The Grill: Clifford Gronauer


What's the best piece of advice you ever gave? Don't put your hands in the dog's mouth. Never assume you know it all.

Replacing the systems one by one would have been a monumental undertaking, but Gronauer took the project a step further and decided to replace them all at once. His leadership in guiding his department through that undertaking earned him a nod as a finalist for the Award for Innovation Leadership at the 2011 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium.

Why did you replace all five systems simultaneously? We actually had planned to do more of a sequential implementation, but along about the time we were about to issue our RFPs, there was a federal grant program announced through the Department of Justice. We had about two weeks to write up a grant proposal and submit it, and about a month later we got word we were approved. We got a $6 million federal grant. Now the kicker on these is that they come with a time frame attached, so we kind of huddled and asked, "Can we do this?" We came to the conclusion that if we organized it and managed it well, we thought we could pull it off.

Did the funding cover all five? No, not even close, but it was more than just seed funding. It was a substantial amount of money. We actually hired a consulting firm to come in and help us do the RFP process, and their initial guesstimate based on previous projects was that just one of these modules would cost us $15 million. It turned out not to be the case, and we take some of the credit for that because we developed our RFP in a very different fashion than most and when it was kind of at a soft point, so it kept the cost on the project lower than it had been historically.

What was the total cost? About $12 million.