Project management in higher education: a grounded theory case study

Publication Date10 June 2019
AuthorSeth Porter
SubjectLibrary & information science,Librarianship/library management,Hr in libraries,Library strategy,Library promotion
Project management in higher
education: a grounded theory
case study
Seth Porter
Donald E. Stokes Library for Public and International Affairs,
Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, USA
Purpose This paper analyzes project and portfolio management within a major research library, while it
was undergoing a complete physical renovation and reinvention of programs and services. This is a complex,
almost 100-million-dollar undertaking that implemented a project management (PM) methodology known as
portfolio management. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the implementation and management of this
process and provide a brief overview on project and portfolio management as a discipline. Additionally, it
provides strengths and weaknesses as well as recommendations when implementing PM.
Design/methodology/approach The analysis uses a qualitative research methodology case study with a
theoretical foundation of inductive grounded theory. The case study is based primarily on seven interviews of
project managers who are involved with the project. It also uses document analysis to assist in triangulating
the findings and provide a contextual overview of a complex process. A number of themes emerged into
overall categories and findings.
Findings The key takeaways were the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the process. The strengths
were improved communica tion and transparency, i mproved organization and documentation and form al
decision-making proc ess and resource allocation . The weaknesses were the hammer and the na il
problem, the tools and pa perwork, rigidity and the lack of agilit y within the process. This s tudy also
describes the process i n detail and gives recom mendations for improving the methods imp lemented in
similar circumstances.
Originality/value This paper analyzes strategic management concepts from an empirical grounded
theory approach and real-world perspective with key recommendations.
Keywords Academic libraries, Project and portfolio management, Grounded theory case study
Paper type Research paper
A major research library, which will be identified only as The Librarywithin this
manuscript because of confidentially issues with the participants involved, is undergoing an
almost 100-million-dollar reinvention of their physical space, virtual experience and services.
The vast majority of the physical collection has been transferred to state-of-the-art offsite
storage facilities. The main library itself is being completely gutted and renovated with a
focus on collaborative space, contemplative space, instructional space and a virtualexperience
that reflects this rethinking of a research library. As can be expected, this is a complex
multi-dimensional project with many moving components. The scope of the physical
infrastructure change is massive and the services are changing along with the physical
renovations.These changes include a renewedfocus on a customer serviceas it pertains to the
public service experience, cutting edge technology, instructional services and space,
makerspaces,data visualization labs andfulfilling access needs as quickly as possible. Witha
budget this large,and a tight timeline to design and implement the new library and services,
there needed to bea rethinking of how to execute this vision. Because of this complexity, The
Library has adopted the business practice of project management (PM) to administer the
intricacies of the reinvention of The Library.
Business workflows and processes have become continually more common in
higher education (Winston and Hoffman, 2005; Stoffle and Cuillier, 2011; Vinopal, 2012).
Library Management
Vol. 40 No. 5, 2019
pp. 338-352
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/LM-06-2018-0050
Received 8 June 2018
Revised 11 July 2018
Accepted 15 January 2019
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