ITM501 - Mgt. Info. Syst. and Bus. Strategy Module 3 - Case - 10005

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In July 2009, a musician named Dave Carroll was traveling with his band from Toronto Canada to Nebraska somewhere, much like many millions of other folks have done. Looking out the window the plane, however, Dave noticed that the United Airlines baggage handlers were, to put it mildly, failing to treat his rather expensive guitar and a number of other musical instruments belonging to the band with suitable care, preferring instead to sort of fling them through the air into the cargo hold. Dave pointed out to the UAL cabin attendants that this was not likely to be of significant benefit to the instruments' health, but was told that nothing could be done and he should simply sit down and be quiet. Upon arriving in Chicago, Dave determined that in fact he had been right, and his $2400 guitar was now $2400 worth of rather expensive kindling. He pointed this out to the United Airlines staff at the time, and suggested that perhaps some compensation might be in order. United Airlines, in the best bureaucratic tradition, took almost a year to conclude that its folks certainly hadn't done anything wrong, that Dave was probably just being excessively picky, and that they weren't about to pony up anything. After all, weren't they a Fortune 25 company engaged in a conflict with one rather slender young musician?  It seemed like a classic application of the business motto once attributed to the old monolithic AT&T: “We’re the phone company…we don’t care. We don’t have to.”

 

Back then, that worked.  In fact, it still does, a lot of the time; money and power still convey a lot of advantage.  But here’s where things get interesting.  As a practicing musician, Dave was well aware of a recent phenomenon known as Youtube – a strange sort of Internet place where you could essentially tack up as many electronic versions of “95 Theses” as you wanted to, allowing some creativity, some luck, and something called “viral video” behavior to be leveraged on occasion into something quite unprecedented.  Let’s start by watching what Dave posted:

 

Carroll, D. (2009) United Breaks Guitars.  Music video posted to Youtube.  Retrieved November 27, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo&feature=channel

 

Now lots of people post things on Youtube, and most of them don’t go anywhere.  But here’s where it got different in his case; for reasons known primarily to the gods of the Internet, Dave actually did “go viral” – accumulating well over a million hits in fairly short order, rocketing to the top of the charts (to date, almost 10 million hits overall) – and, in the process, vastly confusing United Airlines by creating a highly visible public relations nightmare out of what ought to have been a minor transaction, and also causing the whole IT analysis profession and assorted professors of business to suddenly take seriously the possibility that here was a tool that just might have the potential to bring about a whole new kind of customer relations management. Here are two more videos featuring experts probing at this rather simple case for deep lessons:

 

Milliken, J. (2010) Brands and Social Media Participation; United Breaks Guitars.Coreographytv.  Retrieved November 27, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNpry5iSTBo&feature=related

 

Owyang, J. (2010) Social Media, Crisis & Reputation Management.  Coreographytv.  Retrieved November 27, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43-7gDTk49k&NR=1

 

Dave has even achieved the ultimate B-school immortality – being made into a Harvard Business School case!  Here’s how the august professors are now phrasing the Lessons Learned:

 

Hanna, J. (2010) HBS Cases: United Breaks Guitars. Working Knowledge: Harvard Business School. November 29.  Retrieved November 27, 2010, from http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/6492.html?wknews=112910

 

So what does this all mean? Is it just a cute little song that somehow made it big -- the proverbial flash in a pan -- or is it actually a vision of a new kind of relationship between companies and customers mediated by the larger world of social media?  It could be either, or anything in between. One thing is clear, however -- this could not have happened even as recently as 2 to 3 years ago. It's probably equally clear that we're going to see a lot more of it -- and we're going to see a lot more things like this using tools and technologies that are today still barely on the drawing boards, if they've even gotten that far out of the heads of the smart 12-year-olds who are going to be billionaires before they need to shave.

 

There's a lot more out there in the optional and supplemental readings as well as the wide wonderful world of the Internet to give you a feel for the nature and effects of social media in business; the more widely you can spread your own information gathering net, the more effective your analysis is likely to be.  Your own social media experiences are likely to be useful sources of information as well.

 

When you believe you have a reasonable feel for how social media are affecting business, you'll be in a position to prepare an effective short paper (or alternative – see below) on the topic:

 

Does the availability and use of social media on the Internet really provide businesses with new and different useful information?  If so, how?  If not, why not?

 

 

 

Special possibilities:

 

Since this is a case about new media, it’s only fair that you have some new media alternatives in dealing with it.  So while you’re perfectly free to write the same sort of paper that you’ve been accustomed to writing (as described below in the “Regular Case Expectations”), you are also encouraged to think about using some sort of more creative social media application in response. If I gave you all the possibilities, it wouldn’t be all that creative, now would it?  But by way of stimulus, you might consider:

 

·         A video essay and/or discussion and/or presentation made available through Youtube

 

·         Using a Facebook page or related approach to formulate your response, either alone or perhaps working together with some of your colleagues

 

·         Submitting your paper as a series of 142-character tweets through Twitter (see this module’s SLP assignment) – daunting as a prospect, but theoretically possible

 

·         Something else entirely.

 

An unspecified number of points may be awarded for creativity of presentation as well as quality of ideas – but the ideas have to be there first, even if the medium is the message.

 

PLEASE NOTE:  You certainly do not have to use any of these alternatives; it's perfectly fine just to write a paper as you are accustomed to doing.  You won't be penalized in any way.   The alternatives are included here just to get into the spirit of the thing, if you happen to have a little extra time and a little extra tolerance for learning to use new tools under pressure.  Please do not feel that you will be disadvantaged in any way by not participating in this strange part of what's already a very unusual and experimental course!

 

 

 

Regular Case assignment expectations:

 

Your paper should be short (5-7 pages, not including cover sheet and references) and to the point. It is to be structured as a point/counterpoint argument, in the following manner. You are expected to:

 

·         Begin this paper by stating your position on this question clearly and concisely -- take one or the other position (either for or against formality), but not both!

 

·         Citing appropriate sources, present the reasons why you take this position. Be sure to make the most effective case you can.

 

·         Then present the best evidence you can, again citing appropriate sources, against your position -- that is, establish what counterarguments can be made in response to your original position.

 

·         Finally, review your original position in light of the counterarguments, showing how they are inadequate to rebut your original statement.

 

By the end of your paper, you should be able to unequivocally re-affirm your original position.

 

 

 

The following features of your paper will be assessed in particular:

 

·         Your ability to see what the module is all about and to structure your paper accordingly. In this case, there isn’t a single right or wrong, yes-or-no answer – either perspective can be justified. Your task is to construct a logical, well-reasoned, and persuasive argument for your conclusions. Be sure that you take a defined position on the question, and construct your paper to support that position with suitable arguments and evidence.

 

·         Your focus on the question as presented, and your ability to use the language of the module convincingly. Here, this means your ability to differentiate between what constitutes the "technical system" of an organization and what constitutes its "social system", to define possible changes that could be made to either system and their probably consequences, and to explain how a "socio-technical" perspective involving joint consideration of both systems together may be better than dealing with either system by itself.

 

·         Your ability to consolidate ideas from reading materials and your understanding of the materials. Select your illustrative cases to prove your point; don’t just dump a bunch of illustrations onto the page just to fill space. Use information from as many sources as you can, as long as it’s of good quality. At the least, you are expected to show evidence of having read and understood the required readings.

 

·         Your informed commentary and analysis -- simply repeating what your sources say does not constitute an adequate paper.

 

·         Some in-text references to your readings, with citations in proper academic format. For assistance with proper paper formats, reference lists, and citation procedures, please consult the TUI Course Guidelines and/or the Purdue University manual listed in the Background Material.

 

 

 

Alternative Case assignment expectations:

 

If you opt to do this assignment in some alternative format (such as those discussed above), you are not obligated to also write a regular paper describing it.  But you are obligated to (a) consult with your section professor in advance about what you are planning to do, and (b) work out with him/her the specific criteria by which your work will be assessed.  When you propose an alternative format, then, you should also be prepared to propose at the sanme time a framework by which it should be graded.  When your professor approves your alternative assignment, s/he will also be approving the grading criteria.  Think creatively here!

 

 

 

Solution Description

 

In July 2009, a musician named Dave Carroll was traveling with his band from Toronto Canada to Nebraska somewhere, much like many millions of other folks have done. Looking out the window the plane, however, Dave noticed that the United Airlines baggage handlers were, to put it mildly, failing to treat his rather expensive guitar and a number of other musical instruments belonging to the band with suitable care, preferring instead to sort of fling them through the air into the cargo hold. Dave pointed out to the UAL cabin attendants that this was not likely to be of significant benefit to the instruments' health, but was told that nothing could be done and he should simply sit down and be quiet. Upon arriving in Chicago, Dave determined that in fact he had been right, and his $2400 guitar was now $2400 worth of rather expensive kindling. He pointed this out to the United Airlines staff at the time, and suggested that perhaps some compensation might be in order. United Airlines, in the best bureaucratic tradition, took almost a year to conclude that its folks certainly hadn't done anything wrong, that Dave was probably just being excessively picky, and that they weren't about to pony up anything. After all, weren't they a Fortune 25 company engaged in a conflict with one rather slender young musician?  It seemed like a classic application of the business motto once attributed to the old monolithic AT&T: “We’re the phone company…we don’t care. We don’t have to.”

 

Back then, that worked.  In fact, it still does, a lot of the time; money and power still convey a lot of advantage.  But here’s where things get interesting.  As a practicing musician, Dave was well aware of a recent phenomenon known as Youtube – a strange sort of Internet place where you could essentially tack up as many electronic versions of “95 Theses” as you wanted to, allowing some creativity, some luck, and something called “viral video” behavior to be leveraged on occasion into something quite unprecedented.  Let’s start by watching what Dave posted:

 

Carroll, D. (2009) United Breaks Guitars.  Music video posted to Youtube.  Retrieved November 27, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo&feature=channel

 

Now lots of people post things on Youtube, and most of them don’t go anywhere.  But here’s where it got different in his case; fo

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