Schedule  | Assignments |  Resources  |  PowerPoints

Samuel E. Bodily  |  S. Venkataraman  


Professors Samuel Bodily & S. Venkataraman

                                            Course Description and Background

 In this course, we focus on the intersection of competitive strategy of the firm and the digital space, examining issues central to the long- and short-term competitive position of a firm in a digital world.  We will explore fundamental strategy issues that arise in eBusiness, including: (1) the role and deficiencies of traditional strategy concepts in the digital, web-based economy; (2) new strategy concepts, frameworks and business models appropriate to the digital economy; and (3) the drivers of industry structure and rivalry in the web-enabled world.

By the end of the course students will (1) become familiar with core organizing theories and frameworks that might inform strategy making in the digital, knowledge-based economy; (2) discuss specific strategies for migration to the web and corporate transformation; (3) provide an opportunity for participants to evaluate their own eStrategy interests.

The course is divided into three parts.  In the first part of the course, we focus on building the conceptual foundations of strategy and competitive advantage as it derives from the firm’s strategic investments, capabilities and relative position in a digital world. In this part of the course, which comprises the first half of the course, the emphasis is on the theory and best practices of strategy making and competitive advantage in the digital world.  In the second part of the course, you will (in groups) pick a topic from a list of concepts at the intersection of strategy and the digital world and begin a concept paper.  You will present your early ideas and receive feedback from the class and instructors in this middle section, making use of the building blocks from the first part of the course.  This will be the basis for drilling more deeply into your topic.  The final third of the course will feature key practitioners and capstone cases that build on the foundational material introduced earlier in the course.  We will end the course with a written group position paper on the same core strategy concept that you presented in the middle part of the course.

Course Objectives

 The current syllabus includes the necessary materials for a working knowledge in the area of strategy and competitive advantage in the digital world.  To maximize learning the course adopts a variety of methods, including a set of readings, case studies, group preparation and presentation, group concept paper, and speakers.  The fundamental pedagogical objectives of the course are:

             (1)  understand the sources of sustainable competitive advantage in a rapidly changing, highly technical, highly competitive, global, and digital world;

             (2)  meaningfully apply fundamental concepts in strategy and competitive advantage to particular contexts;

             (3)  become an “expert” in at least one eStrategy domain.

 Course Materials


You will receive every two weeks or so a packet from Darden Educational Materials Services containing the required readings, cases, and assignment questions, which will also be available on the course web page (see link below).  From time to time we may distribute relevant articles and supplementary reading in class or make materials available on the course web page. 

Group Work, Power Point Presentations, and Final Concept Paper 

eStrategy is designed to be an active, "hands on" learning experience.  You are expected to choose, research, develop, and then present and write about a core concept in eStrategy. You will perform the work in groups of three to five students. You can choose a core concept topic from the menu given at the end of this syllabus.  We would already have seen these concepts in the readings and discussed them in class when you write your paper.  The objective is to drill deep and acquire additional insight and knowledge into eStrategy.   

You may choose the people with whom you work and your group’s topic, with a maximum of two teams on any particular topic—let us know your group and topic, first-come, first-served.  There will be two outputs of this research: an interim power point presentation on the 9th or 10th session.  And a final paper, which is due on May 8.  We have built in a workday without class preparation  to enable you to spend quality time on your project. 

Course Resources 

Course Web Site: We encourage you to use the course website for all aspects of the course:


The site contains the schedule, assignments, and resources to help you research and develop your concept paper, including articles, web links and other knowledge resources.   In addition, this site also allows you create a web board for your own concept paper group, to streamline your work in the group. 

Evaluation & Grading 

There are several bases for evaluating performance.  The results of your case analyses, contribution to class learning, group presentation, and final concept paper together provide ample checks on your mastery of course concepts and content.  The grading structure is as follows: 








GROUP PRESENTATION                                          GROUP


FINAL GROUP CONCEPT PAPER                           GROUP


CLASS PARTICIPATION                                           INDIVIDUAL

At term end, all students’ course point totals will be rank-ordered and individual grades will be given based on natural “break-points”.  The final grade distribution is expected to conform to Darden norms, unless there are exceptional circumstances (such as outstanding performance by the entire class; or sub-par performance by entire class when measured against historical standards).

 Concept Paper Topics

1.   Is the value chain concept passé? Why, or why not?  What new concept or framework would be useful to understand value creation and capture in the digital world? Apply the framework using examples.

2.      Has the Internet affected the way we assess industry attractiveness? Are the five forces outdated? If so, suggest a new framework for assessing the attractiveness of online industries, and demonstrate with examples.  Under what circumstances does the creator of value capture the value in online businesses? Will the value end up going to customers or will companies be able to reap a share of it?

3.      How should companies manage cannibalization/channel conflict (e.g., books bought at Barnes and Nobles retail stores vs. books bought at Under what circumstances do companies cannibalize or not cannibalize business lines as they migrate to the web?  What concepts or frameworks would you suggest to guide managers in their migration to the web?  Demonstrate with successful and unsuccessful examples. 

4.      Consider the challenges of a bricks and mortar company manager who wants to create an integrated (online/offline) business. What challenges does she face? Develop a systematic framework, or method, for classifying and dealing with these challenges. Illustrate your ideas with examples. 

5.      How has the internet changed (or will change) the strategy of firms and institutions delivering education? What new value is created by the Internet? How can organizations offering e-learning opportunities capture the value?  Illustrate with examples.  In writing on this topic, you may consider one or more of the questions asked in the other topics, applied within the context of distance learning. 

6.      What are the strengths and weaknesses in the strategy of content-driven businesses (e.g., online publishers)? How and under what circumstances can content providers make money online? Illustrate with examples.