Spring 01

Professor Lee Sproull






        Classroom: 4-60

        Class time: T-R 10-11:20


         Most up-to-date information will always be posted on the blackboard website.


        Instructor: Professor Lee Sproull

        Office: KMC 9-73

        Tel. (212) 998-0804

        Fax (212) 202-4130



        Office hours: T-R 8:30-10

                              Other days: by appointment


        Teaching Assistant: Jae Yun Moon


        TA office hours by appointment


         Technical Assistant:  Mathew Gee



        Course Secretary: Pat Kong

        Office: MEC 9-170

        Tel. (212) 998-0810





The combination of powerful technology developments and global business opportunities has led to the creation of new organizational forms and new challenges in managing them.  We call these new organizational forms, “the digital firm,” to emphasize that every aspect of the firm is touched and potentially transformed by digital processes.  This course focuses on understanding the nature of the digital firm and the key issues in organizing and managing it.  Managers of digital firms need to identify the challenges facing their firms; understand the technologies that will help them meet these challenges; design business processes to take advantage of the technologies; and create management procedures and policies to implement the required changes. By the end of this course students will understand the issues involved in creating a digital firm and in managing its processes, assets, and workforce.




            Please complete the required reading before the day it is due.  I will also provide a list of optional readings on the course blackboard site, which you may use as a starting point to pursue any of the class topics in more depth.

            Your performance will be assessed as follows:

1.  15% Reading presentation and discussion (team grade)

2.  15% Practicum presentation and discussion (team grade)

3.  15% Class participation

4.  55% Research paper


Reading presentation and discussion:  The presentation should be about 10 minutes with ample time left for Q&A and discussion. The presentation should be turned in in hard copy form at the end of the class, 3-5 pages with accompanying slides.  An electronic version should also be submitted to my digital dropbox.

Practicum: Select a contemporary situation or issue of relevance to the topic of the day, presumably from a web-based source.  Present its key components, connect it to the topic of the day and the themes of the course. The presentation should be about 10 minutes with ample time left for Q&A and discussion. The presentation should be turned in in hard copy form at the end of the class, 3-5 pages with accompanying slides.  An electronic version should also be submitted to my digital dropbox.

Class participation:   I am following the class participation guidelines created by Professor Tucci for his courses.  They seem to be clear and work well.  You are required to attend all classes. Much of the learning in this course occurs in the classroom. If you feel that you cannot attend just about every class (for example, if you have to attend interviews during class time or you have heavy job commitments), please take another class that is less based on discussion. Please note that I have a "no excuses" policy; that is, I only note whether you are in class, not why you are not there (I do allow a free

absence, though; see below). You have one free absence that you should use for EMERGENCY purposes, such as jury duty, surgery, funerals, and other such major events. You can simply send me email saying you are using your free absence and we will mark the spreadsheet as if you attended class and participated. If at the end of the semester, you have not used your free absence, you can use it for any class that you missed for any reason. You do not have to tell me before the day you miss, simply send me an email by the end of the semester.  It goes without saying that attending class is necessary but not sufficient.  You must also contribute to the discussion.

Research paper: This paper will be on a topic of your choice that reflects the course readings, themes, and your personal experience and interests.  It should be about 15 pages in length, properly formatted and documented.  It is due at the beginning of class on April 26.  Please submit both hardcopy and electronic versions.  




Section 1



What Is a Digital Firm?

Jan 16




Course intro and overview


    Venkatraman and Henderson, 1998, Real strategies for virtual organizing, Sloan Management Review.

Jan 18

Overview cont.


    Marchand, Kettinger, Rollins, 2000.  Information orientation: People, technology and the bottom line, Sloan Management Review.


Technology Building Blocks

Jan 23


Guest speaker:

    Norman White, Stern IS department

Jan 25

Guest speaker:

    Norman White, Stern IS department



Section 2



Digitally-enabled Organizational Design

Jan 30


New organizational forms


    Malone and Laubacher, 1998, The dawn of the e-lance economy, Harvard Business Review.

    Werbach, 2000, Syndication, The emerging model for business in the internet era, Harvard Business Review.

Feb 1

Communities of practice—Open source


    Moon and Sproull, 2000, Essence of decision: the case of the Linux kernel.

    Markus, Manville, & Agres, 2000, What makes a virtual organization work? Sloan Management Review, fall: 13-26.

Feb 6

Communities of practice in the firm


    Williams, & Cothrel.  2000.  Four smart ways to run online communities.  Sloan Management Review, summer: 81-91.

Feb 8

Personal networks

Guest speaker: 

    Steve Whittaker, AT&T labs


    Nardi, Whittaker, & Schwarz, It’s not what you know, it’s who you know: work in the information age,



Section 3


Feb 13

Putting It All Together


BPR, reengineering, workflow, ERP

Readings: scan the site and read one of the “industry solution” pages

    Davenport, 1998.  Putting the enterprise into the enterprise system.  Harvard Business Review, 121-131.

    Stepanek, How an intranet opened up the door to profits, BW, 2000

Feb 15


    Dell Online. HBS, 1998,  9-598-116

Feb 20


    Willcocks & Sykes.  2000.  The role of the CIO and IT function in ERP.  Communications of the ACM, 43, No. 4: 32-38.

Feb 22


    Cisco Systems, Inc.: Implementing ERP.  HBS, 1999.



Section 4



Leveraging Digital Assets

Feb 27

Data as a resource


    Levitin & Redman, 1999, Data as a resource: Properties, implications, and prescriptions, Sloan Management Review.

Mar 1

Data mining

Guest speaker:

    Vasant Dhar, Stern IS department


Mar 6

Knowledge management


    Hansen, Nohria, Tierney, 1999, What’s your strategy for managing knowledge? Harvard Business Review.

    Davenport, De Long & Beers, 1998, Successful knowledge management projects, Sloan Management Review.

Mar 8

Decision making

Guest speaker: 

    Michael Davern, Stern IS department


    Malone, 1997, Is empowerment just a fad? Control, decision making, and IT, Sloan Management Review.

Mar 12-17

NYU vacation


Protecting Digital Assets

Mar 20

Data security and protection


    How to spend a dollar on security, Computerworld,1199,NAV65-663_STO53651,00.html

    Also scan Computerworld Security Watch Community

Mar 22

Intellectual property


    Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council, 2000, The Digital Dilemma: Intellectual Property in the Information Age, executive summary.



Section 5


Mar 27

Changing Organizations and People on Internet Time



    Markus & Benjamin, 1997, The magic bullet theory in IT-enabled transformation, Sloan Management Review.

Mar 29


Ap 3

Remote Work & Distributed Teams


Remote work


    Apgar, 1998, The alternative workplace: Changing where and how people work, Harvard Business Review.

Ap 5

Distributed teams


    Jarvenpaa and Leidner, 1999, Communication and trust in global virtual teams.  Organization Science.


Workforce Issues

Ap 10

Recruiting and retention


    Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council, 2000, Building a Workforce for the Information Economy.  Read executive summary. 

Ap 12



Employee training and development

Guest speaker:

    Dan Kasura, IBM


Forbes Magazine special issue on elearning

Ap 17

Working conditions


    Skim relevant sections of Dept. of Labor report on Future Work

Ap 19

Communicating digitally

Guest speaker:

    Chris Kelly, Stern Management department



Digital Government and Digital Health Care—Important Environmental Trends for Digital Firms

Ap 24


    Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council, 2000, Networking Health: Prescriptions for the Internet.  Read chapter 1. 



Wrap up

Ap 26