Yes, Virginia: IT Doesn’t Matter

Forrest ChristianComputers/IT, Organizations, Reviews - Articles Leave a Comment

What’s mentioned:

Carr, Nicholas G. “IT Doesn’t Matter”. Harvard Business Review, May 2003.

Farrell, Diana. “The REAL New Economy”. Harvard Business Review, October 2003.

Block, Peter. The Answer to How Is Yes.

There’s still a lot of buzz around Nicholas G. Carr’s article in May 2003’s Harvard Business Review, “IT Doesn’t Matter”. I’m somewhat surprised that people actually think that IT investment in and of itself will provide competitive advantage. I’ve worked in the IT industry for almost a decade now and I can’t think of any project I’ve been on that gave the company competitve advantage, at least for very long. The best you could hope for with commercial products is to be first to market, own it and fight off the bottom feeders as you move out the next big thing. I saw a competitor in the hazardous materials safety products industry do that with great success. With internal projects, you’re mostly just keeping the wolves at bay.

Not that you can get away with not spending on IT. It always seemed ludicrous to me that companies will spend millions to standardize a single server or workstation load for the entire enterprise (except for executives, who can do whatever they want), which created massive amounts of rework in engineering and huge costs in support later, since the load that was agreeable to everyone satisfied none.

It’s not a question of whether to spend or not spend.

It’s about what really matters.

It’s the people, people.

I’ve never agreed with anyone who says that “People are our greatest resource” because: 1) if you have to remind us it probably isn’t true and 2) I resent being the equivalent of a printer. Still, management processes are about people, about who you have on board and how they interact. How you manage your information. How you build your corporation to achieve long-term goals. IT can help you execute a plan but it can’t create the plan or even the strategic direction.

Worse than anything else, most IT consultants (even those very high-priced bastards) and in-house personnel are woefully poor at understanding the corporate vision, much less in being able to implement it.

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