Carr (2003) in his paper entitled ‘IT Doesn’t Matter’ seeks to assert that IT is becoming less of a commodity providing a strategic advantage to businesses and is moving toward a utility no different from electricity supply or railroads. In his article, Carr surmises that the trends seen in IT are no different from previous technological rollouts such as the industrial revolution in the 1800’s.
Carr argues that companies who used new and innovative IT systems to their advantage in the past are now no longer able to exploit these as all companies are now using the same technologies. Keefe (2003) describes this as giving everyone “a level playing field”.
It is difficult to argue against many of Carr’s observations and it is true that IT is now ubiquitous, used in virtually every product, every service and every industry in the World. It is also true that in many ways IT has become a consumable just like electricity, gas or water. Indeed, Vance (2012) seeks to qualify this position by stating that it has taken “less than ten years for IT not to matter”.
However, in my opinion, that is where the similarities end. I do not agree that the importance of IT systems has diminished and find Carr’s article to be short sighted and self-indulgent to deliberately evoke a strong reaction from the reader, as shown by the proliferation of articles providing a counter-argument.
Keefe (2003) argues that companies are indeed practicing maintenance and good risk avoidance with IT systems as identified by Carr, but that forward-thinking organisations are looking to the future and continuing to search for the next breakthrough in technology. While it is true that there has been a consolidation of IT systems into the infrastructure (which in my opinion needed to happen), there has been no such reduction in innovation.
Carr’s article was written nearly 10 years ago and Gonzales (2012) puts the article in perspective, reminding us that when first published, Facebook did not exist and that the Apple App store and Google’s Gmail were still a long way from being launched. These web-based technologies have fuelled period of innovation of which there is no end in sight.
Lohr (2003) describes software as “a medium without material constraints”. What Lohr means by this is that unlike railroads or electricity grids, there are not the same physical constraints of laying track or cables, so software developers can be more creative, not being constrained by physical limits.
Hassel (2012) provides four reasons why IT matters more than ever, citing that IT departments are as fundamental as HR or Finance and it is IT who are best positioned to ‘Navigate Ever-Changing Technology’. With the advent of web 3.0 and even web 4.0 in the next few years, if IT doesn’t matter, then who will embrace, develop and innovate with these technologies?
In the current economic climate of cuts and recession, IT is proving not only essential for ‘business as usual’ activities, but innovation in IT is becoming essential for future success.
Carr, N.G. (2003) ‘IT Doesn’t Matter’, Harvard Business Review, 81 (5), pp. 41-49, Ebscohost [Online]. Available from: http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liv.ac.uk/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cmedm&AN=12747161&site=eds-live&scope=site (Accessed: 4 October 2012)
Keefe, P. (2003) ‘IT Does Matter’ [Online]. Available from: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/81094/IT_Does_Matter (Accessed: 5 October 2012)
Vance, A. (2012) ‘It Took Less Than 10 Years for IT Not to Matter’ [Online]. Available from: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-06-28/it-took-about-a-decade-for-it-to-not-matter (Accessed: 6 October 2012).
Lohr, S. (2003) ‘A New Technology, Now That New Is Old’ [Online]. Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/04/business/yourmoney/04TECH.html (Accessed: 5 October 2012)
Gonzalez, A (2012) ‘Revisiting “IT Doesn’t Matter” (9 Years Later)’ [Online]. Available from: http://logisticsviewpoints.com/2012/07/11/revisiting-it-doesnt-matter-9-years-later/ (Accessed: 6 October 2012)
Hassel, J. (2012) ‘4 Reasons Why IT Matters More Than Ever’ [Online]. Available from: http://www.cio.com/article/711873/4_Reasons_Why_IT_Matters_More_Than_Ever (Accessed: 6 October 2012)