NBA 600 Strategic Role of Information Technology
Fall 2007
Johnson School, Cornell University


Professor: Dan Huttenlocher
Office: 346 Sage

Brief overview:

This course addresses how Information Technology (IT) – particularly the Internet and the Web – can be used to gain or maintain strategic competitive advantage.  We focus on when IT is strategic versus being a necessary cost of business, across a range of different industries.  Our strategic analysis is at both the firm and industry levels.  A particularly rich set of examples are in the digital goods industries such as music, video, books and periodicals which are undergoing large technology-driven shifts in the competitive landscape.  We consider both historical developments in these areas, where the outcome is clear, as well as current ongoing trends.

Course Syllabus:

1. Oct 15

Intro and course overview, Fedex and strategic use of IT


2. Oct 17

When is IT strategic?

Nicholas Carr, IT Doesn't Matter, Harvard Business Review, May 2003, summarized in HBS Working Knowledge,

Metcalfe article in response to Carr, MIT Technology Review,

3. Oct 22

The Internet and the Economics of Networks

Legg Mason research note,

4. Oct 24

Internet and Strategy

HBS Working Knowledge summary of “Strategy and the Internet”, Michael Porter, Apr 2001,

Fast Company review article by Keith Hammonds on Porter’s “Strategy and the Internet”, Feb 2001 -

Rethinking Strategy in a Networked World (or Why Michael Porter is Wrong about the Internet), Strategy+Business, Third Quarter 2001, Don Tapscott,

5. Oct 29

Digital Goods

How Encyclopedia Britannica Was Blown To Bits

Versioning Information, Chapter 3 in Varian and Shapiro “Information Rules”, 1999.

6. Oct 31

Digital Music and Video

The Recording Industry is Trying to Kill the Goose That Lays the Golden Egg

Taste Sharing, Gartner/Harvard Law, December, 2005,

YouTube Finds Signing Rights Deals Complex, WSJ Nov 2006,

7. Nov 5

Digital Rights Management (DRM) and Darknets

The DRM Debate,

The Darknet and the Future of Content Distribution, Biddle et. al. 2002 ACM Workshop on Digital Rights Management,

8. Nov 7

Online Retail: “Bringing Customers Inside” and “Long Tail”

Amazon Business week article

The Long Tail, Chris Anderson, Wired, October 2004,

9. Nov 12

Search, Keyword Ads and Beyond Google

Google AdWords, Lesson 1a and Lesson 1c

Technology Review, “Beyond Google: Collective Searching”, Mach 2006,,258,p1.html

10. Nov 14

Online Communities and Social Networking

MySpace, Facebook and Other Social Networking Sites, Knowledge@Wharton, May2006,

In Facebook, Investing in a Theory, NYT, Oct 2007,

11. Nov 19

IPxx and Digital Communication

Time Warner VOIP Growth Slows

Cellphone Straitjacket is Inspiring a Rebellion

12. Nov 26

Open Source

Goldman Sachs report, “Fear the Penguin”