B01.2119 – Fundamentals of Information Technology and Electronic Commerce

Spring 2001

Quick links:

Bulletins/Lecture Notes
Additional Resources
Web site
Schedule of Topics, Readings, Deliverables
Case Analyses
Group Research Project

Major technological advances always bring with them changes to industries, companies and managerial requirements. This was true with the introduction of the steam engine, the railroads, the electric motor, the telephone, and so on. It is happening again as powerful, distributed, interconnected information systems become ubiquitous.

This course focuses on information technology and the changes it is bringing about. We will examine IT at three levels:

    1. The fundamentals of modern IT that must be understood to undertake an informed analysis of the current and future effects of IT on business.
    2. Modern applications of IT to commerce and to decision-making.
    3. The impact of modern IT on organizations, markets, and strategy.
When you finish this course, you will be able to:

Details about the instructor, secretary, and TA can be found here.

Texts and Other Resources

The required text serves two objectives. Along with additional handouts, it provides an overview of the invariant fundamentals of information technology. It also provides a roadmap of the changing technologies and their potential impact on business. Keep in mind that the road is constantly changing. Always check the course web site for references to late-breaking news.

Additional supplementary materials and cases will be distributed in class or will be made available on the additional resources page.


Your grade in this course will be based on the following components:

Activity Basis %
Written case analyses Sun case plus optionally 1 of the other 2 cases
(If you choose to do an optional writeup, your grades will be averaged.)
Individual 20
Quiz Individual 20
Final exam Individual 30
Extended research project Group 30

All of the above items will be graded on a 100-point basis. These grades ultimately will be combined using the weights specified above.

Comments on Assignments: Because of the large class size, you will not generally be getting detailed comments on each individual case. Feedback will be provided using a general list of comments for each assignment.

I will always be available during office hours or by appointment for detailed discussions of assignments (and other matters).

Deadlines: Papers are due on the dates listed on the assignment sheet and web site. They must be turned in at the beginning of the class session. If you are traveling or otherwise unable to attend class, they should be submitted in advance or by fax. You may not submit them as email attachments. (The same deadline applies). You will be penalized 10 points per day for late submissions.

Mandatory Curve: The Dean’s Office has mandated that no more than 35% of the grades in a core course be A/A-.

Web Site

This web site supports the activities in this course. It is designed to accomplish several objectives.

You can expect to find the following information on the web site. Two important points must be kept in mind. First, in an effort to be as current as possible, the web site will always be a 'work in progress.' I have consciously traded off beauty for currency. And second, if there are any discrepancies between this document and the web site, the web version dominates.


The best way to contact me is by email. When in town, I monitor it throughout the day, and also over the weekend. In order to ensure that I give your message high priority, please preface the subject line of all class-related email with: [B01.2119]. You can find my email address here.

Class Schedule, Readings and Deliverables

Topic Readings Deliverables
Introduction and Framework

Overview of the course


Rayport and Jaworski  
IT and Competitive Advantage What is the role of a firm’s IT resources in getting a competitive advantage? How sustainable is this advantage? Mata, Fuerst and Barney  
The Technology Infrastructure

Overview of the underlying software systems/technologies

What are the software systems that make up a business's IT? How are they interconnected? The reading provides some software fundamentals. In class, we will use the reading as a foundation, and discuss how systems fit together to form the information systems of a digital-age business.

O’Brien – Chapter 5  
Client/Server One of the most significant technological changes that has taken place in the last decade is the movement away from dependence on mainframes and standalone PCs, towards modular, distributed client/server architectures. Client/server architectures provide the ability to grow and adapt in a highly flexible manner.  Sun Case Case - Required

Topic Assignment Deliverables
Internet Technologies – 1 Before you can talk intelligently about the impact of the Internet, you need to understand the underlying capabilities and architecture. These fundamentals set the basis for examining a wide range of concerns, e.g., moving to wireless access, security, asking why is my e-commerce site so slow?, DSL vs. Cable modems, what data can be collected about internet visitors, etc. O’Brien – Chapter 6  
Internet Technologies – 2 Mendelson

Analysis of NYU Web Logs

Selected Uses of the Technologies

Electronic Transactions

More and more transactions are now being executed over the Internet. This holds whether one is concerned with B-C or B-B e-commerce. This carries with it a wide of concerns, from providing an appropriate technological and organizational infrastructure, to dealing with related security and privacy mechanisms.
O’Brien – Chapter 15

Topic Assignment Deliverables
Automated Analytics: Data Mining One of the by-products of electronic commerce systems is the availability of unprecedented amounts of data. Indeed, analysts have been saying that one of the key assets possessed by companies like Amazon.com may well be the vast quantity of data that they possess regarding consumer behavior. As a result, technologies for automating (partially) the analysis of these data have seen increasing maturity and popularity. Two Crows Data Mining Tutorial  
Personalization and Recommendation Applications

One of the capabilities associated with web use is the ability to adapt a web site to the needs and preferences of each individual user. Is this a technically complex process? Is it important to consider personalization when e-commerce infrastructure is designed? Or can it be added after the fact? Is this a convenience or a violation of personal privacy?

E-Commerce Recommendation Applications  

Organizational Impact

The widespread use of computer-based technologies carries with it a broad range of current and potential organizational changes. Unlike the changes that took place in the early days of computing (eliminating clerical personnel), there are indications that current and likely future changes are getting to the heart of the way that we do business.


Dell Case

Case (optional)

Quiz on technology and use

Topic Assignment Deliverables
Market Impact – 1 Electronic commerce appears to bring new forms of markets to consumers and businesses. Through the connectivity provided by the Internet, it is now feasible to sell thousands of products through auctions and other mechanisms. How significant are these changes? Are they really new? Bakos  
Market Impact – 2 An examination of what it takes to set up and undertake a B-to-B auction. FreeMarkets Case Case (optional)
The Future

Critical Trends to Track

Technology does not stand still. In this final class session, we identify technological trends that have considerable potential for business and economic impact.
Final Exam   Covers everything in the course

Group Research Project Due

Case Analyses

Everyone must read each case and come to class prepared to discuss it.

Everyone must prepare and submit written analyses of the Sun case and optionally one of the other two (Dell & FreeMarkets). Case analyses test your ability to understand a complex situation, situate it in a broadly defined business context, and analyze the implications of the situation. Cases do not have to be descriptions of something that is wrong. They can just as easily be situations raising interesting discussion points. In particular, for this class we concentrate on the Information Technology implications.

Be sure to review the company web site and other resources before preparing each case. They will almost certainly contain interesting and useful supplementary information.

Cases should be a maximum of 10 pages long. They must be in slide presentation (PowerPoint) format. Be as comprehensive as possible, within the page limit. Speaker’s notes may be used where needed to augment the presentation. Use the following outline:

Cases must be turned in at the start of class on the day on which it is due. You will lose credit for anything that is submitted after that point. (See the grading section)

Group Research Project

There are two options for satisfying the group research project. Groups (3-4 students per group) should be chosen and submitted to the instructor and TA by the fourth class meeting.

1. Select one or more topics discussed in this course and write a paper expanding upon it. You may want to deal with one topic, e.g., the browser or search engine of the future. You may also want to combine several topics, e.g., electronic transaction processing, data mining, personalization. You may also want to look at changing business models. One example is found by looking at how companies are using their web sites to make money. Not surprisingly, the earliest attempts were based on a publishing analogy, i.e., they tried to build up the volume of ‘readers’ and then sold advertising based upon apparent ‘circulation.’ The situation appears to be changing. Companies are now making (or saving) money in different ways.

2. As an alternative to the above, you can write a paper focusing on a specific technology and its likely impact. Technology is changing and it is changing the way we think about our relationship to cyberspace. Consider internet streaming video, or offerings such as those provided by TiVo. How might the ability for television viewers to view programs on demand, or to skip commercials, affect the broadcast business? More broadly, television and the Internet are clearly coming together. We increasingly see programs and commercials saying something to the effect of "for more information, visit our site." Microsoft invested in WebTV. Many predict that analog television will be replaced with digital television within five years. AOL took over Time Warner. What does this mean?

Or, consider the observation that the computer, as an isolated entity that we think about, is no longer the dominate application of high-powered microprocessors. The majority of microprocessors sold today are embedded in other devices rather than freestanding entities. This trend will continue and most of us will think about the functionality of various devices, e.g., PDA, phones, etc., rather than general-purpose desktop computers. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The changing technologies also include the use of machine learning, public key encryption, intelligent agents, and text analysis technologies.

The key point is that these technological advances are having two different types of effects. First, they are changing the way we do things we have always done, e.g., searching. Second, and more significantly, they are changing the ways in which we think about business. The combination of these two phenomena results in changes to companies, industries, and market structures.