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 Hope to hear from you!

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)
  • (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:


  • 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.



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?

Seeking M.Sc. students to study the Norwegian IT industry

The Norwegian School of Management is starting a large research project called "A Knowledge-based Norway" ("Et kunnskapsbasert Norge"), where the goal is to study Norwegian "knowledge hubs" – knowledge-intensive industries and how they create and distribute knowledge. The project is led by Torger Reve and Amir Sasoon, and will encompass 10 different industries.

I have been tasked with one of these industries – the Norwegian IT industry, and is therefore seeking M.Sc. students who wants to write their theses under this topic. This will involve studying individual companies (such as, for instance, EDB Business Partner, Accenture or Opera Software) or groups of companies (say, the Norwegian IT services sector, or software companies supporting the oil industry) to understand how they develop knowledge, interact with each other and their customers, evolve their markets and their services, and so on.

The upshot for students, of course, is that they get to learn something that is very relevant both from a research and a practical (read: career) perspective. The study starts these days and will finish in about two years, which will make it ideal for M.Sc. students starting their thesis work this or (to a lesser extent) next Fall.

Please contact me at if you are interested.

GRA6821 Eight lecture: Disruptive technologies

(October 23, 2009, 0800-1045, C2-040)

Disruptive technologies (later changed to disruptive innovations) has become something of a buzzword – you can hardly hear of a new technology or service that isn’t branded as disruptive these days, especially if it also makes use of other spiffy technologies and concepts such as cloud computing and Web 2.0.

In this lecture, we will look into the practicalities of disruptive innovation, in the context of a case of a company – Sonosite, which produces a technology that can be brought to market in several different ways – each with its own set of possibilities and difficulties. Technology strategy can be simple in theory and very hard to do in practice, as you will see when you read and analyze the case.

On a more administrative note – this is the date when I expect you to start thinking, in writing, about your term project and the paper it is supposed to result in. I have made available a Google document where you can write in your suggested term paper topic and group – and make comments on your colleagues’ efforts. Please edit this document before 2000 on October 22.

Please read and be prepared to discuss:

  • Chapter 7 (versioning) in Shapiro and Varian
  • Utterback, J. M. (1994). “Chapter 7: Invasion of a stable business by radical innovation” Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation. Boston, MA, Harvard Business School Press.
  • Most of the Christensen & Raynor book
  • Clayton M. Christensen, Stephen P. Kaufman, and Willy C. Shih: Innovation Killers: How Financial Tools Destroy Your Capacity to Do New Things, Harvard Business Review, January 2008
  • Case: Sonosite: A View Inside

Recommended literature:

  • The whole of Utterback’s book
  • Watch this video from MIT, seeing Clayton Christensen teaching live.

GRA6821 Seventh lecture: IT economics – and meeting Microsoft

(October 16, 0800-1045, C2-040)

The seventh lecture will be in two parts. One is a discussion of IT economics, with an assignment to be handed in. The second is a guest lecture and discussion by a senior manager from Microsoft Norway.

First part: IT economics

The relationship between information technology and economics – specifically productivity – is tricky. While most executives and all IT companies will agree that investing in information technology is a smart move, just how much you should invest and what the effect of the investment is is a bone of contention. We will explore these questions through analyzing some data from a well known IT practitioner magazine, and compare what they say with the academic literature. Key here is an analytical assignment which is to be handed in before class.

Read and be prepared to discuss:

  • Hitt, L., & Brynjolfsson, E. (1996). Productivity, Business Profitability, and Consumer Surplus: Three Different Measures of Information Technology Value. MIS Quarterly, 20(2), 121-142. (In Blackboard)
  • The InformationWEEK 500, InformationWEEK, September 1995. (This is for the assignment, and we will discuss this in detail. A tip for the analysis: Focus on the numbers, both those for each industry and those for  (or spreadsheet) to compare across industries. And do remember that the individual technologies discussed in the articles is rather old by now (not that technology optimism has changed in any way….)

Study questions:

  1. What are Hitt & Brynjolfsson’s three measures of information technology profitability — and their conclusions about them?
  2. How do you justify spending money on general technology, such as desktop computers and Internet bandwidth? How should you structure the spending?


(to be delivered into Blackboard no later than October 15, 2009, at 2000):
Answer the following question:

  • Imagine you are a CEO worrying about whether you are spending too much or not enough on information technology. How would the InformationWEEK 500 numbers help you?

For the analysis, here is an Excel worksheet with the numbers. Download the file to your own computer, then analyze it there using Excel or any other software you would want. Note that the numbers and stories are from 1995, so focus on the numbers rather than the technical discussion (though you might note that the language, attitudes and numbers are not very different from what they would be today.) Also note that I will apply the two page maximum limit ruthlessly – that means two pages, nothing more, anything more than that will not even be looked at.

image Second part: Microsoft’s view of the future – a discussion with Petter Merok.

Petter Merok is Director of technology and responsible for business development at Microsoft Norway,. He is also central participant in many ongoing discussions about the future of technology use and development in Norway. He will lead an informal discussion about how Microsoft sees the future – both in business and technology terms.

Please read and be ready to discuss:

  • Sherman, S. P. (1984). "Microsoft’s drive to dominate software." Fortune (January 23): 82-90. (this was assigned to the first class as well)
  • Andersen, E. (2004). Has the Microsoft of Today Become the IBM of the Late ’80s? Ubiquity, Volume 5, Issue 22. Gotta have one of my own in there…
  • Romano, B.J. (2008). "Gates’ big-picture memos", Seattle Times. Gives an idea about changes in strategy in Microsoft, over time.
  • Ray Ozzie, 2008: "Services Strategy Update". Another semi-internal memo giving important indications of Microsoft’s strategic direction.

(For a list of all the classes, see here.)

GRA6821 Sixth lecture: Outsourcing and offshoring

(October 9, 2009, 0800-1045, C2-040)

Outsourcing becomes a more and more common way of providing administrative services, such as IT, HR, accounting and customer services (call centers). In this discussion, we will take a look at outsourcing as a phenomenon and try to understand some of the challenges and possibilities it offers, both for the company outsourcing the work and for the company taking it on.

Please study and be prepared to discuss:

  • Case: Hostile IS outsourcing: The story of ManuFact (We will start by discussing this case.)
  • DiRomualdo, A. and V. Gurbaxani (1998). "Strategic Intent for IT Outsourcing." Sloan Management Review 39(4): 67-80 (Blackboard)
  • Dignan, L. (2003). "Leaping, then looking." Baseline (September): 17-29.  Short discussion of the economic and competitive implications of "offshoring" and the gradual emergence of a global job market for technology worker. (Blackboard)
  • This great article from Wired (written by the indomitable Dan Pink) on various sides of outsourcing to India.
  • Andersen, E. (2002). "Stamp Out Technology Virginity!" ACM Ubiquity 3(30).

Study questions

  • If you are going to pick just one person (or entity), who is responsible for the Manufact situation?
  • Should John take Jim’s offer, and if so, on what terms?
  • Why do organizations outsource? How has their intent changed over time? How does this change the outsourcing industry?

Guest lecture

Carl Christian Malm, Responsible for applications outsourcing at Accenture Norway, will give a presentation on Accenture’s work in outsourcing, focusing on the day-to-day details – how do you recognize customer demand, shape the contract, do the work, handle problems, and so on.

GRA6821 Fifth lecture: Technology in value networks

(Update: Moved to October 2nd. Note assignment)

In this lecture, we will continue to investigate value networks and how technology plays a part in establishing a company that mediates between customers – be it a telephone company or a Facebook, a bank or Craigslist.

Please read and be prepared to discuss:

Further reading (for the specially interested):

  • Benkler, Y. (2006). The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. New Haven, Yale University Press. Available as a wiki at
  • Shirky, C. (2009). Here comes everybody.

Study questions to aid your preparation:

  1. What is the ownership structure of Schibsted – and what are the implications of it – for the strategic outlook?
  2. Visit Google News – is this type of service a threat to Schibsted? Why or why not?
  3. How does Google’s business model differ from Schibsted’s?
  4. What implications do the last statement – about the cathedral or stock market approach – have for Schibsted’s future?

Assignment 2, to be handed in in Blackboard before October 1 at 2000:

Write a short memo to Kjell Aamot and explain to him why he should (or should not) allow the other parts of Schibsted (such as Sesam) crawl’s ads. Maximum 400 words, use of theory and good examples important. NOTE: Please limit the discussion to things that are in the case, and at the time of the case. Things have changed at Schibsted later – but that discussion we will take in class.

I am looking forward to a lively discussion and interesting assignments.

(For a list of all the classes, see here.)

GRA6821: Fourth lecture: Technology in value networks, with an emphasis on airlines

(We’ll met on September 18.) Value networks – companies that create value by mediating between customers (or, in the case of airlines, locations) constitutes a large and increasing portion of the economy. In this lecture, we will discuss how value is created in value network, exploring concepts such as network externalities, service complementaries, as well as look at how coordinating technology has changed business models, strategies and processes over time.

This theme is important, and can be hard to understand. We will explore it over two lectures, the first one taking a historical approach, focusing on the US and world airline industry. Next week will will look at telecommunications (mobile telephony) and marketspaces.

You may ask: What has the story of the US airline industry got to do with technology strategy in the early 2000s? I think you will be surprised, but here are a few hints: The US airline industry was deregulated in 1980, technology (both IT and management of the underlying flying technology) has played a visible and very important part, and the industry continues to undergo radical changes and be one of the most challenging industries to strategize in.

So, please read and be prepared to discuss:

  • Copeland, D. G. and J. L. McKenney (1988). "Airline Reservations Systems: Lessons from History." MIS Quarterly (September): 353-370. (Heavy article, focus on the start of SABRE vs. JICRS story, and the relevance of that for today.
  • Davis, P. (1994). "Airline Ties Profitability Yield to Management." SIAM News 27(5).
  • Short article by E. Andersen on transportation industry informational characteristics.
  • Hopper, M. D. (1990). "Rattling SABRE–New Ways to Compete on Information." Harvard Business Review (May-June): 118-125.
  • Binggeli, U. and L. Pompeo (2002). "Hyped hopes for Europe’s low-cost airlines." McKinsey Quarterly (4). (Available through Business Source Complete)

Further reading (for the specially interested, but this is interesting stuff):

  • Smith, B. C., J. F. Leimkuhler, et al. (1992). "Yield Management at American Airlines." Interfaces 22(1): 8-31
  • The whole Copeland/McKenney article


  1. What are the important competitive dimensions in an airline? What do the customers want?
  2. How has American Airlines’ use of information technology helped the company?
  3. What is yield management and how is it done? How important is it?
  4. What are the competitive advantages of dominating the user interface, as American and United did with SABRE and Apollo in the 70s/80s?
  5. In 1993, Robert Crandall, CEO of American, said that if he had to sell a part of American, he would rather sell the airline than the computer systems? Why would he say that – and would it be the right choice?

Happy flying!

(For a list of all the classes, see here.)

GRA6821: Third lecture: Technology in Chains, Shops and Networks

In this class (on September 11), we first discuss the (probably by now very well known) value configuration framework, and then spend some time on Dell Computer and how this company has used technology and process design to support a very successful business model. We will also, briefly, look at

Please read and be prepared to discuss:

  • Porter, M. E., & Millar, V. E. (1985). How information gives you competitive advantage. Harvard Business Review (July-August), 149-160. (Classic, everyone should have read this already.)
  • Keri Pearlson and Raymond Yeh (1999): Dell Computer Corporation: A Zero-Time Organization. UTexas Austin.
  • Christensen, C. M., M. Raynor, et al. (2001). "Skate to Where the Money Will Be." Harvard Business Review (November): 73-81.
  • Tom Friedman: "How a Dell computer is built", excerpt from his book The World is Flat (2004). Read my notes on the book here, and a critique here.
  • Check out Dell Corporation’s home page and anything else you can find on Dell and its competitors.
  • Read this article from the Economist about how seeks to evolve its business.

Further reading (for the specially interested, or for those unfamiliar with the chain-shop-network framework):

  • Stabell, C. B. and Ø. D. Fjeldstad (1998). "Configuring Value for Competitive Advantage: On Chains, Shops and Networks." Strategic Management Journal 19: 413-437. Academic article that defined the framework.
  • Fjeldstad, Ø. and E. Andersen (2003). "Casting off the chains: Value shops and value networks." European Business Forum(14): 47-53. Practitioner-oriented article that gives more detail on the managerial implications.
  • Venkatraman, N. (1994). "IT-enabled Business Transformation: From Automation to Business Scope Definition." Sloan Management Review (Winter): 73-86. Integration of the value chain – five stages of change as a result of IT.
  • Andersen, E (2004): Driving Business Integration, Concours Group Re.sults report


  • How does the evolution in coordination capability change the value chain? The value shop? The value network?
  • Is Dell a chain, a shop or a network?
  • What does "Skate to where the money will be" mean?
  • Dell’s direct model has been very successful – why hasn’t this model been widely used in other industries? Can you find examples of other industries where some company has followed Dell’s strategy?

GRA6821: Second lecture, on media in a digital world

image In the next Friday’s class we will discuss the future of media, specifically television, with Eirik Solheim (Twitter: eirikso), one of the people behind NRKBeta and an innovator and authority on digital media and media distribution models. Eirik will speak on the following two topics:

Part 1: How the Internet transforms media

Traditional broadcasting and publishing are mostly built on one way communication. How is democratization of production and distribution transforming the industry? More people produce. More people reach out. What are the major changes for traditional journalism and communication? Mr. Solheim will draw the overall strategic picture and show interesting case studies.

Part 2: How the Internet transforms marketing

You don’t have to rely on big media to reach your customers. And you can’t control what the customers are saying about your brand. What are the opportunities and how about the threats? Companies are experimenting. Failing and succeeding. We’ll go through the most important differences and have a look at some great examples of good and bad modern marketing.

In addition, Eirik is an expert on digital imaging and photography and is willing to share some of that knowledge – should there be time.

To prepare for this lecture, please do the following:

  • read chapters 4, 5 and 6 in Shapiro and Varian
  • see and listen to Ed Felten‘s lecture "Rip, Mix, Burn, Sue: Technology, Politics, and the Fight to Control Digital Media" (go to Princeton University’s lecture page, do a local search for "Felten"). Pay attention not just to his speech, but the little story told in the beginning about what happened to him when he wanted to talk about his research.
  • Check out Cory Doctorow’s talk about copyright, May 2005 (held at Norwegian School of Management. Notice the ability to speak for an hour with no slides and no manuscript. There is also video of the discussion afterwards, which was just as fun.)

Be prepared to discuss:

  • how does the electronically distributable audio and video change the playing field for music, TV, radio and movie companies?
  • what should they do about it?
  • how does it change the world for artists?
  • what should they do about it?

Messy works magically

Craigslist is a mess that is currently taking the mickey out of eBay and irritating Google, according to a fun article in Wired. I am not surprised. The value of a meeting place is not what happens there, but who is there – and by minimizing controls and keeping most transactions face-to-face, Cragslist is eeking out the value from the network with minimal investment and a business model that really isn’t a business model.

As for the messy design, well, it is quick, and you learn very fast where to click to get what you want.

The funny thing is that in Norway, the most popular website by far is, the online version of the biggest tabloid paper – or, rather, an online paper that shares the name, but not must else, with VG, the paper paper. The online version has its own editorial office and their design is evolved, evolving, and the perennial joke with web designers for its busy organization and ratty typeface. They would love to replace it with something akin to Aftenposten or New York Times, where order, quality and completeness reigns. VGnett would beg to offer – they know the use patterns of their audience and serve it, messy or not.

Network externalities in plain view, in other words.

GRA6821/GRA6825: First, introductory lecture

In the first lecture, we will discuss what technology is, how it evolves, and what it means to have a technology strategy. For the first lecture, please read and be ready to discuss the following articles (articles in Blackboard unless otherwise noted):

For those who want to plow a bit deeper, read Neal Stephenson’s brilliant essay In the beginning…was the command line and see this video. Actually, try to do that, all of you.

Here are a few questions to get you thinking:

  1. What are Malone & Rockart’s key arguments? To what extent were they right about how information technology would influence corporations? What did they get wrong?
  2. Which parts of Microsoft’s strategy worked — and which didn’t? Imagine you were an interested technology investor in January 1984: Would you have invested in Microsoft based on this article and the company’s strategy?
  3. Why is technology understanding important for general managers? Why is it not?  How much do you need to know about technology to manage a technology-based organization?
  4. What does it mean when we use the term "an information economy"?
  5. (for those diving into Stephenson) Which technologies are currently in the technosphere, which are on their way out, which are coming in? How would you know where a technology is?

And here are two assignments I would like to you do before class starts:

  1. Visit this page, and set yourself up for the Wikipedia assignment, which will go throughout the course.
  2. Sign up for Twitter, follow @espenandersen, and look out for #gra6821 (and maybe #gra6825)

Stringing those dimensions together…

This video tries to do something very difficult: Explain dimensions beyond the four we are used to. And does a good job of it.

(And to my students – watch this video after having read Neal Stephenson’s In the beginning was … the command line, as an introduction to the course on technology strategy.)

(Via Cory)