IT Doesn’t Matter was an article written by: Nicholas G. Carr for the Harvard Business Review Magazine in 2003. The article outlines a situation, not quite as its title suggests, that IT is less relevant that it used to be in terms of a competitive advantage in Industry. This essay will consider what the point of view of Mr Carr is and whether it is a fair and accurate reflection of the reality on the ground. With the benefit of 9 years of hindsight, It’s more of a case of what lessons can be learned and what nuggets of wisdom can be extracted from the article and apply the lessons learned to my industry, Property Sales and rentals.
IT Doesn’t Matter. 2003. Nicholas G. Carr.
This article created a bit of a stir when it was written. There were plenty of letters to the editor*, Thomas A Stewart, of the Harvard Business Review following publication of the article, from writers outlining their levels of agreement and frustration. *HBR June & July 2003. Letters to the Editor. So what was the fuss about?
Nicholas Carr’s article title suggests that in today’s world that IT does not matter. This is of course a ridiculous assertion as the whole modern world is co-ordinated largely through some form of IT whether it is in Business, leisure, Government administration, healthcare
Etc. What Carr was getting at was that IT in business initially was a tool used to give a strategic advantage to a particular company that chose to adopt it. As the hype of IT caught on, and huge investment was poured into it, it became a ‘must have’ in business. The problem Carr is getting at is that nowadays, everyone has IT and it no longer gives the company that uses it any advantage over their competitor. An analogy I liked that was used to convey this point was the comparison of IT rollout to the rollout of electrification of the US in the early 20th century. If you were a company then with electricity when many of your competitors had not, you had a huge advantage. When everybody eventually had access to reliable sources of power, then Electricity, whilst is absolutely vital no longer gave a company the competitive edge. In my view, this is in essence, plus a few going forward pointers, what the article is trying to say. Is the Article any good?
I like his style and his David and Goliath attitude in taking the fight to the Big Boys. He was critical of the big Computer companies aligning themselves as Utility companies to extract even more funds from consumers that already had enough IT power. He didn’t like the rhetoric and sales pitch they made for the necessity of ongoing software upgrades. He encourages companies to fine tune their organisations rather than throwing money at more resources to cope with the inefficiencies which would be something that rings true to my Modus Operandi in business. However, there has to be a balance employed. Modernisation, threat of obsolescence and a certain acceptance that your boat must rise with the technological tide has to be considered. IT has moved on considerably since the article was written in 2003. We have had massive IT companies come forward in that time like Google, Facebook and the resurgence of Apple. It has to be fair to say that 2003 was hardly the point where the end of the line of strategic innovation was in sight? I would have left it there only for a few insights provided by my friends over Sunday breakfast……. Companies have used the products of these big new companies to enhance their business models to great effect since then and indeed a company with all the latest and greatest IT bells and whistles in 2003 would be in the dark ages today if they took Carr’s advice and fine tuned rather than upgraded. It’s also fair to say that if the whole world took Carr’s advice and we were all running older leaner products, we wouldn’t be any wiser. There would be a dearth of IT innovation and many high end jobs today would have disappeared or never have been...
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