PLAY-IT Simulation: Running a major global corporation’s IT department for 1 year in 4 hours!

Case Study by Ken Thompson

1. Simulation Overview

In the PLAY-IT simulation teams of participants become the leadership teams of a Global IT function of a multi-national corporation for a one-year period made up of 4 quarters. Before they start the simulation, the participants are given information about potential technology projects which Global IT could conduct for the benefit of its 150,000 internal users distributed across the world. The participants also receive new and updated information about these projects at the start of each quarter of the simulation.

The goal is to select and execute projects which provide the maximum return and satisfaction for the enterprises internal customers and to manage these projects with professionalism and commercial awareness.

Each quarter teams must make the following decisions for each project they choose:

  • Whether and Why to start the project
  • The best way to execute the project in terms of different options (technical/geographical/commercial)
  • How much to recover in project costs from internal customers through internal charges
  • When and How to schedule, resource and manage the project through its full life

The Global IT department in the simulation is a small but highly tooled specialist function starting with just 6 multi-skilled staff but acquiring 1 new staff member each quarter taking headcount up to 9 staff by the final quarter.  Teams playing the simulation must work within strict resourcing constraints and are NOT permitted to hire or buy in more resources.

2. Target Audience

PLAY-IT was played by experienced staff, in a major bluechip global company, who needed to further develop their business acumen and advanced project management skills. The simulation was integrated into a full 3-day leadership development programme which was run for approximately 1000 participants across the US, UK, Europe, India, Singapore and China. 

3. Learning Objectives 

To enable participants to enhance their skills experientially and socially in key areas by engaging in an intensive team business simulation played competitively under time pressure:

  • Optimize use of scarce resources 
  • Risk Management
  • Agility when unexpected happens
  • Customer/Business perspective on technology
  • Leadership in technology
  • Exemplify great teamwork and individual style


4. Simulation Targets

Hard Measures

KPIs - For each Project and Overall Project Portfolio:

  • Projected RoI levels (>= 100%) – benefits greater than twice the investment 
  • Projected Chargeback levels (>= 100%) – full recovery of Global IT external costs
  • User Adoption >= 130,000
  • Customer Satisfaction and Resource Optimisation >= 90%

Financials - For the Overall Project Portfolio

  • Total Net Benefits >= $5.0M

Soft Measures

  • To work well as a team in all its different aspects
  • To demonstrate in debriefs/presentations genuine insight and learning (relative to the simulation learning objectives)

5. Simulation Feedback 

Participant feedback was very strong -  very few of the participants had experienced such a targeted, group learning simulation where care had been clearly taken to bring highly relevant scenarios to life.  The simulation scored an average of 4.5 across all delegate feedback responses on a scale of 1-5 where 5 represents excellent.

Typical participant quotes:    

"The simulation gave me a chance to practice being a project manager of the entire team to see how well I do in a leadership role and things I can improve on for future use." 

"The simulation was really a great experience. Collaboration with the team was beneficial and resulted in the best outcome." 

"The simulation was a great exercise for what customers might likely go through to get approvals for my deals. Great to experience 'the other side'."

"I think it would bring a lot of value to have a video recording of the teams during the simulation and then have the teams review themselves. It could reveal a lot around behaviours, body language and so on." 

6. For More Information

See the PLAY-IT Simulation Factsheet.

Let's Connect

And a member of our Team will be in touch


We have 20+ case studies on a wide range of Business Leadership Topics
Explore case studies

Crew Simulation

Want to know more about CREW?

More about Ken Thompson

Ken Thompson

Ken is a practitioner, author and speaker on Leadership, Collaborative Working, High Performing Teams, Change Management, Project Management and Business Acumen. His work has featured in major publications including The Guardian , Wired Magazine, The Huffington Post and The Henry Ford Magazine. Ken has also spoken at many international events including TEDx, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), Learn Tech (London) and NASA.

Ken is Founder of Business Simulations Ltd.

Contact Ken

Want to know more about this topic?

As well as starting the conversation we will send you a FREE Executive Summary of our Book:

A Systematic Guide to Game Based Learning in Organizations


We transform Leadership Development using Business Simulations, guided by three principles:

Goals, Roles & Souls

Why Choose Business Simulations?

We champion Business Simulations as an effective and engaging form of Leadership Development. 'Learn by doing' hones skills in a safe and controlled environment.

Learn more

Let's Talk Business Simulations

We would love to tell you more about what we can do for your Business.
Feel free to give us a call on +44 2896 237253

Close App
Request a Consultation