Richard L. Nolan

Emeritus Professor

Professor Nolan earned his B.A. from the University of Washington in Production and Operations Research in 1962, and his M.B.A and Ph.D. in 1963 and 1966, respectively. Professor Nolan, the William Barclay Harding Professor of Management of Technology, returned to the faculty of Harvard Business School in 1991, after serving as Chairman of Nolan, Norton & Co. from 1977.

Professor Nolan is studying business transformation, the process of creatively destroying industrial economy management principles and evolving a set of workable management principles for the information economy. Some industrial economy management principles are obsolete, some salvageable, and entirely new principles are needed to guide, for example, the management of information as a resource distinctively different from scarce, physical resources. Central to his research is an understanding of information technology's information resource management role in taking an enterprise from 'make and sell' to 'sense and respond' strategies. Nolan (with Stephan Haeckel) discussed the key ideas behind leveraging general management decisions through information technology in a Harvard Business Review article, 'Managing by Wire' and in their Chapter 7 'Managing by Wire: Using IT to Transform a Business from 'Make-and-Sell' to 'Sense-and-Respond,'' in Competing in the Information Age, Strategic Alignment in Practice, Jerry N. Luftman, editor, Oxford University Press, 1996. His article, along with F. Warren McFarlan, 'How to Manage an IT Outsourcing Alliance,' was published in the Sloan Management Review, Winter 1995. He co-authored, with David Croson, Creative Destruction: A Six-Stage Process for Transforming the Organization (HBS Press, 1995) and Reengineering the Organization, with Thomas Davenport, Donna L. Stoddard and Sirkka Jarvenpaa, Harvard Business School Publishing. 1995. His latest book is Sense and Respond: Capturing Value in the Network Era, HBS Press, 1998, edited with Stephen P. Bradley. His latest book is dot vertigo, Wiley and Sons, 2001, which reports his case-based research on management lessons from both dot com companies and Industrial age companies incorporating the Internet into their operations.

Professor Nolan has contributed a number of Harvard Business Review articles on the management of information technology. His latest contribution to the Harvard Business Review, is the introduction to 'Connectivity and Control in the Year 2000 and Beyond,' July-August 1998 issue. He is the originator of the 'Stages Theory,' one of the most widely used management frameworks for information technology baselining and planning. He also has authored and co-authored a number of books, including Globalization, Technology and Competition (HBS Press, 1993) with Professor Stephen P. Bradley of the Harvard Business School and Professor Jerry A. Hausman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Building the Information Age Organization: Structure, Control, and Information Technologies (Richard D. Irwin, Inc., 1994) with Professors James I. Cash, Robert G. Eccles, and Nitin Nohria. In addition, Professor Nolan is also a member of the Board of Directors for Novell, The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company and Arcstream.

[MultimediaColloquium] [IT, Business Strategy, &Public Policy] [Information Strategy and Reengineering]
[Video of Talk: 'The Exploding Interent: Impact on Business & Society']
  1. The Process of Managing Business Transformation

    by Richard L. Nolan

    Richard L. Nolan is examining the process of business transformation, which he characterizes as the creative destruction of industrial economy management principles and the evolution of a set of workable management principles for the information economy. According to Nolan, some industrial-economy management principles are obsolete and should be discarded; others are salvageable. To fill the gaps and manage information differently from scarce resources, new principles are required. Central to Nolan's research is an understanding of the role information technology plays in managing information so as to enable an enterprise to progress from a make-and-sell to a sense-and-respond strategy. Nolan presents the findings of his research in Creative Destruction: A Six-Step Process for Transforming the Organization (coauthored with David C. Croson), Sense and Respond(edited with Stephen P. Bradley, 1998), and dot vertigo, 2001. In addition, Nolan is reporting on his in-process research on the management lessons learned in the creation and building of the Internet in a number of HBS Working Papers.