Category: Technology

Upping the IT quotient: A custom program for News Corporation

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 months and 14 days ago

news media

With business units as diverse as 20th Century Fox, The Times, MyNetworkTV, National Geographic Channel, and Fox Interactive Media, News Corporation touches 70% of the world's population every day. While its vast reach and numerous holdings are a plus in terms of a successful business model, these elements make for a complex organization, along with challenging leadership responsibilities.

In an effort to assist its executives and strengthen its organizational structure, News Corporation’s then Senior Vice President and CIO Dave Benson turned to MIT Sloan for help—in particular, Peter Weill, whose book, IT Governance: How Top Performers Manage IT Decision Rights for Superior Results, Benson was reading at the time. Weill is a Senior Research Scientist at MIT Sloan and the Director of the School's Center for Information Systems Research (CISR).

Benson's ultimate goal was to enhance the company executives' skill set so that they could manage their IT operations like businesses and better align the IT activities with the company's diverse business units. Weill suggested a custom program because of MIT Sloan's research and expertise in finance, marketing, leadership development, and generating business value from IT—as well as the program's tailored curriculum and one-on-one coaching aspects. "The key to the success of this program was the combination of MIT Sloan’s reputation, a strong customized curriculum, outstanding faculty, and the ability to deliver it all without relieving people of their day jobs," says Benson.

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Price optimization: Q&A with Professor Simchi-Levi

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 3 months and 3 days ago

MIT Sloan Executive Education recently hosted the latest in its INNOVATION@WORKTM webinar series, entitled “The New Frontier in Price Optimization," with MIT Professor David Simchi-Levi. The webinar, now available on demand, which drew hundreds of attendees from across the world, presented recent breakthroughs in the development of models that combine machine learning and optimization for pricing that significantly improve revenue and reduce inventory risks

During the webinar, Simchi-Levi presented a case study on Rue La La—an online retailer with whom he worked that offers invitation-only flash sales—to answer the question: “How can we generate an effective forecast for a product we’ve never sold before?” His second example, Groupon, a daily deal website and mobile application offering things to do, see, eat, and buy, focused on how to combine forecasting with learning on the fly to understand the probability that a customer will purchase a product at a specific price. Simchi-Levi’s third case-in-point was the story of B2W Digital, the leading e-commerce company in Latin America, which took price optimization even further by leveraging forecasting, learning on the fly, and optimization.

The event included a live question and answer session and was immediately followed by a Facebook chat with the webinar audience. Recently we spoke with Professor Simch-Levi to dig deeper into the topic of pricing optimization.

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Is the tech industry overlooking half its talent pool?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 4 months and 29 days ago

There is much talk as of late over the lack of women working in and leading organizations in the technology industry. For example, a report by the American Association of University Women concluded that women made up just 26% of computing professionals in 2014, a substantially smaller proportion than 25 years ago and about the same percentage as in 1960. Women in engineering roles in the US are even less represented, making up 12% of working engineers.

Mitra Best

MIT Sloan Executive Certificate holder and U.S. Innovation Leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Mitra Best, may have said it best in her recent blog post on CIO Dashboard: "It is ironic that while technology has broken many barriers to innovation, barriers to women’s engagement are rising." Mitra recalls her time as an undergraduate in computer science in the late 80s, when approximately 30% of computer graduates were women. She had assumed at that time that we’d reach parity in 10 to 15 years and was recently disappointed to learn that, in 2015, only 18% of computer graduates in the US were women.

Unfortunately, the underrepresentation of women in tech is, for the most part, a global phenomenon. In the U.K., women represent only 17.5% of computing professionals, and only 8.2 percent of engineers. In Israel, known for its thriving tech scene, women compose only 12% of PhD graduates in engineering and only 15% of professors in STEM subjects.

There is hope. Female scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians worldwide are breaking barriers and making incredible contributions to their fields, despite the odds. Projects like The Internet of Women, an upcoming book and global community to support women in technology founded by leaders from Cisco and New York Institute of Technology, prove that there are exciting cultural shifts taking place around the globe. Some of these achievements, particularly in the Middle East and Africa, are in part driven by the UN's Sustainable Development Goals and Millennial Development Goals, which emphasize gender equality and technology education for girls, respectively.

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System Architecture, a new book by Bruce Cameron

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 11 months and 19 days ago

System Architecture

A new book, System Architecture: Strategy and Product Development for Complex Systems, by Bruce Cameron, Director of the System Architecture Lab at MIT and a Lecturer in Engineering Systems, focuses on modern complex systems and the science behind them. It is the result of 20 years of research by Cameron and his fellow co-authors Edward F. Crawley, President of the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Moscow and Daniel Selva, a Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell.

At the highest level, Cameron explains how to look at system architecture as a series of decisions that can be actively sorted and managed. Readers are provided with examples of good architectures and the modes of thinking required to analyze system architectures. The case studies presented range from building farm equipment to the International Space Station.

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Why commonality sometimes fails

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 16 days ago

Commonality, or the reuse and sharing of components, manufacturing processes, architectures, interfaces, and infrastructure across the members of a product family, is a strategy targeted at improving corporate profitability. Companies from Toyota to GE use product platform strategies to deliver more variety to their customers and compete more effectively. For example, Black and Decker uses shared motors and batteries across a range of power tools. Volkswagen models such as the Jett and TT share similar underbody components and other aspects.

Typical benefits of a commonality, or a product platform strategy, include:

  • Shared development costs
  • Common testing procedures
  • Production economies of scale
  • Amortized fixed costs
  • Reduced inventory

By definition, commonality seems like an obviously good thing. Why incur the cost of making different parts for different products if the parts do the same thing?  Because as it turns out, commonality is not always the right thing to do. And even when it is right, it can be difficult to achieve.

Dr. Bruce Cameron is a lecturer in MIT's Engineering Systems Division and a consultant on platform strategies. His research at MIT uses a healthy dose of systems thinking to tease out when commonality makes sense and how to get companies to pull it off. Cameron oversaw the MIT Commonality Study, which closely examined 30 firms over eight years. The study was the first work to uncover that many firms fail to achieve their desired commonality targets, showing weaker investment return on their platform investments. "That type of behavior and phenomenon is seen in studies that we did in automotive, consumer products, and transport," says Cameron.

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Better banking through IT innovation: A custom programs success story

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 3 months and 22 days ago

A decade ago, Commonwealth Bank of Australia--the largest retail bank on the continent--had been grappling with an IT operation that was costly, inefficient, and sometimes unreliable. Back then, the bank was determined to transform itself into an operation that was #1 in customer service with the lowest costs in class.

With that goal in mind, Michael Harte, a forward-thinking executive who joined CBA as CIO in 2006, connected with the MIT Center for Information Systems Research (CISR). (CISR develops concepts and frameworks to help executives and their organizations address IT-related challenges.) Soon after, MIT Sloan faculty and program designers from the Executive Education office collaborated to create a custom program that would help transform CBA's IT leaders from functional managers to strategic thinkers.

"We designed a program around what the bank needed to achieve in three to five years. It had three components that today's banks must have to be successful–one was effectively managing digitization or IT; second was strategy options for the company; and the third was organizational change," says Peter Weill, Senior Research Scientist and Chair of CISR. 

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Architecture: Amplify your value by thinking beyond IT!

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 3 months and 27 days ago

Contributed by Jeffrey Ton, as originally published on May 4th on the Intel IT Peer NetworkTon is the SVP of Corporate Connectivity and Chief Information Officer for Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana.


"Wait, wait, wait ... before we talk about all these projects, shouldn't we talk about our operating model? Are we really as diversified as we think?"

I couldn't believe my ears! I looked across the table at the EVP who had just spoken. He was the newest member of our IT steering team and he was talking about business operating models. I nearly jumped out of my seat! "ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE AS STRATEGY!!!! You’ve read the book!??!" To say I was stunned was an understatement. This EVP had barely shown an interest in anything to do with technology or IT. The only reason he was even added to the steering team was because the partners wanted him to take a more active role in other areas of the business, obviously grooming him for bigger and better things. He, almost sheepishly, replied, "I saw it in the airport bookstore coming back from Phoenix yesterday and bought a copy. I'm not done reading it yet, but the first few chapters sure made a lot of sense."

I know I was stammering all over myself as I explained we had used that book as the foundation for building our IT Strategic Plan two years earlier. We HAD discussed and defined our operating model, we had designed core diagram, we were progressing across the stages of Enterprise Architecture Maturity. I excitedly whipped out the core diagram and began to explain the projects we were discussing in context of the diagram. You could literally see the lights going on for him.

The book we were discussing, Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution, by Jeanne RossPeter Weill and David Robinson, has become my "bible" for guiding IT. While that discussion took place at a previous stop in my career, we used the same framework for developing the strategic plan here at Goodwill. In fact, it is the next step in our story. Last month, we discussed having a vision. Just like building a building, to turn that vision into reality you need an architect.

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Are mobile payments today's VHS / Betamax battle?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 9 months and 6 days ago

People of a certain age likely remember the battle between VHS and Betamax. These were the first two affordable in-home video tape systems, and they were completely different formats, incompatible with each other. Sony’s Betamax hit the market in 1975, but the company had previewed the product to other manufacturers the previous year. The company hoped that the other manufacturers would back their Betamax format, thus enabling competitors to develop and market compatible products to the marketplace. 

Instead, JVC developed a competing format, VHS (Video Home System)—and the home video recorder format war began. The competing platforms battled on the retail cost of the systems and on recording time. JVC licensed the technology to other manufacturers, while Sony was the sole manufacturer of Betamax until the late 1980s. Sony went from owning 100% of the market share in 1975 to just 25% of the U.S. consumer home market.

What does that history have to do with the quickly evolving world of mobile payments? In “Mobile Pay Not Yet Ready for Prime Time,” Boston Globe’s Scott Kirsner writes, “We’ve got smartphone apps and accompanying devices [for mobile payments] that work at one retail chain or a bunch—but nothing yet that’s universal.” Given that, the market is poised for another potential platform battle.

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