Topics: Information technology, Management, Strategic management Pages: 18 (6073 words) Published: January 24, 2013
Communications of the Association for Information Systems (Volume13, 2004) 443-455


FROM THE CIO POINT OF VIEW: THE “IT DOESN’T MATTER” DEBATE Larry DeJarnett The Lamar Group Robert Laskey Revelation 360 H. Edgar Trainor Paramount Pictures

EDITOR’S FOREWORD This article differs from all the articles CAIS published previously in that it is a debate on the nature of IT written by practitioners from three different points of view. It deals with IT Doesn’t Matter, a polemic written by Nicholas Carr, then editor of the Harvard Business Review in which he argued that the days when IT offered strategic advantage are long since gone and that managers therefore should undertake a different approach to IT. The paper, obviously, became notorious in the IS community. On December 3, 2003, the Southern California Chapter of the Society for Information Management, at its regular meeting invited three of its members with long experience as chief information officers to debate the issue. The title of the meeting was: "I.T. Doesn't Matter or Does It? How to Improve the Value and Perception of I.T.” The three debaters were assigned a position to argue: favorable to Carr (Laskey), neutral (DeJarnett), and unfavorable to Carr (Trainor). Edited versions of their remarks are presented below. Keywords: value of IT, perception of IT, role of IT, Nicholas Carr, I.T. Doesn’t Matter, IT Does Matter, contrarian point-of-view, strategic advantage, vanishing advantage of I.T., ubiquity, management of technology I. MAKING SENSE OF THE IT DOESN'T MATTER DEBATE by Robert Laskey INTRODUCTION Perhaps too much has been written about the debate surrounding Nicholas Carr's [2003] article, IT Doesn't Matter, in the Harvard Business Review. In lieu of a debate, what management needs now are some answers on how to measure IT value and how to develop an appropriate investment strategy for the IT function. Many believe that for too long the IT function went From the CIO Point of View: The “IT Doesn’t Matter” Debate by L. DeJarnett, R. Laskey, and H. Edgar Trainor


Communications of the Association for Information Systems (Volume 14, 2004)443-455

without a rational, effective investment strategy. Boiled down that is the net, net of the Carr debate. Turning back to the debate itself, in the main, each position centers on an individual's perspective and actual experience with the IT function. Simply put, an individual opinion is in the eye of the beholder. Many people with bad IT experiences are aggressively in the pro-Carr camp. Others have an opposite experience and reaction. For many, the debate can trigger an emotional rather than a rational response. Personally, I have seen almost 40 years of IT history elapse. Certainly this experience does not constitute totality but it is enough to weigh in. This individual perspective, involving both positive and negative experiences, was shaped by experiences in three roles. Initially as a CIO for a Fortune 100 and then, for a Fortune 25 companies. Second, as a Big-4 Partner and consultant to IT and general management with experience with over 100 clients. Last, as a non-IT executive who was critically dependent on IT performance on multiple occasions. At the Southern California chapter of the Society of Information Management (SCSIM), the panel was organized from a perspective of black hat, white hat and grey hat. My draw for the event was the black hat, speaking from the IT doesn’t matter or pro-Carr camp. After some soul searching and reflection, I found the role easier to accept than I initially believed possible. This article is based in part on the SCSIM panel but is augmented by the reaction by others, largely CIOs at the event, shared in private at the conclusion of the chapter meeting. What is the appropriate way to deal with the issues raised in the Carr debate? Hopefully, this article takes some positive steps...

References: Alster, N. (2002) ROI: “Results Often Immeasurable” CFO October 15
From the CIO Point of View: The “IT Doesn’t Matter” Debate by L. DeJarnett, R. Laskey, and H. Edgar Trainor
Communications of the Association for Information Systems (Volume 14, 2004)443-455
Carr, N. (2003) “IT Doesn’t Matter,” Harvard Business Review (81)5, pp.41 -49, May PRISMA Impact Group, SCSIM section (2004), Schrage, L. (2003) “Why IT Does Matter,” CIO Magazine, pp 30 -32. August 1. ABOUT THE AUTHORS Larry R. DeJarnett is a retired technology-services CEO, having earlier held positions as Vice President and Managing Partner of management consultancies; Corporate Vice President of Services and CTO of a Fortune 200 conglomerate; director and manager of various financial, logistics, and information systems units of a Fortune 5 company, and faculty member of a Midwestern state university. After flying more than 200,000 miles a year in 12 of the past 14 years, he now concentrates as much of his time as possible on travel with his wife, golf, and grandchildren. He maintains touch with the “real world” as a Corporate Director/Trustee and through personal advisory/coaching services for executives in both the non-profit and for-profit segments – and in writing and speaking about his career “lessons learned” and their applicability to current business/technology issues. He recently stepped down after 17 years as the Consulting Editor for Auerbach’s “Information Strategy Journal” Robert Laskey is CEO of Revelation 360, a consulting company directed to business and technology clients. He is a founding member of the Southern California Chapter of the Society for Information Management (SCSIM). He has served on the SCSIM board in numerous capacities, including past Chairperson. He has had a multi-faceted career in industry, consulting and education. During his career, he has served as CIO for a Fortune 25 and a Fortune 100 company. His consulting career spanned more than 15 years including retiring as a National Partner for KPMG Consulting. After retiring from KPMG he served as SVP eCommerce for an internet venture. He now divides his time between consulting, volunteer work, and teaching as an adjunct professor. He serves as a member of the Board of Trustees for Goodwill Industries – Long Beach and South Bay. His BS and MBA are from UCLA; he completed doctoral coursework at the University of Southern California. Ed Trainor is Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer for Paramount Pictures. He has responsibility for the development, application and management of information technology across Paramount 's Motion Picture, Television, Home Video, Consumer Products and Studio business units. Ed held similar positions with the Southern California Gas Co., Flying Tigers and Amtrak prior to joining Paramount in 1994, Ed has for many years been active in the Society for Information Management (SIM), the premier professional association for senior I.T. leaders. He has held several leadership positions on the Executive Committee of SIM’s Southern California Chapter and is a past-Chairperson of the Chapter as well as the past national President of SIM. Ed is co-author of two books: Information Economics and Information Strategy and Economics (Trainor, Parker and Benson, Prentice-Hall, 1988 and 1989).
Copyright ©2004, by the author of each paper and is reprinted by their permission. Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for personal or classroom use is granted by the authors without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and full citation on the first page. Abstracting with credit is permitted. To copy otherwise, to republish, to post on servers, or to redistribute to lists requires prior specific permission and/or fee from the copyright holders: Larry DeJarnett (, Robert Laskey ( and H. Edgar Trainor ( )
From the CIO Point of View: The “IT Doesn’t Matter” Debate by L. DeJarnette, R. Laskey, and H. Edgar Trainor
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