Information Systems
College of Business Administration
University of Missouri - St. Louis
The Prince’s Party

The prince’s financial affairs all in order, his personal servant moved on to his social life. “When would you like to have the tea party this month, sir?” asked the servant. The tea party was a small gathering of royals and nobles held by the prince each month with the usual sugar, cream, china, and crumpets. The purpose of the event was to give the attendees a sense of importance and elevate the prince’s status among them. “I'm tired of tea parties,” replied the prince, “Let’s have a real party this time.”

The servant blinked confusedly for a moment and responded, “A real party, sir?”

“Yes, a real party, Alfred. I want kegs of beer, lots of food, and music!” rejoined the prince. “It’s about time we start having some fun around here.”

The servant sat pondering this proposal for a moment. It was highly unusual to throw a party for no occasion. “That sounds like a lot to handle for a group the size that we have over for tea,” remarked the servant.

“Nonsense. We will have over everyone that has been to our tea parties and then some! Alfred, it is your job to send out invitations and make arrangements for the rest.”

The servant then diligently went about preparing a lengthy guest list, acquiring alcohol, reserving caterers, and scheduling a band. The day arrived and all of the guests began filing in. The large number of guests required that the event be held outside. Soon the prince’s greens were covered with throngs of tipsy attendees.

The prince looked at the crowd and was pleased, “Isn't this great Alfred? Everyone is having such a great time, especially me!”

Alfred was just starting to feel more at ease as the prince said this when he was informed by a guest that they had run out of beer. “How is this possible?” thought Alfred, “I got five kegs.” He looked around and realized there appeared to be quite a few more people than he remembered inviting. Food supplies were getting low as well. And on top of this, it was starting to rain! Guests began moving inside to keep dry and soon were discovering more alcohol and food stores in the cellars and pantries. The chalet was quickly becoming a mess and people were packed tight.

“Alfred, I haven't been able to talk to the prince all day,” announced the Duchess of Canterbury, “I feel like one of the unwashed masses.” A number of her entourage nodded agreement and announced their plans to depart.

Alfred was trying to placate them when he realized that one of the male guests was shouting at the prince. The two had gotten into some kind of dispute about who was the better polo player, and the alcohol was playing a role.

Before he knew it, the two had come to blows, people were shrieking, and the party had turned into a disaster. Constables were called, fines levied, and the chalet trashed.

Moral: The fable is a lesson in project management and planning. The party was a new project for the prince and servant. Previously, they were used to the highly structured, well-defined patterns of the tea parties. The party was the opposite. It was a much more risky project because the requirements were subject to the judgments of the servant who had no experience in large event planning.

Large projects are riskier than small projects. While a large party may have been no problem for a servant staff member at another estate to plan and execute, it was not what Alfred was familiar with. Not only was it larger, but it went on longer than anything he was previously used to. Supplies ran out, a mess was made, and people got upset.

The kegs were a nonstandard technology because the servant lacked knowledge related to it. He thought five kegs would be enough, but did he know how many pints were in each keg? How large were the kegs? Having the party outdoors showed a similar lack of experience as there always needs to be a contingency plan, and Alfred did not have enough room indoors in the event of rain to fit the large number of guests. Many more people showed up than he expected.

The user group was the guests, and as evidenced by the duchess and her entourage’s displeasure, they were not familiar with the large party format. Their special access to the prince was eliminated by the large throngs, and their expectations for how the system usually functioned were completely unfulfilled. If they had been consulted or participated in the planning process, they may have adjusted expectations and interacted with the system more successfully.

These stories are adapted examples written in my class, IS 6840 (formerly MSIS 488).
© Vicki L. Sauter. All rights Reserved.

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