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

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?

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