Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

Content and Purpose

After three decades in which information technology (IT) was viewed by most senior executives as belonging to the "back office" of accounting and hum-drum transaction processing, IT has broken out. In most executive suites today, the talk is about the Internet, electronic commerce, knowledge management, IT for business transformation, and IT governance and architecture.

It is clear that, in an increasingly competitive global world, businesses must transform themselves to be more productive, to gather and store customer and competitive information and to capture the "tacit" knowledge that employees hold in their heads. Large software packages such as SAP, Baan, i2, Siebel, and Oracle tout the potential to transform operations, supply chains, and customer relationships. A successful implementation of one of these packages can provide new or better information to an organization's decision makers, and enable global manufacturing and distribution processes. On the other hand, the critical path to business success is not the technology itself, but changing the business process and the work supported by the technology. Botched implementations can stymie product and service deliveries and prove extremely costly in at least the short term.

Firms are transforming their entire supply chain. At one end of the supply chain, companies like GE and automobile manufacturers are demanding that all their suppliers interact through the Internet. On the other end, both Internet start-up companies and more established brick-and-mortar firms are enabling customers around the world to buy from them through the Internet. Increasingly, firms are enabling customers to look into their internal systems to assess when orders will be delivered.

Industries themselves are rapidly changing form and business methods due to IT. The music industry, for example, because of is in a major transformation. New services have been created, such as grocery store delivery, on-line auctions, and Web development companies. Partnerships and alliances are forming among former competitors, like competitors in technology services or transportation, in order to provide end-to-end services to large customers.

But beneath these visible manifestations of the breakout of IT to strategic impact in firms and industries lies the IT infrastructure. Executive attention has come to focus on the investments, outsourcing options, organization and staffing of infrastructure to drive and support the transformation to digitized business. The issues become board- and top-management critical.Should we invest in networking and processing capacity ahead of applications needs, or be driven by the current business? Should we govern IT with a strong center or let the divisions have their head? Should our architecture emphasize using the Internet and external services or be more proprietary?

The purpose of this Proseminar in Information Technology and Business Transformation is to provide students with a view of IT-enabled transformation and the strategic issues in the management of IT. The seminar will bring in CIOs, CEOs, and experienced consultants and industry observers to provide their perspectives and tell their stories about the use and management of IT today. Their talks will deal with the new technology, the new applications, the issues of implementation, the changes in industries and companies, and the strategic management of IT. In addition, there will be several case discussions of issues to be decided by senior management, with students taking on the position of executives and consultants. There will also be frameworks presented and used to position all material and speakers. Finally, one session will consist of ITBT alumni discussing career opportunities and issues for students, particularly from MIT, with these interests. Students will gain a perspective of the strategic role of and issues in managing IT as manifested in e-business applications, as a driver and enabler of business transformation, and as an underlying infrastructure resource for all businesses.


There is a course reader for this class. In addition, some speakers will have pre-reading materials as preparation for their sessions. These will be distributed in class the week before the speaker is scheduled to present. Students should be prepared to respond to the speakers in the context of their assigned readings.


In the first weeks of class each student will choose three speakers to prepare questions and write reaction papers for. (If there is not an even disbursement of students to speakers, this will be done through a lottery system). These individuals will be expected to take on a more significant part of the discussion for the given speaker. Questions for the speaker should be prepared in advance of the class and reaction papers should be turned in the following class session.

  • Initial Paper (3-5 pages): An initial paper, due the beginning of the second class, shall give you the opportunity to reflect upon your own experience in the field of IT and build your own mental map of IT issues. In turn, this will give us the chance to see how knowledge, skills, and interests are distributed in the class and maybe adapt the course accordingly.
  • Prepared Questions: For each speaker that you choose you should prepare 3 thoughtful questions for the class meeting. These questions will be used to jump start the Q&A session of the presentation. Questions may come from the individuals work, written materials about the company, your own experience and the course overview, etc. Please email your question to the professor the day before the class.
  • Reaction Papers (2-3 pages): These papers should be a synthesis of your thoughts and reactions to each of the three speakers that you chose to write about. You should incorporate relevant experiences from you past or other courses when appropriate. Good papers will discuss ideas that may be controversial or not fully developed. Papers SHOULD NOT simply recount or summarize the presentation, but should refer to points made in the presentation and discussion and go beyond those points. Each paper should be handed in (hard copy) at the beginning of class the week following the talk you are writing on. After grading a selection of the papers written for each week will be sent to the speaker and his/her feedback and comments invited.
  • Final Paper (5-10 pages): A final paper, due one week after the last class, is your opportunity to synthesize the learnings of the seminar. In this context, you may choose to refer back to your initial paper and maybe advance your own mental map of IT. In addition, good papers will pick one or more of the major themes of the seminar and illustrate how two or more speakers illustrate and illuminate the theme, in terms of its importance to business success.

    Papers should be double-spaced and use 12 point font.


40% - Participation In Class Discussions
30% - 3 Reaction Papers
30% - Initial and Final Paper