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Technology-based Based Business Transformation - Syllabus

Course Description

This seminar will examine how to leverage major technology advances to significantly transform a business and an industry in the marketplace. The seminar will draw heavily from the concrete experiences of IBM's major transformation in the second half of the 1990's when it aggressively embraced the Internet and came up with its e-business strategy. The Internet and e-business played a key role in helping IBM survive the near-death experience that it went through in the early 1990s, reinvent just about all aspects of the company and once more become a leader in the IT industry.
The course will focus on the major issues that a business must deal with to successfully transform its technical and market strategies, including the organizational and cultural aspects that often cause such business transformations to fail. We will place a special emphasis on transformations that are caused by highly complex, advanced technologies like the Internet. We will discuss how such transformations require that managers have a very strong "systems" and technical intuition to enable them to make general management organizational, business and marketing decisions. We will also explore how the kind of "holistic" thinking that you would expect from good engineers might translate into a business advantage in formulating and executing market strategies.

Course Outline 


The first seminar will be an introduction to the overall course, including the huge competitive pressures that every business faces to keep innovating so they can survive. We discuss IBM's own near-death experience in the early 1990s, and how it reinvented itself by embracing a number of major technology, market, and organizational innovations.

Strategy Formulation

The next seminars will discuss what goes into formulation a technology-based strategy. This includes understanding how to evaluate the opportunities, risks, and limitations that this presents to a business, and what other companies, including competitors, are doing. We will have detail discussions for what it takes to formulate technical and market strategies, including what works and what does not and why false starts and how to quickly evaluate them and change course.

Operationalizing the Strategy

We will next focus on how to execute the strategy in the marketplace. This includes doing a detailed market and application segmentation to identify the most promising and practical ways to get started, engaging with customers in early pilots so they can help shape the strategy, and the role of communications at various levels, from press to advertising, to have a simple set of messages in the marketplace and start building mindshare. We will discuss the need for a close interplay between the technical work in the laboratories and the activities in the marketplace in order to arrive at a successful strategy.

Organizational and Cultural Issues 

Next, we deal with the very important issues involved in trying to build any kind of new business in an existing company, especially a business like the Internet and e-business that cuts across the whole company and is transformational in nature. We will look at the role of internal and external communications in shaping the culture, the balance between grassroots efforts, - usually led by the technical community in the company, with top-down leadership which is led by senior executives, and the many ways that things can go wrong and derail the business transformation, often with dire consequences to the business.

Class Schedule

The critical role of technology-based, disruptive innovations to a business
The IBM near-death experience of the early 1990s
Gerstner, Louis V. Who Says Elephants Can't Dance. Part II; Chapters 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19; part I optional.
Christiansen, Clay, and Michael Raynor. Innovator's Solution. Chapter 1.
Strategy formulation - key external factors
Initial discussion of the class project
Christiansen, Clay, and Michael Raynor. Innovator's Solution. Chapters 2 and 8.
Henderson, Rebecca. "Architectural Innovation."
Strategy formulation - the internet and the Web as major disruptive forces
Coming up with the IBM internet strategy
The future of the internet
Guest lecturer 
John Patrick - President, Attitude LLC; Internet Pioneer; retired IBM executive
Hamel, Gary. "Waking Up IBM."
Strategy formulation - key internal factors
Christiansen, Clay. Meeting the Challenge of Disruptive Change.
Christiansen, Clay, and Michael Raynor. Innovator's Solution. Chapters 3 and 4.
Operationalizing the Strategy - key internal factors
Market and application segmentation, internal measurements, management reviews
Christiansen, Clay, and Michael Raynor. Innovator's Solution. Chapters 5 and 6.
Operationalizing the Strategy - Key external factors
The major role of market experimentation and end-user innovation
von Hippel, Eric. Democratizing Innovation. Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4; other chapters optional.
Thomke, Stefan. "Enlightened Experimentation."
Overview of course so far
Submission of short (2 page) proposal

focus - the airline industry
Market-based experimentation as a major part of strategy formulation and execution
LL Bean and e-commerce strategy
LL Bean and technology-based innovation
Guest lecturer
Chris McCormick - CEO, LL Bean; e-commerce pioneer
The major role of marketing and communications in strategy formulation and execution
The IBM e-business marketing and communications strategy
Guest lecturer Chris Wall - Senior Partner, Ogilvy, and Mather; lead O&M executive in formulating IBM's e-business market strategy
"Dinosaurs?" Fortune 127, no. 9 (May 3, 1993).
"IBM Means e-business." Information Week, February 9, 1998.
"Internet Business Machines." Business Week, December 13, 1999.
Organization and cultural issues - building and managing a virtual organization
Henderson, Rebecca. "Managing Innovation in the Information Age."
Nadler and Tushman. "Beyond the Charismatic Leader."
Organization and cultural issues - a key role of leadership and management
Gerstner, Louis V. Who Says Elephants Can't Dance. Parts III and IV.
Christiansen, Clay, and Michael Raynor. Innovator's Solution. Chapters 7, 10, and epilogue.