One of the perks of straddling the academic/practitioner divide is that sometimes you get to meet, bask in the reflected glory of, and have interesting discussions with luminaries in the same space – sometimes several at once. One such occasion for me is the next Academy of Management conference in New Orleans, where I will proudly lead an All-Academy symposium titled Executive Leadership and Information Technology: A Fragile Dance. (If you happen to be at the conference, it is in the New Orleans Marriott, 10:40am – 12:00am, Monday August 9 2004)
There will be two presenters and two discussants: Presenting the business viewpoint will be James (Jim) Cash, retired professor at the Harvard Business School and now on the board of General Electric and Microsoft (as well as working with the Concours Group). Weighing in for the technology side will be John Seely Brown, former Chief Scientist of Xerox Corporation and Director or Xerox PARC, and now a celebrated author and speaker on new roles and uses of information technology. The first discussant, from the viewpoint of IT economics and outsourcing, will be Vijay Gurbaxani, professor of IT at UC Irvine. A viewpoint based in strategic leadership processes will be given by Mark Kriger, professor of strategy at the Norwegian School of Management.
The idea with the symposium is to examine the role of information technology and executive leadership in a world of increasingly pervasive and standardized use of technology – or, to be more blunt about it, not discuss whether IT is important or not, but perhaps try to understand why the question even comes up.
Some initial questions I have posed to the presenters are:
- Can IT and IT use still provide competitive advantage?
- How is the relationship between IT and executive leadership influenced by
- Increasing standardization of the technology?
- Increasing proliferation of the technology?
- Increasing outsourcing of the technology?
- Increased consumerization and personal familiarity with the technology?
- What is the role of IT, both myth and reality, in creating actionable knowledge in organizations?
- What are the dance steps – the organizational practices and procedures necessary – to make the relationship between business and IT work proceed fluidly and elegantly?
I think this will be a very interesting discussion – and would welcome comments and questions on any of these aspects, the better to sharpen the viewpoints and backgrounds – what do you think of these issues out there? What questions and issues would you see brought up in a discussion on the relationship between IT and strategic leadership?