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Does IT Matter? Information Technology and the Corrosion of Competitive Advantage Hardcover – April, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1 edition (April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591394449
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591394440
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #597,828 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"...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


More About the Author

Nicholas Carr is an acclaimed writer on technology and culture. His new book, "The Glass Cage: Automation and Us," examines the personal 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 personal 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 ranked #4 on Newsweek's recent list of 50 Books to Read Now, and of the influential 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, Nature, MIT Technology Review, and The Guardian. He was formerly the executive editor of the Harvard Business Review. Carr blogs at www.roughtype.com. More information about his work can be found at his website, www.nicholascarr.com. [Author photo by Merrick Chase.]

Customer Reviews

It's a very illuminating and thought-provoking book.
"rogkburns"
Happened to pick up and browse through this paperweight at the airport and patted myself for not having bought it.
Shashank Tripathi
Carr provides a stirring indictment to the belief that IT brings with it the promise of competitive advantage.
Leo Lim

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 44 people found the following review helpful By "bertknowles" on May 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
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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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Anonymous Reader on July 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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?
Read more ›
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Carol M. Meerschaert on 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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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By "rogkburns" on May 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
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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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By "khulse6" on May 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
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 By John Matlock on June 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
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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