As part of the effort to upgrade the IT capabilities at
Kimble College, the institution initiated a program
more than five years ago to dramatically increase the
size of the IT department while focusing efforts toward
data management and improving administrative functions.
As part of the upgrade, Kimble hired a new vice
president of information systems, Dan Gray, and gave
him wide latitude in identifying problems and initiating
projects that would result in improving the IT system
campuswide. Dan also was given the final power
to determine the development of new projects, which
allowed him to field requests from the various college
departments, determine which needs were most pressing,
and construct portfolio of prioritized projects. Within
two years of his arrival at Kimble, Dan was overseeing
an IT department of 46 people, divided into four levels:
(1) help desk support, (2) junior programmers, (3) senior
programmers, and (4) project team leaders. There
were only four project team leaders, with the majority
of Dan’s staff working either at the entry-level help
desk or as junior programmers.
In the past three years, the performance of
Dan’s department has been mixed. Although it has
been responsible for taking on a number of new projects,
its track record for delivery is shaky; for example,
well over half of the new projects have run past
their budgets and initial schedules, sometimes by
more than 100%. Worse, from the college president’s
perspective, it does not appear that Dan has a clear
sense of the status of the projects in his department.
At board meetings, he routinely gives a rosy picture
of his performance but seems incapable of answering
simple questions about project delivery beyond
vague declarations that “things are moving along
just fine.” In the president’s view, Dan’s departmental
track record is not warranting the additional
funding he keeps requesting for new equipment and
You have been called in, as an independent
consultant, to assess the performance of Dan’s
department and, in particular, the manner in which
it runs and monitors the development of its project
portfolio. Your initial assessment has confirmed the
college president’s hunch: The ongoing status of
projects in the IT department is not clearly understood.
Everyone is working hard, but no one can
provide clear answers about how the projects being
developed are doing. After asking several project
leaders about the status of their projects and repeatedly
receiving “Oh, fine” as a response, you realize
that they are not being evasive; they simply do not
know from day to day how their projects are progressing.
When you ask them how they determine
project status, the general consensus is that unless
the project team leaders hear bad news, they assume
everything is going fine. Furthermore, it is clear that
even if they wanted to spend more time monitoring
their ongoing projects, they are not sure what types
of information they should collect to develop better
on-time project tracking and control.
1. As a consultant monitoring this problem, what solutions will you propose? To what degree has Dan’s management style contributed to the problems?
2. What are some types of project status information you could suggest the project team leaders begin to collect in order to assess the status of their projects?
3. How would you blend “hard data” and “managerial or behavioral” information to accomplish a comprehensive view of the status of ongoing projects in the IT department at Kimble College?