A&D High Tech (A):
Managing Projects for Success
In his twelve years as a technology project manager at A&D High Tech, Chris Johnson had a
strong track record of delivering projects on time and on budget. His techniques for project
planning, estimating, and scheduling had become best practices at the St. Louis-based computer
products company. He had just led a project team that successfully revamped the supply chain
systems in less than eighteen months. He was especially proud since many observers had doubted
that the project could be completed on time. As part of the strategic initiatives set forth by its
CEO and founder, Ted Walter, A&D was to be second to ...view middle of the document...
The current project manager, Eric Robertson, was
taking a one-month leave of absence due to a family emergency, just as he was about to begin
formulating the project plan and make staffing decisions.
Johnson immediately began thinking about the best way to ensure the online store project’s
success. He was concerned that there was too little time to get up to speed on this new project. It
was already May, and the holiday season would approach soon. Given the urgency put forth by
Webb and Walter, Johnson was already feeling pressure to come up with solid recommendations
in short order.
©2006 by the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. This case was prepared by Derek Yung ’03 and Alex
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A&D HIGH TECH (A)
A&D High Tech sold computer products, accessories, and services to consumers and small
businesses. The company had its roots in Lincoln, Nebraska, where Ted Walter started its first
store in 1988. A&D’s made-to-order products were very innovative at the time, and were the first
to be introduced in the personal computer industry. Walter emphasized friendly customer service,
a value that was deeply ingrained in the culture of the Midwestern heartland where Walter had
lived his entire life. A&D’s revenues grew consistently for ten years and approached $400 million
for fiscal year 2000. The company was primarily a regional player, with more than 90 percent of
sales coming from customers in the Midwestern states. However, Walter was strategically
seeking to increase its distribution nationally.
A&D sales had come predominantly through retail outlets in shopping malls across the
Midwest and via phone orders handled by its fifty-person call center in Lincoln. Before 1999,
sales orders at the call center were written on paper and then passed to order-entry clerks. This
added time to order entry, delayed shipment, and resulted in poor accuracy. Consequently, sales
representatives often had to contact customers to correct errors or to suggest different options due
to inventory shortages. On average, 30 percent of the orders required customer callbacks,
compared to only 5 percent at A&D’s primary competitor.
In 1999 A&D...