- Hardcover: 208 pages
- Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1 edition (April 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1591394449
- ISBN-13: 978-1591394440
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 42 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #675,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Does IT Matter? Information Technology and the Corrosion of Competitive Advantage Hardcover – April, 2004
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"...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 Doesnt 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 Microsofts 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 ITs 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 ITs 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 economys 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 youll agree.
- Nicholas G. Carr
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The outline of the book is as follows: "I open with a brief introductory chapter, "Technological Transformations," that provides an overview of my thesis and underscores the value of examining IT from a strategic perspective. I stress in this chapter what I see as the central--and positive--message of this book: that IT's transformation from a set of proprietary and heterogeneous systems into a shared and standardized infrastructure is a natural, necessary, and healthy process. It is only by becoming an infrastructure--a common resource--that IT can deliver its greatest economic and social benefits. The second chapter, "Laying Tracks," introduces and explains the critical distinction between proprietary and infrastructural technologies...In Chapter 3, "An Almost Perfect Commodity," I examine the technical, economic, and competitive characteristics of IT that lend it to particularly rapid commoditization...Chapter 4, "Vanishing Advantage," looks at the history of the use of IT by companies, showing how closely it follows the pattern established by earlier infrastructural technologies...Chapter 5, "The Universal Strategy Solvent," steps back from the close examination of IT management to describe how the emergence of a new business infrastructure can change the basis of competition in markets. I discuss the corrosive effects of the IT infrastructure on some traditional forms of competitive advantage and describe how business success increasingly hinges on the simultaneous pursuit of both sustainable and leverageable advantages...In Chapter 6, "Managing the Money Pit," I turn to the practical managerial implications of the commoditization of IT. Stressing the importance of controlling cost and risk, I offer four guidelines for IT investment and management: spend less; follow, don't lead; innovate when risks are low; and focus more on vulnerabilities than opportunities...The final chapter, "A Dream of Wonderful Machines," explores the broader consequences of information technology for economies and societies. I describe how our natural enthusiasm for a new technology, with its promise of renewal. can lead us to exaggerate its benefits and overlook its costs. and I examine how this bias has influenced our perceptions of the so-called computer revolution."
Below are two additional key excerpts that I found particularly insightful:
1- "The most successful business executives ignore such academic distinctions, of course. They realize, intuitively, that successful strategy is about both achieving a privileged industry position and exploiting unique internal capabilities. They know, in other words, that business success derives from a continuous and purposeful mediation between what lies inside and what lies outside. The maturation of the IT infrastructure, with its corrosive effects on competitive advantage, demands more such acts of practical synthesis. It requires that managers see a competitive advantage as both a goal and a passageway, an end and a means. And it requires that they defend their company's integrity as a stand-alone business even as they exploit the tighter connections to other companies made possible by computer networks. Agility must be balanced with stability, openness with guardedness. Those executives who are able to master such bifocal vision without losing their ability to take forceful action will be the ones that build the great and lasting companies of the twenty-first century. "
2- "Although we're now five decades into the so-called computer revolution, it remains difficult to judge with any precision the extent and shape of IT's effects. Has it been truly transformative? Will it become truly transformative? The fact is, we can't yet answer those questions with any certainty. The best we can do is to separate what we do know from what we don't, and to look ahead with a mix of curiosity, skepticism, and humility. "
Welcome to globalization, and in this book, Carr does a great job in breaking the news to us gently but in a realistic manner. The Internet can practically make anything into a commodity; that's the takeaway I got here... That, and it would do you well to remain open to change and always have a plan B.