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Curriculum Update: Redesign of Management of Technology Core Course

With the conclusion of the fall 2007 term come early reviews of the redesigned Management of Technology course at the Executive Masters for Technology Management (EMTM) program — and, so far, these reviews have been positive.

Over the summer, the Management of Technology course was redesigned to incorporate multiple instructors — Penn Engineering faculty member Tom Cassel, and Wharton management faculty David Hsu, Mary Benner, Saikat Chaudhuri, and Alex Van Putten — all of whom are experts in their respective fields. These faculty members focused on innovation, organizational structure, finance, mergers and acquisitions, and the evolution of technology markets. These multiple threads were then tied together by course instructor Rob Weber, a senior fellow in Penn's Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology. The primary goal: Shed light on the process of managing new technology innovation.

"The idea for the course was to provide an overview of managing technological innovation. If we could provide some real depth in key areas via experts, and then an overview through the coordinator and textbook, we'd have the best of both worlds," says Weber. "Technology innovation management is about bringing together tactics of technology management, strategic development and organizational requirements."

Dwight Jaggard, professor of electrical engineering and systems engineering at the University of Pennsylvania and director of EMTM, helped design the course with Weber through the advice of colleagues in Penn Engineering and the Wharton School. "We needed a number of people with areas of specific expertise and passion, as opposed to the single-instructor model, and a course coordinator who could then weave together the various topics," says Jaggard. "We wanted to examine key elements from pricing risk to organizational issues to intellectual property and entrepreneurship."

Weber says technology management encompasses three core components:

  • Technology: What factors drive technological innovation? The course's goal was to help students understand the dynamics of technology and how it is created, developed and nurtured. The course didn't delve into one specific area like nanotechnology or computer science, but examined the factors that feed into taking a technology to market.
  • Strategy: Weber says the course's strategy elements zeroed in on how to find or develop new ideas, evaluate them and then determine return on investment. Another key area is mergers and acquisitions: Should a company look to develop technology internally or acquire it from another party?
  • Organization: The best technology and strategy won't go far if a company isn't organized to execute on its plans. Weber says companies need to map their organization against goals and then execute. Weber acknowledges that these steps sound simplistic, but, "it's surprising how few companies do this well."

Students generally agreed that the intersection among technology, strategy and organization is an important one no matter what the company size or sector. Students also noted that the course, which touched on various topics, provided a good overview that helped them in their day-to-day professions.

Here's a look at three students and their impressions of the new course.

Christian Stein, principal of SFM Energy, a Shell oil distributor, and Pit Stop Express, a chain of convenience stores and gas stations, in Pittsburgh.

Overall impression of the class: "There's no waste in the course and it's informative without being too technical," says Stein. "There's very little that I can't use."

Most valuable aspect of the course: Stein says Van Putten's lecture on real options evaluation was particularly helpful. Van Putten discussed the concept of real options — an evaluation strategy that looks at technology investments, risks and potential returns. Overall, Van Putten discussed how to evaluate pricing options and decide whether it makes sense to stick with them.

How the course impacts his profession: Stein says the course was helpful because it didn't focus on any one technology or aspect of management — a characteristic that mirrors his role managing 30 different locations among his businesses. In addition, Stein says he has to know technology management to squeeze efficiencies out of his operations and be able to talk about key information systems such as point-of-sale kiosks and software. "Technology is important and there's a pretty big technology component to what we do," explains Stein. "To me it's all about dollars and cents because I'm trying to get efficiencies."

Garth Jenkins, vice president business development, Ventis Partners, a Boston-based firm that conducts technology due diligence for alternative investment funds.

Overall impression of the class: "I thought the class was relevant," says Jenkins. "The professors are combining organizational structure, the technology lifecycle and methodology of financing and how they intersect to commercialize a technology."

Most valuable aspect of the course: Jenkins said Van Putten's talk on real options and Chaudhuri's look at leveraging external sources of innovation were very informative. "The work they are doing is leading edge. It's a new field and a way to look at historical data," says Jenkins.

How the course impacts his profession: The course provided some theory and case study examples that Jenkins can use every day at Ventis. "At Ventis we play in this space every day putting money into leading technology. The biggest factor is whether the technology is useful and whether the team is a winning combination," says Jenkins. "The material the professors cover in the course and the tools they provide are all utilized in private equity."

Maren Cattonar, manager of technology strategy at Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems division.

Overall impression of the class: "From my perspective, it was not a vanilla class. There were a variety of flavors that gave students an introduction to an array of topics, new terminology and exposure to different professors. Every professor had a different viewpoint with different lessons learned."

Most valuable aspect of the course: Cattonar says Chaudhuri's talk on acquisitions was helpful to her current position, which consists of strategically examining new technologies and partnerships for her sector. Cattonar also adds that Thomas Cassel, director of the Engineering Entrepreneurial program at the University of Pennsylvania, gave an informative talk on innovation and entrepreneurship. In his lecture, Cassel examined the history of Hewlett-Packard and Palm Computing.

How the course impacts his profession: "The class on mergers and acquisitions and leveraging external sources of innovation were most relevant to what I do on a daily basis," says Cattonar. "But the main takeaway is that the course provided students with good exposure to all facets of technology management. The lessons I learned can apply to many businesses."

Cattonar, Stein and Jenkins all agreed that the course helped them look at technological innovation through multiple prisms — finance, research and development and organization — and gave them knowledge that applies directly to their professions.

"New technology is always emerging, but the pattern of how innovation moves and changes over time remains," says Weber. "Understanding those patterns and how to manage innovation is applicable to every industry."


“The idea for the course was to provide an overview of managing technological innovation. If we could provide some real depth in key areas via experts, and then an overview through the coordinator and textbook, we’d have the best of both worlds.”

Rob Weber
Senior Fellow
Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology
University of Pennsylvania

“We needed a number of people with areas of specific expertise and passion, as opposed to the single-instructor model, and a course coordinator who could then weave together the various topics.”

Dwight Jaggard, PhD
Professor of Electrical and Systems Engineering
Penn Engineering

Christian Stein, Maren Cattonar, and Garth Jenkins

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