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«The Marshall School of Business University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA 90089-0808 MOR561 Strategies in High Technology Businesses Fall, ...»

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Revised: 8/18/2007

The Marshall School of Business

University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA 90089-0808


Strategies in High Technology Businesses

Fall, 2007

Professor Philip H.B. More

714 Hoffman Hall

USC Office: 213-740-0728

USC Direct Line: 213-740-0744

USC Fax: 213-740-3582

Home Office: 310-791-1279

Home Fax: 310-791-0054

E-mail: phbmore@marshall.usc.edu

Course Overview

Why are some firms more successful in exploiting product or process technology than others

are? How can general managers who are not technologists or who are currently not up to date with their technology compete with, build competencies in, or make resource allocation decisions for technologies that they do not understand? How well do traditional general management approaches such as value-based management or market research work in technical organizations engaged in global competition? How can general managers build and retain technical competencies during tough economic times? How can general managers avoid ethical and legal problems in dealing with new and uncertain technologies? These and similar questions pose special concerns for general managers in technically based organizations and are some of the issues addressed in this course.

This course is intended to help Marshall MBA graduates prepare to lead their firms in exploiting the competitive potential of technology, regardless of the industry they enter or the functional specialization they pursue, by examining the central issues in the strategic management of technology. The course is organized into three modules that begin with developing internal core technological competencies and then proceeds to accessing the technological competencies of others, and finally the unique aspects of developing and executing technology based strategies within the larger social context.

Course Structure

The three interlocking modules are organized within the 15 weeks of the course as follows:

Week 1: Introduction/Formulating Technology Strategy During the first half of the first session, we survey the overall course framework and requirements. The second half of the first session covers a discussion of the case of Polaroid’s entry into digital imaging. This case provides a vehicle for introducing many of the topics we will cover in greater depth throughout the course such as developing internal technical competencies, leveraging the capabilities of others, competing with technology, and leading technical organizations.

Weeks2 - 7: Module I – Creating Value This module deals with how technological competencies are developed internally and through alliances, how firms take advantage of radical and incremental technological change, and how to link innovation to strategy. We use the Sharp-Xerox OEM alliance to explore how firms develop and maintain long-term relationships in the threat of global competition. Next we examine how Chaparral Steel develops and sustains its technological leadership in mini-mill steel production.

Then we examine how firms try to use disruptive technology to enter new industries and how incumbents respond in the small camera and electronic equipment test industries. Finally, in the Corning case we examine how firms improve their product development speed.

Week 8 During Week 8 we have a mid-term exam for those who choose to take the exam rather than the term project option (see later discussion in this syllabus) and the information on the format and evaluation criteria posted in Blackboard.

Weeks 9 - 12: Module II – Capturing Value This module deals with protecting intellectual property through both legal means such as patents and non-legal means such as erecting barriers to imitation. We examine issues of how firms try to retain their intellectual property in semiconductors with the Rambus case and cellular telecommunications with QUALCOM. Finally, we examine how firms capture value with design with the BMW AG: Digital Car case and a field trip (date TBD) to BMWDesignworks.

Weeks 13 – 15: Module III – Delivering Value This module focuses on deploying strategy through internal diversification. We focus on comprehensive or synoptic diversification and incremental diversification in the satellite communication industry with Iridium and Space Data.

Course Requirements Materials The course packet contains the cases and some of the supplementary readings and is noted as “Readings” in the assignments. The remaining readings are contained in, Managing Strategic Innovation and Change, 2nd Edition, by Tushman and Anderson and is noted as “Book” in the assignments. Both the readings package and the book are available through the University Bookstore.


There are three graded components of the course:

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Retention of Graded Work: In accordance with the Marshall Instructional Guide and Procedures Handbook, Fall 1997, “returned paperwork, unclaimed by a student, will be discarded after 4 weeks and, hence, will not be available should a grade appeal be pursued by a student following receipt of his/her final grade.”

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In a case-based course preparation and participation are critical. Consequently, 10% of your grade will depend on these elements, which are evaluated in two ways.

First, your voluntary participation in class sessions is of signal importance. As usual, quantity without quality is meaningless; the fundamental criterion is the extent to which your contributions advance the learning of all. Outstanding students display mastery of cases and readings, provide original and penetrating insight into the class of problems they represent, and are able in real-time to build upon and link the contributions of their classmates to the current discussion and the cumulative learning from the course. Appendix A is attached which lists participation behaviors and the range of scores associated with each. I will ask that after the first session that you sit in the same seat and bring and be certain that your name card is readable from the front of the class.

Second, you will be asked to designate two case sessions during which you will assume specific responsibility for stimulating the discussion. You will be asked to read any written analyses of the case prepared by your classmates and sent to you the day before the session and prepare to compare and contrast your views with theirs during the class discussion. You will need to e-mail me your individual choices by Monday of the second week of classes.

Written analysis of case

30% of your grade will depend on three written analyses of cases (WAC). For every case, you will be asked to articulate a framework that describes your general approach to a class of problems, and then applies your insights to the specific case. Because analytical frameworks are so central to this class, a note on frameworks is assigned for the first session. WACs may not exceed six double-spaced typewritten pages, excluding figures and references.

WAC’s are to be prepared by your study group. You will be asked at the beginning of the term to form yourselves into case study groups of anywhere between one and four members. Study groups are expected to remain together the entire term; movement among groups will be permitted only in extraordinary circumstances.

Your study group may choose the sessions for which you wish to submit these case write-ups on a first-come, first-served basis. Once the class enrollment is set, students will be allowed to sign up for any of the case 1 sessions as long as openings remain available. Minimums of two groups are required for each of the 12 sessions for which WAC’s are available before additional teams may sign-up. The maximum will vary by the total number of students enrolled (e.g., 20 students there will be a maximum of two WAC’s for any case. The later you sign up for your WAC, the

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fewer choices will remain open to you. These WACs must be e-mailed to me and to the individuals with session discussion responsibility (see discussion above) by 12 p.m. the day before the session being analyzed. Late WAC's will be downgraded by one grade.

At the end of the term you will be asked to complete a peer evaluation of your study group members to avoid the problem of free-riders (Appendix C).

For the other 60% of your grade, you may choose between a term project or a mid-term and final examination.

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This is a paper relating an aspect of the course to a practical managerial problem. You may choose to write a paper alone or as part of a group of no more than three; no person can belong to more than one term project group. If you select this option, the names of group members must be submitted at the end of session 8. This selection is irrevocable, so ensure that every member of the group is comfortable with the contributions each member is expected to make.

You can undertake one of two types of projects. One is a field project, essentially a consulting assignment that applies know-how developed in this course to a real-time problem faced by an actual manager. I will be happy to work with you to identify your interests and help you find companies within an easy drive of Los Angeles that might be suitable candidates. Alternatively, you may wish to develop your own field site; if so, I will provide help gaining access to the site if requested. There are only two restrictions on the field site: 1) you may not rehash your summer jobs (although you may take on an entirely new project for people you worked with during the summer); 2) I must approve the project proposal before it is finalized. Please consult with me before approaching a potential field site, to ensure that the project you have in mind falls within the domain of the course. If you choose a field project, you must produce a signed agreement between you and a specific client at the field site specifying what you are to deliver to him/her (usually a report) and the deadline by which you will deliver it, which must fall before the end of the term. The client’s written evaluation of your work is one of the factors that will contribute to your grade. If you choose this option, you will need to produce the report, a VHS videotape of your presentation to the client, and ask them to fax their evaluation of your performance NLT Friday, November 30th.

Alternatively, you may develop a case using library sources and field interviews. Such a case should be suitable for use in this elective, either as a substitute for one of this term’s cases, or as a problem that cuts across and integrates several of the topics we address this term, or as an analysis that builds insights into areas related to this course but which we do not explicitly address this term. Please consult with me before finalizing your topic to ensure that the project you have in mind falls within the domain of the course. Again, I will help you gain access for field interviews (by phone or visit) if requested. Your case should include a separate analysis, which highlights the lessons you would draw from it. Should you write a case, you need written permission from each person you interview to attribute quotations to them; they must understand that your case will become property of the Marshall School and may be distributed publicly.

If you choose the term project option, please confirm the topic with me by the end of session 6.

If you are doing a field project, you must have a signed agreement (Appendix B) with the client at that time.

Papers are due by 12 p.m., Friday, November 30th; and should be submitted through Blackboard’s Turnitin feature (see below). Late submissions will be marked down one letter grade.

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You may elect to take a mid-term and a final examination instead of undertaking a term project.

These will be in-class examinations based on a case with supplemental essay questions covering course materials. The entire examination is open-note, open-book but your answers are expected to be your effort and not that of any others. You may use any aids you wish (e.g. calculator, computer) but the exam must be prepared on a computer and submitted through the Turnitin system of Blackboard (see below). Both the mid-term and final are two part exams. The first part will ask you to submit your personal framework for integrating the course material (see the article on frameworks for the first session). The second part of the exam will ask you to apply this framework in answering a set of questions based on a representative case distributed a week before the exam. You may take the exam remotely by signing up beforehand or taking the exam in class. In either case, you should submit your answers in electronic form through Blackboard’s Turnitin system.

The remote exam procedure is for you to take the exam at the same time and date as the scheduled exam (regardless of your location and time-zone) by first sending me an e-mail message that you are on-line and standing by a few minutes before the scheduled start of the exam. After first passing out the exams to those physically present in the classroom, I will send you the questions electronically by attaching them to your e-mail message. You will then have the same time as those students who are physically present in the classroom for the exam.

In considering whether or not to do a term project or the examination option here are several features of each to consider. The examination option will provide you with more concrete feedback earlier in the course than the term project. Therefore, if you are concerned about receiving timely feedback on how well you are doing, you should choose the examination rather than the term project option. For example, those choosing the term project option will only know how they scored on 30% (3 WAC’s) of the course until the course is over while those choosing the examination option will know how they scored on 50% of the course before it is over. However, unless everyone chooses the examination option, it will not be possible to know how you compare to the rest of the class for grading purposes because some of you will have 30% of your total points while others will have 50% (3 WAC’s + Mid-Term) before the final exam or project is due.

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