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VINE VOICEon May 20, 2009
What drew me to this title so many years after the original publication date was the increasing media focus on web 2.0, which made me wonder about any lessons which we should have learned after the so called bubble.

What I found in this little book is a judicious mix of a number of differing insights from many areas of business and economics which purport to show that the establishment of a novel infrastructure does not necessarily mean that there is an increasing level of productivity arising from it.

I find the argument more than convincing. Indeed, for me it is not the productivity gains which result from the development of the technology, it's introduction or even it's widespread take up which elevates it to the status of infrastructure which even matters. It is the knowledge of how that infrastructure can be utilised which is the crucial element of productivity gains.

What needs to be considered is not the general traffic which uses the infrastructure, after all, if one contempltes this for any period of time, then surely it must be realised that those gains are only there initially. As traffic continues to increase using the new as opposed to the antiquated technology, productivity gains must be subject to diminishing returns up until such a point where congestion becomes a problem.

Productivity can be enhanced through peripheral technological improvements which can stave off congestion and the increased costs associated with it.

Thus it is with web 2.0. Productivity gains associated with the convergence of the existing technologies have essentially already been exploited and the enterprise economy must be looking for further innovation.

What I have learned from this book is that we need to identify and encourage those with new ideas on applicationsand innovations. Currently, when the financial crisis is forcing us all to buckle down and tighten our belts, we must continue to look up and instead of using the command and control structures which are the easiest route to take but the hardest route to the delivery of sustained results, we should also provide a nuturing environment for those in organisations who dare to think the unthinkable and challenge the conventional wisdom.
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on May 14, 2013
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.
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on May 16, 2004
I found a couple of contradictions that, to me, undermine the book. Mr. Carr compares the electric revolution of 100 years ago with the more recent IT revolution and argues that since electricity no longer confers a competitive advantage, then IT should be treated the same way. He underscores this by pointing out that "many large companies created the new management post of vice president of electricity...But within a few years...[they] quietly disappeared" (pg 29-30). Later in the book, he states that "the seniormost corporate IT executives...need to lead the way in promulgating a new sense of realism about the strengths and limitations of IT" (pg 133). If VPs of electricity are unnecessary, then why not so for IT executives?
He also seems to contradict himself regarding ERP and Web browsing software. On page 113 he states, "Yet the vast majority of workers who use PCs rely on only a few simple applications - word processing, spreadsheets, e-mail, and Web Browsing". But earlier he writes, "ERP packages promised to solve, and sometimes did solve, one of the most daunting and expensive problems facing modern companies: the proliferation of narrow, discrete software applications" (pg 46). And on page 115, he describes how one business improved productivity by getting rid of Web browsers.
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on October 7, 2010
a very god book that put things into prepective , very important if you are into cloud computing
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on February 23, 2006
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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on March 4, 2015
This is a very important book to read and understand. It is also completely wrongheaded. Looking at Everett Rodgers book Diffusion of Innovations the technology or innovation resistance early on, and the reasons for this resistance is clearly described. Geoffrey Moore in his "Crossing the Chasm" and Clayton Christensen in "The Innovator's Dilemma" explain what to do about this attitude (especially in an enterprise IT organization) when one encounters it. Carr's book is written from the perspective of the IT department and essentially defends it as a virtue much in the same way Jackie Fenn did at the Gartner Group in her infamous "Understanding the Hype Cycle" (privately published) some 20 year ago. By having a serious academic embrace this thought process, a lot of people are going to be lured into the false notion that this leads to goodness. It does not. While IT's track record with major new systems innovations is horrible, It doesn't have to be that way. And just to be clear about that track record, they were into controlling PC's with IBM's PS/2 and OS/2 duo, they pursued Lu 6.2, OSI, SNADS, and token rings while internet technologies were taking over, they are still trying to sell the concept of an enterprise data bus as a front end for massively centralized data in a world that is fundamentally distributed, they were buying PBX's long after Selsius (later acquired by Cisco) was relegating such equipment to the dung heap, IT can be right, and ahead of the RIGHT new technology curve, but it must follow basic lean thinking principles about customer engagement when learning about what to do next. The discipline of Design Thinking as taught at the Stanford D school is super critical. Do read Carr's book in order to understand the thought process enemy, and then run the other way as fast as you possibly can.
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on August 31, 2013
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, I will argue that IT's strategic importance is not growing, as many have claimed or assumed, but diminishing. As IT has become more powerful, more standardized, and more affordable, it has been transformed from a proprietary technology that companies can use to gain an edge over their rivals into an infrastructural technology that is shared by all competitors. Information technology has increasingly become, in other words, a simple factor of production--a commodity input that is necessary for competitiveness but insufficient for advantage."

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. "
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on August 17, 2013
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 to get what he or she wants through the click of a mouse, they're gonna do it, plain and simple. Unfortunately for us Americanos, as Carr explains, that means making a living by the Internet affords knowledge workers who live in "less developed" (whatever the heck that means) nations such as India and the Philippines can do IT for American clients far cheaper, yet the wages paid still make for a respectable, upper middle class living for what they do than here. $40k a year won't buy you a cup of coffee here, but over there, you can live quite well on it.

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.
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on April 22, 2007
It is always difficult to write books about the interplay of business and technology. If you lean too far in either direction, you fall off the tightrope. Carr does a good job at abstracting and giving the macroeconomical view, but his weakness colaesces in "Managing the Money Pit". The overview approach does not work here, Sir. This is a place where volumes could be written. When should I, as an IT manager make targeted strategic investments, as oppossed to overall upgrades? Should I put on my rose-colored academic glasses and convert my server farms to Linux and outsource all my IT overseas? Generalization of complex issues that face people in this industry could be tough to swallow for some.

On a positive note, the relation of IT to past infrastructure technologies was brilliant. As a reader, I was insatiable when reading the historical similarities of railroads, electrical grids and other innovations of times past. Tying these examples together with those of the modern era to form direct patterns (instead of loose links) would do this book a ton of good. Expanding the "Money Pit" chapter and teaming up with some industry IT veterans to write it would add tremendous value to the reader.
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on December 12, 2015
Carr always seems to be interesting whether you agree or not. It has many insights that you will find interesting.
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