Category Archives: GRA6821

Does LinkedIn help or disrupt headhunters?

(I am looking for a M.Sc. student(s) to research this question for his/her/their thesis.)

The first users of LinkedIn were, as far as I can tell, headhunters (at least the first users with 500+ contacts and premium subscriptions.) It makes sense – after all, having a large network of professionals in many companies is a requirement for a headhunter, and LinkedIn certainly makes it easy not only to manage the contacts and keep in touch with them, but also allows access to each individual contact’s network. However, LinkedIn (and, of course, other services such as Facebook, Plaxo, etc.) offers its services to all, making connections visible and to a certain extent enabling anyone with a contact network and some patience to find people that might be candidates for a position.

I suspect that the evolution of the relationship between headhunters and LinkedIn is a bit like that of fixed-line telephone companies to cell phones: In the early days, they were welcomed because they extended the network and was an important source of additional traffic. Eventually, like a cuckoo’s egg, the new technology replaced the old one. Cell phones have now begun to replace fixed lines. Will LinkedIn and similar professional networks replace headhunters?

If you ask the headhunters, you will hear that finding contacts is only a small part of their value proposition – what you really pay for is the ability to find the right candidate, of making sure that this person is both competent, motivated and available, and that this kind of activity cannot be outsourced or automated via some computer network. They will grudgingly acknowledge that LinkedIn can help find candidates for lower-level and middle-management, but that for the really important positions, you will need the network, judgment and evaluative processes of a headhunting company.

On the other hand, if you has HR departments charged with finding people, they will tell you that LinkedIn and to a certain extent Facebook is the greatest thing since sliced bread when it comes to finding people quickly, to vet candidates (sometimes discovering youthful indiscretions) and to establish relationships. I have heard people enthuse over not having to use headhunters anymore.

So, the incumbents see it as a low-quality irrelevance, the users see it as a useful and cheap replacement. To me, this sounds suspiciously like a disruption in the making, especially since, in the wake of the financial crisis, companies are looking to save money and the HR departments dearly would like to provide more value for less money, since they are often marginalized in the corporation.

I would like to find out if this is the case – and am therefore looking for a student or two who would like to do their Master’s thesis on this topic, under my supervision. The research will be funded through the iAD Center for Research-based innovation. Ideally, I would want students who want to research this with a high degree of rigor (perhaps getting into network analysis tools) but I am also willing to talk to people who want to do it with more traditional research approaches – say, a combination of a questionnaire and interviews/case descriptions of how LinkedIn is used by headhunters, HR departments and candidates looking for new challenges.

So – if you are interested – please contact me via email at self@espen.com. Hope to hear from you!

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Cases of Norwegian IT

Normally when I teach technology strategy (GRA6821), a term paper is part of the course evaluation. The students typically write about some technology, a technology company, or somesuch, normally in groups of three or less.

This year, things will be a little different. I am part of a research project called A Knowledge-based Norway, where the idea is to investigate various industries in Norway in terms of their knowledge generation – and, by extension, their technology evolution. As a part of this project, we will write case studies on various companies, and that is precisely what the students will do. However, rather than having the students chose the companies themselves, we will provide a list of companies, allowing the students, in pairs, to choose a company to write about. We will, of course, entertain suggestions to which companies to have on this list. Here is a start:

Large IT service companies:

  • Accenture (evolution, role of the Norwegian organization internationally)
  • Atea (evolution, mergers, change in role over time)
  • EDB Business Partner/Ergo Group (these companies are about to merge; topics are evolution, mergers, change in role)
  • IBM Norway (evolution, role of the Norwegian organization internationally)
  • Cap Gemini (large consulting company)
  • ?

Innovative technology companies/research groups

  • FAST/Microsoft Enterprise Search division (evolution, merger, technology impact)
  • Simula Research Laboratory (strong research group sprung out of the University of Oslo)
  • Trolltech (advanced technical programming company acquired by Nokia)
  • Opera (multi-platform browser company, still independent with a growing Asian market)
  • Tandberg (videoconferencing technology company, acquired by Cisco)

Academic/research institutions

  • Institute for Informatics, University of Oslo (grossly expanded technology program, new building)
  • NTNU (Norwegian University of Natural Sciences, Trondheim) (birthplace of many companies)
  • Sintef (research arm of NTNU)
  • Norsk regnesentral
  • College university, Grimstad (cluster anchor for interesting little technology area)
  • ?

Software companies focused on the Norwegian or Nordic market

  • Powel (software company focusing on applications for the energy industry)
  • Mamut (personal/SMB company accounting and tax preparation software)
  • Visma (amalgamated vertical ERP company, successful integration story)
  • SuperOffice (sales support software)
  • ?

Large and important IT projects and IT users

  • Telenor (architecture integration project, globalization of services)
  • DNB Nor (largest Norwegian bank, competes on technology platform and services)
  • Norwegian Tax Authority (pioneer in using digital technology to make tax services easier for the individual citizen)
  • Altinn.no (innovative generalized public interaction platform)
  • ?

Interesting startups/rapidly growing companies/interesting stuff

  • Integrasco (blog sentiment analysis, built on top of Amazon’s cloud platform)
  • Meltwater (global media search company, keeping a low profile)
  • EVO Fitness (health club without visible employees – based on remote monitoring and SMS transactions)
  • QuestBack (Internet-based survey company, now expanding outside Norway)
  • ?

This list will grow as I get new ideas – suggestions are welcome! (And yes, perhaps there is an idea to have something about spectacular computer failures as well…)

GRA6821 Fall 2010 – some pointers

To anyone taking (or thinking about taking) my GRA6821 (Technology Strategy, or whatever the name is) course this fall – here are a few things that, at least at this point, are going to happen:

  • Since there will be many students at the course (about 70 so far) it has been split into two sessions. The course will be on Thursdays in classroom C2-040. The students will be split into two groups (more about that later, I am looking for a good mix of backgrounds), one of which will start at 0800, and one at 1100. The groups will alternate every week. Teaching will be case-based, meaning that you as a student have to show up, have a name card, and be in the same seat for every class.
  • For some lectures, classes may be merged (for instance, if we have a guest lecturer, the first class may start an hour later, the second an hour earlier – and the guest lecturer will not have to do the same talk twice).
  • We will have a couple of "special" classes, so far two are relatively confirmed:
    • One (tentatively scheduled for September 16th) will involve the iAD project, an advanced search technology research project hosted by FAST/Microsoft Enterprise Search. Our visitors will be a team of researchers from UCD/DCU Ireland, demonstrating video search on Apple iPads. As part of the program, students will participate as experimental users of the system.
    • The second, probably towards the end of September, will involve McKinsey, the consulting company, with discussions about consulting in a technology-rich environment. McKinsey has a global practice of "business technology" and will use expertise from that area in an excercise involving technology case analysis.
    • Possibly we will have other, similar events. And definitely some exciting guest lecturers.
  • For those of you wishing to prepare early, take a look at the previous courses arranged (last year’s here). The two main books (Information Rules and The Innovator’s Solution) are available in paper and electronic form from many sources, and a good idea might be to get at them early and read them over the summer. The other literature will be either from web sources or made electronically available via BIs new learning platform, It’s Learning (more about this later) or another platform.
  • Evaluation will, as usual, be a combination of classroom participation, smaller assignments during the course, and a final paper. New this year is the form of the final paper – this will be a case description of a Norwegian technology company, which the students can chose from a list (provided later) and written up in a specified format. These case descriptions will go in as research material for the project "A Knowledge-based Norway", preferably under the "information technology" part study. They will by students in pairs and delivered in a collaborative context, using some form of social software such as Ning, WordPress, Google Docs or Origo.

I am very much looking forward to an course that hope and think will be fun, interesting and useful both to take and teach. And until August 19th, I wish you all a very good summer!

GRA6821 Eleventh lecture: Search technology and innovation

(Friday 13th November – 0830-about 1200, room A2-075)

FAST is a Norwegian software company that was acquired by Microsoft about a year and a half ago. In this class (held with an EMBA class, we will hear presentations from people in FAST, from Accenture, and from BI. The idea is to showcase a research initiative, to learn something about search technology, and to see how a software company accesses the market in cooperation with partners.

To prepare for this meeting, it is a good idea to read up on search technology, both from a technical and business perspective. Do this by looking for literature on your own – but here are a few pointers, both to individual articles, blogs, and other resources:

Articles:

  • How search engines work: Start with Wikipedia on web search engines, go from there.
  • Brin, S. and L. Page (1998). The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine. Seventh International WWW Conference, Brisbane, Australia. (PDF). The paper that started Google.
  • Rangaswamy, A., C. L. Giles, et al. (2009). "A Strategic Perspective on Search Engines: Thought Candies for Practitioners and Researchers." Journal of Interactive Marketing 23: 49-60. (in Blackboard). Excellent overview of some strategic issues around search technology.
  • Ghemawat, S., H. Gobioff, et al. (2003). The Google File System. ACM Symposium on Operating Systems Principles, ACM. (this is medium-to-heavy-duty computer science – I don’t expect you to understand this in detail, but not the difference of this system to a normal database system: The search system is optimized towards an enormous number of queries (reads) but relatively few insertions of data (writes), as opposed to a database, which is optimized towards handling data insertion fast and well.)
  • These articles on Google and others.

Blogs

Others

Longer stuff, such as books:

  • Barroso, L. A. and U. Hölzle (2009). The Datacenter as a Computer: An Introduction to the Design of Warehouse-Scale Machines. Synthesis Lectures on Computer Architecture. M. D. Hill, Morgan & Claypool. (Excellent piece on how to design a warehouse-scale data center – i.e., how do these Google-monsters really work?)
  • Weinberger, D. (2007). Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. New York, Henry Holt and Company. Brilliant on how the availability of search changes our relationship to information.
  • Morville, P. (2005). Ambient Findability, O’Reilly. See this blog post.
  • Batelle, J. (2005). The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture. London, UK, Penguin Portfolio. See this blog post.

GRA6821 Tenth lecture: Project disasters and IT service delivery

This lecture will deal with issues that are (at least superficially) boring but eminently practical: How to avoid systems disasters, and how to deliver IT services within a company. The system disaster we will talk about is CONFIRM, an ambitious project to try to replicate the success of the SABRE reservation system in the hotel and rental car industries. In my experience, it is a real career helper to a) be able to understand when a project is beginning to acquire a whiff of disasterhood, and b) how IT services are provided inside large companies, whether you want to work there of sell your services to either the company or the IT department. The latter you can learn in two hours in a classroom or in two years in a company.

Read and be prepared to discuss:

  • "The Collapse of CONFIRM: What went wrong?", p. 534 in Laudon & Laudon: Management Information Systems, Fourth edition, Prentice-Hall, 1996
    (You might want to go back and revisit Max Hopper’s article on "Rattling SABRE", note the role of CONFIRM in it)
  • Oz, E. (1994). When Professional Standards are Lax: The CONFIRM Failure and its Lessons.Communications of the ACM, 37(10), 29-36.
  • Various other notes, see Blackboard.
  • Langewische, W. (1998). "The Lessons of ValuJet 592." Atlantic Monthly (March).
  • The Concours Group (2004): Service-centric IT (in Blackboard). A consulting report on how to organize an IT department.

Recommended literature:

  • Weill, P. and R. Woodham (2002). Don’t Just Lead, Govern: Implementing Effective IT Governance. Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT Center for Information Systems Research. Available (number 326) from CISR’s paper web page
  • Weill, P. and S. Aral (2004). IT Savvy Pays Off. Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT Center for Information Systems Research. Available (number 353) from CISR’s paper web page
  • Weill, P. and M. Broadbent (1998). Leveraging the New Infrastructure. Boston, MA, Harvard Business School Press. Good book on IT management.

Study question:

  • Looking at the CONFIRM disaster – what were the technical reasons for the failure, the organizational (management) reasons, and the strategic (business) reasons?
  • How is running an IT shop (inside an organization), an outsourcing company, and an IT consulting company different – and similar – to each other?

GRA6821 Ninth lecture: Software development

October 30, 2009, 0800-1045

(This is a temporary entry – there will be more description and perhaps more literature later….)

Creating technology is far from easy – specifically, creating software involves a number tools and techniques that are crucial to overcome the fact that systems are complicated, abstract, and involves interdependencies with many other systems. To understand this we will hear from some of the most experienced software engineers and software project managers in Norway.

image Our guest lecturers on October 30 will be Dalip Dewan, Senior Vice President of Technology, and Rune Steinberg. Both work at Visma, one of the largest software companies in Norway.

Dalip Dewan has a very interesting background, has built large systems and been responsible for the design and building of software platforms to facilitate consolidation and integration of acquired software companies under the Visma umbrella. He is an excellent speaker and a very demanding discussant – come prepared!

image With Dalip will be Rune Steinberg, a computer scientist who has collaborated with Dalip on the development of software engineering and management methods for more than 10 years.

I can promise an exciting class on how to manage software development, particularly integration of many systems, as well as real-world experience on how to manage the people that make the systems.

Read the following:

Wikipedia assignment

(The full text of this assignment can be found here)

This assignment is intended to teach you something about collaborative software – and what better way to learn that than to use it? (A side benefit may be to improve the quality and quantity of information available in the English or Norwegian version of Wikipedia.) Wikipedia is an on-line encyclopedia, written collaboratively (that is, by the readers). It uses wiki technology, and everybody can update everything. Order is maintained by common goals and common behavioral norms.

Assignment: (The following can be done in either the Norwegian or the English version of Wikipedia.) Be advised that this assignment takes time, so a good idea is to start early and work on it consistently over the time of the course.

  1. Register yourself as a user, read some of the documentation about what Wikipedia is and how it is to be used. You will find links to it on the main page. (The material in the English version is most rich here, of course.)
  2. While logged in, start editing and writing articles – anything you do will be tracked. Write on whatever you want, but make sure that you follow the intention of the Wikipedia. (The Norwegian version is probably the easiest to do this in, since many more articles there either are missing or in need of further development).
  3. Go to the course Wikipedia page (English or Norwegian version) and add yourself to the list of students, making sure you use the correct format (for an idea, see the 2005 list). (The intent here is that I should be able to click on each student, and then see what articles the student has worked on.)
  4. Write me a memo, marked with both your student number and your Wikipedia user name, and whether you used the Norwegian or English Wikipedia version. For a total of less than 600 words, answer these questions:
    1. What, if anything, surprised you the most about the Wikipedia?
    2. What uses can you see for this technology in a corporate setting? What does it take for it to be successful?
    3. For which kind of businesses and technologies can Wikis be a disruptive technology?