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IT Doesn't Matter (HBR OnPoint Enhanced Edition) [Download: PDF] [Digital]

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

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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Focus on risks, not opportunities" May 17, 2003
Nicholas Carr's article is at the centre of a firestorm. At a time when the IT industry seems to be in a bottomless freefall, the suggestion that companies should spend even less on IT investments is unwelcome to many ears.
"IT Doesn't Matter" certainly isn't the first paper to point out that the IT industry has been maturing. Previous analysts' reports have compared IT to such rustbelt industries as automotive manufacture, power generation and railroads. Carr is the first person, however, to have written a studied, coherent and complete explanation for how this new generation of software needs to be managed from a business person's point of view - and to do so in the prestigious Harvard Business Review, where he is Editor-At-Large.
The responses to this paper have been the predictable cheers from those who detest everything to do with IT, and the furious rebuttals from those who see IT as the primary, or only, hope for a resurgence of our economy. Nicholas Carr's thesis defends neither extreme. His carefully-phrased paper differentiates between strategic and essential, affordable and cheap, innovative and valuable. This enhanced edition of the article that first appeared in the HBR in May 2003 is well worth reading.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Nicholas G. Carr is Harvard Business Review's editor-at-large and writes for several leading business magazines/newspapers. This article was published in the HBR's May 2003-issue.
As information technology's power and presence have expanded, companies have come to view it as a resource even more critical to their success. Since 1965, the capital expenditures of American companies on IT has risen from 5% to almost 50% (well over $2 trillion) each year. The attitude towards IT has also changed in this period, from proletarion tools to strategic tools. But Carr believes that IT is best seen as the latest in a series of broadly adopted technologies that have reshaped industry over the past two centuries. And although these technologies opened opportunities for forward-looking companies to gain real advantages, they become commodity inputs as their availability increases and their cost decreases. Building on comparisons that the impact of railways, the telephone, and electric power had on business, the author explains the coming implications for corporate IT management. He discusses the vanishing advantage of IT, the commodization of IT, and a more cautious approach toward IT in the years to come. Carr's advice for IT management is take a more defensive posture toward IT (spend less; follow, don't lead; and focus on vulnerabilities, not opportunities).
Yes, a good article on the future of information technology. And although a good many people/companies will not like it, the author has a strong, somewhat negative, message. Based on the histories of previous technologies Carr believes that IT management should become boring, with a far more defensive approach toward IT. I also recommend Michael E. Porter' 2001-article 'Strategy and the Internet'. The article is written in simple business US-English.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By kievite
"OBSCURANTISM is a word that's no longer used these days. In the forties, it was a favorite of literary and social critics. The dictionary defined it as "a deprecation of or positive opposition to enlightenment or the spread of knowledge, especially a policy (as in art or science) of deliberately making obscure or withholding knowledge from the general public," also a "style (as in literature and art) characterized by haziness and lack of sharp definition." (from Obscurantism.(Opinion & Editorial)

This is fully applicable to Carr writings. Haziness and lack of sharp definition are typical. Carr used focus on IT shortcomings to propose a new utopia: users are mastering complex IT packages and perform all functions previously provided by IT, while " in the cloud" service providers fill the rest. This is pretty fine humor not no much more.

The key problem with the current IT its "dilbertalization". That's why IT is often perceived as hostile to business interests. With WAN based service providers dilbertalization of IT just moves to other buildings.

Carr approach to IT is completely anti-historic. This is the first and major problem with his article. IT already experienced several dramatic transformations. Also complexity of IT systems has no precedents in human history and as such analogies with railways and electrical grid are deeply and irrevocably flawed as they does not capture the key characteristic of the technology: its unsurpassed complexity and Lego type flexibility.

The second aspect of his anti-historical approach is that Carr profess a very narrow and static definition of IT. During 60 year of IT evolution its role dramatically changed at least a dozen times. The first applications of IT were military calculations.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Viewpoints! March 16, 2013
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I found it helpful to have both the original article and some of the main responses written by leaders in the field. Gave many alternative viewpoints which framed the issue well.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Thought Provoking December 23, 2003
This is a very good read - I think he has missed the point with his conclusions, but what he says is thought provoking none the less. Readers should follow the article up with a read of the book "IT Doesn't Matter - Business Processes Do".
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