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Does It Matter?: Information Technology and the Corrosion of Competitive Advantage [Kindle Edition]

Nicholas G. Carr
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Over the last decade, and even since the bursting of the technology bubble, pundits, consultants, and thought leaders have argued that information technology provides the edge necessary for business success. IT expert Nicholas G. Carr offers a radically different view in this eloquent and explosive book. As IT's power and presence have grown, he argues, its strategic relevance has actually decreased. IT has been transformed from a source of advantage into a commoditized "cost of doing business"--with huge implications for business management. Expanding on Carr's seminal Harvard Business Review article that generated a storm of controversy, Does IT Matter? provides a truly compelling--and unsettling--account of IT's changing business role and its leveling influence on competition. Through astute analysis of historical and contemporary examples, Carr shows that the evolution of IT closely parallels that of earlier technologies such as railroads and electric power. He goes on to lay out a new agenda for IT management, stressing cost control and risk management over innovation and investment. And he examines the broader implications for business strategy and organization as well as for the technology industry. A frame-changing statement on one of the most important business phenomena of our time, Does IT Matter? marks a crucial milepost in the debate about IT's future. An acclaimed business writer and thinker, Nicholas G. Carr is a former executive editor of the Harvard Business Review.

Editorial Reviews


"...lays out the simple truths...of information technology in a lucid way, with cogent examples and clear analysis." -- New York Times, May 6, 2004

"Carr's work is thorough ... IT thinking rarely gets a contribution of this caliber. Read it." -- eWeek, May 24th, 2004

"Does IT Matter? engages the imagination and the emotions, a rare combination in a business book." -- Boston Globe, May 2, 2004

"Does IT Matter? will give executives and managers a way to sift through the next wave of tech hype." -- BusinessWeek, May 24th, 2004

"His argument is simple, powerful and yet also subtle." -- The Economist, April 2004

"cooly written [and] intellectually engaging" -- Financial Times, May 2004

From the Author

In May 2003, I published the article "IT Doesn’t Matter" in the Harvard Business Review. Called "the rhetorical equivalent of a 50 megaton smart bomb," the article challenged the conventional wisdom that information technology has become increasingly important as a strategic weapon in business. In fact, I argued, IT is becoming less important as it becomes more powerful and more widespread. Some of the leading figures in the tech industry attacked the article, with Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer dismissing it as "hogwash." But the debate over my ideas has only intensified.

In Does IT Matter? Information Technology and the Corrosion of Competitive Advantage, I offer a deeper analysis of IT’s role in business, examining the characteristics of hardware and software that guide their evolution. Through a series of examples, I show how IT innovations rapidly become part of the shared business infrastructure, neutralizing their ability to provide competitive advantage. I also lay out a new framework for assessing IT investments based not only on their return on investment but also on competitive responses. Managers will come away from the book with a coherent perspective that will help them derive real value from the enormous sums they spend on IT.

I also examine IT’s influence on other sources of advantage. Again taking issue with the common wisdom, I show that many of the current assumptions about process automation, outsourcing, and virtual business are simplistic and dangerous. Companies that act on them are more likely to destroy advantage than create it.

Given the economy’s reliance on IT, these are subjects important to everyone. I have therefore written the book in straightforward prose, avoiding the jargon that makes the current writing on computer systems obscure. I think anyone who buys, sells, or uses IT – or invests in companies that do – will find the book invigorating and useful. I hope you’ll agree.

- Nicholas G. Carr

Product Details

  • File Size: 462 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1 edition (April 7, 2004)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004OEIQ6I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #804,702 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Landmark in IT Thinking May 30, 2004
Just reading through the reviews already posted here shows how big a stir Carr's ideas have caused. Because of vested interests or emotional ties, some people have a deep fear of any criticism of IT, and it blinds them to the reality of the situation. In my humble opinion, as someone who's worked in the IT field for nearly two decades, I think Carr has it exactly right. It's best to treat the technology as a fairly boring necessity - be frugal, buy standardised components, don't believe the hype. The book is carefully argued, and it makes for quite compelling reading. Ignore it at your own risk.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars verbose February 23, 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is just an article from Harvard Business Review blown up into a book. Get the article reprint and save yourself time and money.
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
This book, as Nicholas Carr has claimed about IT, "doesn't matter". As one reviewer stated, Carr is a good writer but should have kept his assertion to a short article.

Carr claims that IT (hardware and software technologies) is becoming a commodity and therefore that by itself it does not provide competitive advantage. This is eye-opening and insightful only if one believes all the claims of the dot-com era (some of which are still turning out to be true after all) and if one does not understand that the economy is getting more competitive all the time. So what? Isn't everything becoming commoditized? What is left after the Information Age and outsourcing of everything? Some say it is the Creative Age, in which creativity and innovation are what confer true advantage - human mental processes, some of which have to do with using or applying technology differently.

Carr readily admits good USE of IT does confer an advantage - but again, isn't this true with any input or tool? It is management and innovative use of the input rather than the input itself that confers some advantage.

One needs a much more sophisticated hands-on understanding of IT besides the superficial observation that hardware and software technologies are becoming commodities available to all -- besides, this argument is only true in a 30,000 foot view of the world.

When one looks closer, in most cases the "free" open source software that is theoretically available to all is not truly available to all because the expertise needed to use it is very limited. Can all organizations use Linux, Perl, MySQL, etc. equally well? If not, are they really "available to all", or only to those who can actually use them?
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading May 29, 2004
I'm not a technologist and have no particularly strong feelings about information technology one way or the other. In my own experience, computers have good points and bad points. The reason I bought this book in the first place is because I read an interesting review of it in the New York Times. Now having read the book itself, I can say that I think it's really as much about how competition and strategy as about information technology per se. It's a very illuminating and thought-provoking book. It weaves together discussions of history, economics, and technology in an engaging way. The discussion gets complicated at times but it's always clearly written, even when the author's describing fairly esoteric aspects of software production. Unlike just about every other business book I've read, there's little jargon and few wasted words. It moves fast and covers a lot of ground. The book ends with a broader discussion of some of the the social and political consequences of computerization, which is also fascinating. So I can't say whether all Carr's recommendations are valid or not, and I guess that doesn't really matter to me. I enjoyed the book, and I learned a lot from it. I'd recommend it to anyone with an interest in business or business history.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A valuable guide May 17, 2004
When I saw the hysterical reaction of some big wigs in the tech industry to Carr's argument (Steve Ballmer called it "hogwash"), it made it seem like the author was an anti-technology extremist. So I was surprised to find this book to be so calmly written and so knowledgeable about the history of information technology. Carr isn't saying that IT is unimportant or that technological progress won't continue but that most companies won't be able to use IT itself to provide a strategic advantage. He shows that companies like American Airlines and Reuters used to be able to use their systems to block competitors, but that's not possible anymore. In fact, he says, trying to get an advantage by creating a customized system will probably backfire by being too costly and complicated. It's better to just find a standardized solution that does what you want it to do at the lowest cost possible. This seems to me fairly sensible advice, and Carr provides a lot of evidence to support it. The book puts IT into a broader context which I found very helpful.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where is IT going? June 23, 2004
Full Title: Does IT Matter? Information Technology and the Corrosion of Competitive Advantage -- With $2 trillion being spent on computers and communications each year there is an underlying assumption that IT is critical to increasing the competitive advantage and strategic success of a business.
But with the ready availability of computers, storage, software and people, has the IT function perhaps become one of the foundation building blocks of a corporation, just like sales, engineering or manufacturing?
Similar to other books that are appearing, the author argues that it is time to look at IT with a managerial view. What are you getting for the investment? Is IT simply another cost center or a strategic benefit to the company? How do you control costs and yet get the information you need in a timely manner? The book provides an interesting and timely view of such points.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Making IT Matter
This is a very important book to read and understand. It is also completely wrongheaded. Looking at Everett Rodgers book Diffusion of Innovations... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Craig E. Dupler
4.0 out of 5 stars good book...
Good book that questions the role that IT has taken in some organizations...
It suggests that IT will become a commodity soon... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Sergio
4.0 out of 5 stars IT Re-examined!
The main premise of the book is best summarized by the author in the preface: "Through an analysis of its unique characteristics, evolving business role, and historical precedents,... Read more
Published 21 months ago by O. Halabieh
5.0 out of 5 stars Carr is right, face it.
The Internet has democratized everything. What that means to people that use the Web as a major part of our livelihoods is, if your boss or client can find a cheaper and easier way... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Bahamas Dan
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read!
This book definitely makes you think about IT and its impact on business. Very easy to read and follow I highly recommend this book to anybody involved in business.
Published on May 14, 2013 by vandyrules
3.0 out of 5 stars Too Easy Simplistics to IT as commodity
When we think of commodity then we think of grains,milks and minerals etc. For me example will be restaurants, everyone knows what goes in making a pizza or pasta but one makes... Read more
Published on September 14, 2012 by Kripa Nidhi Tiwari
4.0 out of 5 stars Sera que TI é Tudo? (resenha em portugues)
Um livro polêmico

Às vezes acontece com livros e filmes que, quando os Títulos são traduzidos, perdem um pouco do impacto do título original. Read more
Published on January 12, 2011 by Andre Varga
5.0 out of 5 stars MUST read for IT guys
a very god book that put things into prepective , very important if you are into cloud computing
Published on October 7, 2010 by Tamer
5.0 out of 5 stars Once a barrier-to-entry, IT is now a commoditized staple
The simplest definition of a commodity is a basic product that's readily available. Typically, when you think about commodities the mind conjures up images of things such as sugar,... Read more
Published on July 9, 2009 by Rebecca Clement
4.0 out of 5 stars IT doesn't matter, it's just about dreaming anyhow
What drew me to this title so many years after the original publication date was the increasing media focus on web 2. Read more
Published on May 20, 2009 by Junglies
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More About the Author

Nicholas Carr is an acclaimed writer on technology and culture whose books have been translated into more than 25 languages. His latest work, "The Glass Cage: Automation and Us," examines the personal, social, and economic consequences of our growing dependence on computers to do our jobs and live our lives. The New York Times Book Review called the book "essential," and the Wall Street Journal termed it "elegant."

Carr's 2010 book, "The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains," was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction. A New York Times bestseller, "The Shallows" discusses the cognitive consequences of Internet and computer use and, more broadly, examines the role that media and other technologies have played in shaping the way people think.

Carr is also the author of the 2008 Wall Street Journal bestseller "The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google," which the Financial Times called "the best read so far about the significance of the shift to cloud computing," and of the much-discussed 2004 book "Does IT Matter?" In addition to writing books, Carr contributes articles and essays to many newspapers and magazines. He wrote the celebrated and much-anthologized essay "Is Google Making Us Stupid?," which appeared in The Atlantic, and he has also contributed to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New Republic, Wired, and Nature. He was formerly the executive editor of the Harvard Business Review. Carr blogs at More information about his work can be found at his website, [Author photo by Merrick Chase.]

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