential course options to find the optimal slots, saving thousands of hours work per year

The Client

BBC Academy is the BBC’s in-house training and development department. Every year, the Academy offers hundreds of courses and events to thousands of employees across numerous sites. Scheduling was becoming increasingly complicated and time-consuming and so the BBC was looking for a technical solution; an app that would process and cross-reference the relevant practical information in seconds. Our data wizards at Outlandish were on hand to help, and WATSON was born.

Our Solution

We composed an algorithm which first searches for available rooms, sifting by location, then for course tutors by availability and, again, location. Finally, WATSON checks for any equipment required for the course, orders it and organises delivery.

In contrast to all this background busyness, the design and user interface were kept simple and elegant, adding to the sense of ease with which complicated scheduling can now be handled.

Calendars aren’t the main way of booking resources, but they allow admins to get an overview of how resources are being used

The Tech

Resource optimisation is a complex business. In this project we had huge amounts of possibilities and combinations for the availability of rooms, equipment and people. We used Bitwise calculations to work these out and cross reference them. WATSON uses a Symfony back end and Angular front end.

One of the most exciting challenges for us was to create a user-friendly interface, so BBC staff can view the results of the calculations and choose the combinations that suit them.

The Impact

WATSON has become an invaluable tool for the BBC Academy. Before the tool was created, the complex scheduling required seven full-time roles to solve. WATSON has therefore saved course organisers thousands of hours of graft, freeing them up for more strategic roles, and made them more efficient. Thanks to WATSON, there is now time for the BBC to develop employee training opportunities even further.

“Watson took the complexity and made it simple. It delivered millions of savings by making resourcing more efficient”

Mark Steinmeyer, Product Owner, BBC

Going Forward

The WATSON project was built to suit the needs of the BBC, but much of the technology behind it is adaptable for any large organisation with complex scheduling, timetabling and resourcing needs. Please do get in touch if you would like to implement something similar in your organisation.