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MBT Learning Guide Supplement

An Introduction to Business and Technology

By Craig Tapper

The aim of this supplement is to provide a conceptual entry point for new MBT students into the key theories, models and management thinkers in contemporary business. It explains why business and technology are given equal prominence in the MBT; introduces the basics in relation to strategy: what it is and why organisations need to operate strategically; and briefly outlines how the rapid rate of technological change and development impacts on contemporary business. It is hoped that you find this introductory document valuable. It should provide you with a basic understanding of the key concepts that underpin all MBT learning, and thereby assist you in grasping the higher level material in the courses themselves.

Craig is the Course Coordinator for the MBT capstone course GBAT9113 Strategic Management of Business and Technology. He has consulted to major companies and government departments and has lectured in a range of postgraduate programs in the areas of strategy, business planning, marketing and management.


Table of Contents

Why does the MBT integrate business and technology? ................ 3 What do we mean by business? .................................................. 3
Do non-commercial organisations engage in business? .............................. 4

Why do we need to study technology? .......................................... 5

Why the T in the MBT?.......................................................................... 6 How is the T integrated in the MBT? ....................................................... 6

What do we understand technology to mean?............................. 7 What are the key principles of corporate strategy?....................... 8
Who is Michael Porter? ........................................................................... 8 What are the different levels of strategy?.................................................. 9 What is a strategic plan? ........................................................................ 9 What sorts of issues do we need to analyse? ............................................10 What about analysing the micro environment?..........................................11 What is Porters Five Forces Model?.........................................................11 What is Porters value chain? .................................................................13

A quick summary of corporate strategy ...................................... 14 What is corporate governance, and why is it important? ............ 14
What do we mean by corporate governance? ..........................................15 What does corporate governance involve?................................................15 What significant business concepts relate to corporate governance? ............16

Conclusion .................................................................................. 16
References ..........................................................................................16

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An Introduction to Business and Technology

Why does the MBT integrate business and technology? With so many graduate business programs in the marketplace, why does UNSW offer postgraduate level education in business and technology? Why are so many people enrolling in the MBT Program? Why is it important to recognise the role of both business and technology in management education? The answers lie not in what is wrong with alternative business courses, but in what they typically dont adequately address how the rapidly changing technological environment so significantly influences the management of business today, and will do so into the future. Lets start by being clear about what we mean by these two terms business and technology. What do we mean by business? Many people confuse the study of business with the study of commerce. Commerce is the term applied to organising and managing transactions that involve the exchange of goods and services in return for money, where the goal or intent of the organisations that establish themselves in the market is to attract and engage in enough of these exchanges to make profits that will help them achieve financial success. In a commercial organisation, the profits are then used to repay investors and shareholders, pay creditors, and invest in further developing the organisation to achieve its goals and purpose into the future. So if business does not equate to commerce, then what is it? At this point we might turn to some renowned management thinkers to help us. Peter F Drucker (1910- 2005), considered to be one of the worlds leading management gurus, believed that the purpose of business is to create and then retain satisfied customers. Although firms have to make money, Drucker argued that making money is a necessity, not a purpose: rather, it is the end result, a desirable outcome, of creating a satisfied customer. A similar sentiment is expressed by Theodore Levitt (1925-), a Harvard Business School professor, who explains this by an analogy with human beings: all human beings have to eat to survive, but eating is not their purpose. Furthermore, making money does not provide a legitimate reason for society to support the money-making enterprise. A society supports business because business serves societys members by catering to their needs to leave them satisfied. Dissatisfy enough customers, and not only will these specific customers stop buying from your organisation, but society at large will condemn the organisation and may even penalise it to the point of its extinction (Sheth et al 1999, pp. 11-12). So, perhaps we can summarise that the purpose of business is to create and retain satisfied customers and in order to do so, a commercial organisation must make enough money to keep doing so into the future, in the same way as a human must find enough to eat to survive into the future.

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Do non-commercial organisations engage in business?

Some of you will no doubt work in the non-commercial world in government, semigovernment and not-for-profit organisations. So why study business? Clearly, the purposes of your organisations and the focus of their major activities are not commerce (money-making transactions). So how do the Drucker and Levitt quotes relate? If, instead of using the term customers we use stakeholders, how would that sit? If instead of saying that the purpose of business is to create and then retain satisfied customers we were to say that the purpose of business is to create and then retain satisfied stakeholders, then all organisations do in fact engage in business. The study of business that we adopt in the MBT Program enables you to develop knowledge and skills that will better equip you to help your organisation create and then retain satisfied stakeholders (government ministers, clients, donors, voters, supporters, users, employees, funding bodies, the wider community, etc.) A number of the disciplines and courses that you will study may have commenced their academic life focusing heavily on the money-making world of commerce. However, it was quickly recognised that all courses need to be just as relevant to managing where success is determined by measurements other than money by client satisfaction, environmental sustainability targets, improved outcomes for key stakeholders, limiting or preventing harm, and many other outcomes. In the same way that the commercial world post-Enron, One-Tel and Parmalat, etc. increasingly recognises that there is much to learn from the values and practices of notfor-profit and government agencies, so too managers and decision makers in not-forprofit and government organisations (as well as large and small commercial ones) need to understand the core management competencies, including: managing people managing the organisation developing and implementing strategy managing innovation and change managing projects managing quality managing finance managing information and knowledge managing information and communication technologies managing marketing managing risk & OHS managing resources managing sustainability managing legal responsibilities managing manufacturing promoting ethical and socially responsible business practices

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An Introduction to Business and Technology

Why do we need to study technology? Few people today have had their working lives, or indeed their non-working lives, untouched by the changes that technology has wrought. Technology brought us the invention of the steam engine in the 18th century; the light bulb and internal combustion engine at the end of the 19th century; the discovery of antibiotics in the 1930-1940s; microwave cooking in the 1960s; rapid changes in material science (Teflon, carbonfibre, etc) in the 1970s and 1980s; and rapid changes in communication and information technology in the last quarter of the 20th century. Consider everyday activities such as how people do their banking, use public transport, pay tolls on major roads, purchase consumer goods, prepare meals, check sports results and stock market share prices, etc. Consider also the importance of drug therapies for transplant patients, the effect of genetically modified crops on world food production, the benefits of digitisation and miniaturisation for surgical implants, etc. Technology has continued to play a profound and ever-increasing role in daily life throughout the developed and developing world as well as within organisations in the way that work is performed. Indeed, many business and social commentators of the last half of the 20th century were keen to highlight that the speed with which technology was changing and impacting on life and work was rapidly increasing: using the analogy that it was changing from a slow moving river to a fast flowing river and by the turn of the millennium may have reached the white water! Lets take the introduction of the mobile phone as a simple example. Consider that in the late 1980s these were seen as specialist devices likely to be owned and used only for technical purposes. However, by 2005 in Australia there were as many mobile phones as fixed line phones and, indeed, it appears increasingly likely that for many people and many organisations the fixed line, wire network telephone is becoming redundant. Consider also the impact of digitisation on the camera industry such a fundamental change that within a decade or two of the digital cameras introduction and widespread adoption, the giant Kodak Corporation that once dominated the world of photography is struggling to survive! And with the digitisation of music, Apple, formerly a computer company, now makes as much from selling its ubiquitous iPods as it does from selling PCs, and is rapidly moving to dominate sales of recorded music, threatening the dominance of companies like Sony, EMI, HMV and so on. Clearly the speed of innovation and technical change is revolutionising all sorts of industries, and the contemporary manager who is not able to understand and apply effective knowledge of how technology management and business management interact is perhaps jeopardising the future of the organisation.

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Why the T in the MBT?

The following quote from Burgelman et al (2004, p. 4) may help us to define this:
Technology is a resource that, like financial and human resources, is pervasively important in organisations. Managing technology is a basic business function. This implies the need to develop a technology strategy, analogous to financial and human resource strategies.

Technology is now considered to be as important as any of the traditional areas of business learning. It is as significant to the success of the modern organisation commercial, government, not-for-profit, large and small as finance, human resources, strategy, etc. are. Simply from your own observation, you should be in little doubt that most markets and industries are increasingly dependent on the important role that technology plays as a key driver or enabler of the way things are done. So much so, in fact, that for many organisations today perhaps even most any lack of understanding of how to integrate technology effectively into the organisations strategy and operations potentially limits its ongoing success, or possibly even questions its long-term survival.

How is the T integrated in the MBT?

In the MBT, we recognise explicitly that for many managers in many organisations understanding how the business management practices interface and integrate with the management of technology is vital. Recognising the powerful impact of these two areas on an organisations success and survival requires they are given additional attention to that offered in more traditional graduate business programs. By studying MBT courses, you have the opportunity to develop a broader range of essential management competencies. The MBT offers you a unique opportunity to customise your program to focus on improving your business management AND technology management competencies and knowledge. In your final year we offer two alternative capstone courses uniquely designed to ensure that you understand how the business management and technology management focuses come together. You can either integrate these through the lens of corporate strategy via the course Strategic Management of Business and Technology, or through the lens of innovation in Management of Innovation and Technological Change. You are, in fact, encouraged to take both capstone courses, wherever possible.

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An Introduction to Business and Technology

What do we understand technology to mean? Before we go on, lets pause here and point out that many of the readings you will find in your MBT courses may focus on information and communication (I&C) technologies and, particularly those written in the last few years, on the Internet. These technologies are relevant to all MBT participants, regardless of their industry or profession. Whilst it is also possibly true that I&C technologies are essential elements of the operational and strategic actions of most organisations, lets be clear that technology is not only I&C technology. In the health care, veterinary care, pharmaceutical, agricultural and food production industries, for example, biological and gene technologies are already considered to be having as great an impact as and perhaps even greater than I&C technology. There are in fact some suggestions that gene technology may also revolutionise energy, transport and a whole host of other non-medical industries. Composite materials technology has revolutionised the construction industry, vehicle manufacturing, sporting goods such as skis, diving gear and golf clubs, motor racing, boats and a myriad of other applications.

These are but two examples of the broader impact of technologies beyond the focus on IT and telecommunications that has predominated in the popular media. So, while some of the focus in your courses may be on I&C technology due to the broader interest in this area of many MBT students, dont fall into the trap of equating technology with I&C technology only. Technology in whatever form it may impact on or exist within your organisation is an essential element in your organisations success. Now that we have acknowledged that technology is more than just I&C technology, perhaps we could best employ the following definition, that technology:
refers to the theoretical and practical knowledge, skills, and artefacts that can be used to develop products and services as well as their production and delivery systems.
(Burgelman et al 2004, p. 4)

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What are the key principles of corporate strategy? As you begin your MBT Program, it will be helpful if you have a basic understanding of what corporate or organisational strategy is all about. First, lets start by getting an understanding of some key concepts. What is strategy? What does strategy mean? The Macquarie Dictionary (1999, p. 793) defines strategy as skilful management in getting the better of an adversary or attaining an end. A tactic, on the other hand (p. 820), is defined as a plan or procedure for achieving a desired end. So, following on from these definitions: A corporate strategy is the set of management decisions designed by executives, the board, senior management team or whoever are the final decision makers in the organisation that are meant to get the better of adversaries or attain the organisations ends. Tactics are the plans or procedures that they adopt to implement these strategic decisions.

Who is Michael Porter?

Amongst the most significant authors on strategy of recent decades is the Harvard academic, business guru, strategist and author, Michael Porter (1947-). As well as developing a number of specific tools and frameworks for analysis, Porter highlighted that the purpose of strategy was to gain and defend some form of competitive advantage which in our definition of strategy fits quite neatly with the idea of getting the better of an adversary. Porter said in his groundbreaking books in 1980 (Competitive Strategy) and 1985 (Competitive Advantage) that these are really only three forms of competitive advantage: 1. Cost Leadership having lower costs than any other competitor enables either superior profits or a capacity to offer lower prices. 2. Differentiation being able to offer customers something different to anyone else in the market, as long as it is something that customers value and will prefer. 3. Focus being acknowledged as a specialist and having expertise and knowledge of particular customers or activities and processes that are highly prized. So, from Porters perspective, the purpose of a corporate, business unit or functional strategy would be to develop, refine, defend and exploit one of these three sources of competitive advantage.

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What are the different levels of strategy?

Strategy can be developed at many levels in a multi-layered organisation there may be: Corporate level strategy decisions made for the whole corporation or organisation to gain the better of adversaries or attain ends. Business unit or divisional strategy decisions made for the business unit or division to gain the better of adversaries or attain the business units end. Functional strategies such as marketing/finance/human resources/IT/technology/ operational/production/etc. strategies. There would be marketing decisions (or finance or HR decisions, etc) designed to get the better of an adversary or attain a marketing/finance, etc, end.

So what do we mean by ends? Other terms that are frequently used here for the same concept are goals or missions or visions. Organisations typically have (or should have) a set of goals, desired outcomes or a view of their purpose (mission), or their future achievements and positions (visions) in mind. Ideally these are clearly articulated and understood by everyone in the organisation. When these ends (goals, mission, vision) are clearly understood, then the board, management, staff and partners of the organisation are able to develop strategy to achieve these.
What is a strategic plan?

A plan, whether strategic, tactical, operational, marketing, finance or whatever is really just a set of decisions that have been captured in some form (document, web page, PowerPoint presentation, video, etc) that set out the answer to three key questions: 1. Where are we now? 2. Where are we going? 3. How will we get there? Accordingly, a plan is formed by: analysing the existing and expected future trends and factors affecting the organisation/business unit, etc setting down clear statements of the outcomes that will help to achieve the ends that the organisation has set itself (these statements of outcomes are commonly called objectives) describing some tactics and actions that will lead to achieving the outcomes

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What sorts of issues do we need to analyse?

Before developing strategy and tactics, the decision makers of any organisation need to analyse and understand the forces and trends in a range of key environments that impact on the strategic options or choices available to it. These are generally summed up as the: internal environment external macro environment external microenvironment

The macro environment is the nation, region, society and community within which the organisation and its micro environment or industry sit. Some organisations such as transnational and global corporations/bodies (eg, IBM, Qantas, World Bank, UN, Red Cross, Mdecins Sans Frontires, etc) operate in many macro environments; others may operate in only one or two (in Sydney, or Sydney and Melbourne, or Australia and Hong Kong, etc). During your MBT studies, you will be exposed to a wide range of tools and frameworks designed to assess all three environments. We dont want to pre-empt all the possible techniques that you will be exposed to in the wide range of courses that you will study, however, there are a number of particular tools that you will potentially cover that we will touch on here. PESTLE analysis a tool for examining the macro environment. Whether operating in only one, a number or many such countries/markets/communities, etc, a set of key factors or forces are said to impact on an organisations strategy. These are summarised by the acronym PESTLE which stands for:
Political forces and issues Economic trends and forces Socio-cultural changes and trends Technological changes and trends Legal and regulatory issues and forces Environmental changes and forces (ie, the natural environment)

Not all of these aspects are of equal importance or have an equal weight for every organisation. For instance, for an insurance company or agricultural products company, the natural environmental (flood, fire, storm, drought, etc) may have great significance; whereas for a telecommunications company it will have less significance. For an aged care provider or health service, socio-cultural changes such as the ageing of the population, increased rate of divorce and family breakdown, change in the ethnic and cultural mix of a population would have greater significance than for an air conditioning manufacturer. Consequently, while all these forces must be considered, it does not mean that for all organisations they will be equally significant.

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What about analysing the micro environment?

Michael Porter, whom we have mentioned earlier, developed a number of widely used and highly regarded analysis tools for understanding the micro environment. You will encounter two of these in particular in a number of your courses in the MBT: Five Forces model the Value Chain

What is Porters Five Forces Model?

Potential Entrants

Threat of new entrants

Bargaining Power of Suppliers


Industry Competitors
Rivalry among existing firms

Bargaining Power of Buyers



Threat of substitute products or services

(Porter 1980, p. 4)

What Porter illustrates is that the dynamics of how a competitive advantage is gained, maintained and deployed depends on the balance or relative impact of five forces: 1. bargaining power of suppliers 2. bargaining power of customers (buyers) 3. threat of new entrants 4. threat of substitutes 5. competitive rivalry between existing firms and, in particular: What is the nature of competitive rivalry? How many competitors are there? How large is each competitor? On what basis do they compete (lower costs, differentiation, or focus)?

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Broadening these questions out: How easy is it for a new competitor to enter the market? Is the potential threat of a new competitor real enough for existing competitors in the industry to have to factor this into their strategic decisions? Or are there so many, or such significant barriers to entry of new competitors that the existing competitors can operate on the basis of only needing to be concerned about who is competing in the industry now? Are there substitutes or alternative products that act like competitors in the market? For example, glass bottle manufacturers need also to consider the threat from plastic bottles and containers, aluminium cans, tetra packs and casks, etc. Taxi operators need to consider the threat not only from other taxis but also from hire cars/limousines/public transport/parking stations (use of own cars) etc. Are there any dominant suppliers whose products are so central and important to the organisations operations that they affect the way competitive advantage is created, maintained and applied? For example, to computer manufacturers such as Toshiba, Compaq, Sony and Acer etc, the products available from Intel and Microsoft greatly influence the nature of their competitive advantage. In the airline industry, because fuel costs make up much of the total cost of running airlines, their competitive advantage is greatly impacted by changes in oil prices. Because Internet-based strategies have become so significant to banks and airlines, the broadband speed and capabilities of ISPs greatly impact on their ability to create, maintain and defend their competitive advantage in their markets. Finally, there may be particular customers or buyers whose purchasing or preferences are so significant that they are able to change what forms of competitive advantage work. For example: In the period 2003-2005, the world price of iron ore, minerals, steel, other metals, oil and gas rose substantially because of demand from China and India. Indeed at various times demand has outpaced supply. The strategies of mining companies have been greatly dependent on the pace and continuing needs of growth from both these customers China in particular. And the strategies of other steel mills, energy companies and manufacturers have had to adjust to the impact of the increasingly demanding Chinese and Indian customer bidding up the prices and taking much of the raw material in the market.

In other examples: In military aircraft manufacturing, the strategic decisions of the US Department of Defence, Peoples Liberation Army/Navy/Air Force, Russian military and NATO alliance are so significant that aircraft developments are effectively determined by these four key buyers. In the pharmaceuticals and health industry in Australia, the Commonwealth Government through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) acts as a key buyer the willingness of decision makers (buyers) in charge of the PBS to buy or not buy a particular drug, and the price they are willing to pay, has a huge impact on the industry.

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What is Porters value chain?

The other key concept that Porter advanced was the notion that organisations compete and gain competitive advantage through the differences that they offer in the way that they create and deliver value to customers. This is often known also as their business model. Porter suggests that each organisation makes decisions about how it arranges and manages the activities that produce the value it offers to its customers or clients. Take the example shown here:

Strategy and Leadership

Corporate Services (eg, IT, Finance, HR) Margin

Purchasing raw materials & supplies Inbound Logistics Production Sales & marketing Outbound logistics

What Porter is suggesting is that how one organisation arranges its purchasing of raw materials and supplies, or its sales and marketing, or its strategy and leadership, may give it a competitive advantage through (as mentioned earlier): Cost leadership (greater efficiency) Differentiation (creates a customer valued difference) Focus (gains a reputation for expertise or superior knowledge)

So, Porter proposed that by comparing and contrasting each competitors Value Chain, a strategist could understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of each, and identify ways to develop a competitive advantage through finding actions in the value chain that could be the source of such an advantage.

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A quick summary of corporate strategy This has been a very quick introduction to a number of concepts and frameworks around corporate strategy. Throughout your MBT career you will be exposed to a wide range of perspectives and frameworks designed to help you answer the three key questions related to strategy that we noted earlier: 1. Where are we now? 2. Where are we going? 3. How will we get there? Remember though, that the purpose of all these tools and techniques is to equip you as a manager to identify strategies that help you in getting the better of an adversary or attaining an end.

What is corporate governance, and why is it important? Having read to this point you will be aware of a number of key concepts, particularly that:
Organisations exist for a purpose in addition to making money.

Managers are required to make decisions that affect a whole range of internal and external stakeholders: employees, shareholders, customers, users, supporters, the environment, donors, suppliers, the community at large, and many more. What you also need to be aware of is that sometimes the interests of the managers and those of some of these stakeholders come into conflict. High profile organisational collapses and failures such as HIH in Australia, Enron and WorldCom in the United States, Parmalat in Italy and many, many more highlight the fact that in an effective business system there is a clear need for oversight of the actions of the managers of the organisation. Failures such as these do not just happen in the commercial sector however. Consider the outcomes of recent government enquiries into the operations of the Commonwealth Department of Immigration in relation Cornelia Rau (Australian citizen incarcerated in a detention centre) and Vivian Alvarez (Australian citizen wrongfully deported to the Philippines); NSW Railways in the wake of the Waterfall train crash, and many more. Clearly, the issue of effective corporate governance is vital to the efficient and successful long-term operation of any organisation and indeed, any society or economy.

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What do we mean by corporate governance?

In this context, we will take corporate governance to mean oversight by people or bodies charged with ensuring that the interests of key stakeholders are not compromised. Who the stakeholders are in each case is typically set by legislation, and by legal principles and precedents from the findings and interpretation of courts. In a commercial organisation, the board of directors is typically charged with the key responsibility for corporate governance protecting the rights of shareholders and creditors, ensuring contractual obligations and regulatory compliance. In the public sector, the elected government is typically responsible for corporate governance, and in semi-government and statutory bodies like State Rail, Sydney Water, the Australian Broadcasting Authority, the University of NSW, etc and in notfor-profit organisations governments will usually mandate a body similar to a board of directors with the responsibility for corporate governance.

What does corporate governance involve?

In a recent article, Gomez & Korine (2005, pp. 739-752) propose that:
Corporate governance can be understood as a set of contracts that defines the relationships among the three principal actors in the corporation.

To simplify what this actually means, corporate governance is the set of relationships where: A key stakeholder whom they refer to as the sovereign (in the case of commercial organisations this would be the shareholders; in the case of public sector agencies, the elected government; for not-for-profit organisations this is often the members or other key stakeholders as defined by legislation) sets in place a governing body (eg, board, council, senate, etc) with responsibility for overseeing the actions of the governed (management, staff, employees, volunteers, players, etc)

Increasingly, societies and governments are reacting to a rapidly changing world surrounding them, and modifying the regulations affecting corporate governance accordingly. The numbers and interests of stakeholders who are affected by the actions of organisations is expanding. Organisations are being seen to impact on: the economy the natural environment society through opportunities for work and employment conditions of work family life, etc

Consequently, there are increasingly complex expectations placed on organisations of all sizes to consider and take responsibility for decisions and actions beyond simply their money making or other purposes and goals.

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What significant business concepts relate to corporate governance?

In your MBT courses you will be exposed to the contemporary business concepts of: Triple Bottom Line organisations being responsible for financial, environmental and social bottom lines Balanced Scorecard accountability for a range of outcomes including financial, customer, organisation and employees and many others

You will also be exposed to the effect and requirements of various pieces of legislation in the areas of workplace safety, intellectual property rights, contractual obligations, consumer protection, and many others. Perhaps most significant of all is the issue of organisational ethics setting and complying with values and principles that should guide and regulate the standards of behaviour of everyone within the organisation. All of these things impact on the environment of corporate governance. You should be beginning to understand that this goes beyond simply complying with legislation and satisfying shareholders! Indeed, it is apparent that sustainable organisations are those that, among other things, have the best and most effective corporate governance.

Conclusion We hope that this introduction to business and technology will assist you in gaining a general understanding of some of the key concepts and principles that underpin many of the courses you will study in your MBT Program. We wish you the very best of luck as you commence this most fascinating journey into mastering the white water rapids where business management and technology converge!

References Burgelman RA, Christensen CM & Wheelwright SC, 2004, Strategic Management of Technology and Innovation, 4th edn, McGraw-Hill, Boston, Gomez PY & Korine HK, 2005, Democracy and the evolution of corporate governance, Corporate Governance, vol. 13, no. 6, Macquarie Essential Dictionary, 1999, Macquarie Library Pty Ltd. Porter ME, 1980, Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors, Free Press, New York. Sheth JN, Mittal B & Newman BI, 1999, Customer Behavior: Consumer Behavior and Beyond, Dryden Press, Orlando.
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