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

Nicholas G. Carr
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 18 2004
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.

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"Honourable Mention" in Harvey Schacter's Column: "Pick Up the Feiner Points in Best of Year's Top 10 Books" column -- Globe and Mail, December 15, 2004

About the Author

Nicholas G. Carr is a former Executive Editor and Editor-at-Large for Harvard Business Review.

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IN 1969, a young electrical engineer named Ted Hoff had a particularly elegant idea. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Excellent questions with inferior answers July 8 2004
'Does IT Matter' is a difficult book to rate. As to the questions it raises, it deserves 5 stars. But its answers, are two-star, at best.
By way of analogy, most bomb threats are bogus, but each one must be treated as if it were genuine. With that, in his new book Does IT Matter?, Nicholas Carr throws a bomb, and it turns out to be a dud.
Carr's book is an outgrowth of his article "IT Doesn't Matter," which appeared in the May 2003 issue of the Harvard Business Review. His hypothesis is that the strategic importance of IT has diminished. Carr views IT as a commodity, akin to electricity.
He also compares IT to the railroad infrastructure. In the early days, railroads that had their own tracks had a huge advantage, but once the rails become ubiquitous and open, that advantage went away.
Carr feels that since all companies can purchase the same hardware and software, any strategic advantage is obviated. It's true that the core functions of IT (processing, network transport, storage, etc.) are affordable and available to all, but there's still huge strategic advantage to be gained in how they're implemented.
It's much like two airlines that purchase the same model of airplane. If one airline streamlines and optimizes operations, trains its staff and follows standard operating procedures, it can expect to make a profit. If the other has operational inefficiencies, labor problems and other setbacks, it could lose money. The airplane is identical, but the outcome is not.
Carr is correct in that there have been some huge IT outlays of dubious value. But to say that IT is simply the procurement of hardware and software is to be blind to the fact that hardware and software are but two of the myriad components of IT.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Does Enterprise Architecture Matter? July 5 2004
Readers of this book should also read books on Enterprise Architecture as a solution to the concerns raised by the author.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Provocative title, narrow claim, strong argument July 4 2004
You may recall the uproar in 2003 around a short Harvard Business Review article entitled "IT Doesn't Matter". Various IT company leaders spoke out against the article, with Carly Fiorina calling it "dead wrong" and Steve Ballmer calling it "hogwash". There were also many lengthy rebuttals. Nicholas Carr, the author of the original 8 page article, expanded the argument into a well-written book, explaining his claim more thoroughly and responding to his critics.
The book (like the article) has a provocative title, but in fact Carr's claim is much narrower than the title suggests. Carr is only focused on *corporate IT*, the systems that companies build and deploy for their own use and the use of their customers and suppliers. He is not looking at consumer IT --- the digital wonders that are showing up in our living rooms, cars, and in our pockets. And he is not looking at governmental IT --- the systems that are used to find terrorists, wage combat, or evaluate welfare eligibility.
More significantly, Carr is also focused on one corporate use of IT, to attain a *competitive advantage*. Can Coke achieve some competitive advantage over Pepsi by implementing a new application? Carr is not asking whether IT can add value to a company --- clearly there are thousands of examples of IT saving money, providing value to customers, to suppliers, and adding value in other ways. Instead, Carr asks whether we can expect IT to add this value in a way that competitors cannot quickly realize the same added value. Can Coke do something significant with IT that will not be quickly replicated by Pepsi?
Finally, Carr agrees that in the past IT has been used to gain competitive advantages.
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5.0 out of 5 stars New thinking on business strategy June 30 2004
By A Customer
Although this is certainly a book about information technology - and a very illuminating one - I would argue that it's primarily about business strategy rather than technology. The author puts IT into the context of rigorous strategic thinking, using the evolution of the business use of computers to shed light on the critical question of how companies achieve distinctiveness from their competitors - and thus strong profitability. He shows how resources that once provided competitive advantage lose their strategic importance as they become better understood, cheaper and more available. This is what's happened to IT as it has with many other resources in the past. One of the best sections of the book comes when the author shows how the commoditization of IT hardware and software is now spreading to the business processes that are increasingly defined by software. Companies that rush to outsource such processes, he argues, may ultimately find they are sacrificing the foundations of their strategic differentiation and advantage. The book is much less polemical than it's been made out to be. In essence, it challenges the reader to think more broadly and intelligently about the role of information technology in business and about the evolution of strategy itself.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your time June 24 2004
By A Customer
I started this book with an open mind and read it in about 2 days. It is an easy read but delivers little. The Cliff Notes version, if there was one, could be summarized in 2 or 3 paragraphs. Many of the authors predictions are based on silly analogies. In the book he compares electricity to information technology. He mentions a few electrical related job titles that are no longer part of corporate America but fails to mention that there are still plenty of Electrical Engineers, Electricians, Electrical Contractors, etc. still employed in our economy. He takes a small segment of technology and predicts it's commoditization. Big Deal! Technology is ever-evolving and his predicitions are not that revolutionary. What makes this book ridiculous is his prediction that all of information technology will eventually be a commodity. This book is an obvious attempt to create a controversy to sell books. Don't fall for it. Save your money and look elsewhere.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Where is IT going?
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... Read more
Published on June 23 2004 by John Matlock
5.0 out of 5 stars A Landmark in IT Thinking
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... Read more
Published on May 30 2004 by "bertknowles"
5.0 out of 5 stars It's about time!
I am one of the legions of IT managers who by association has contributed to the mess Carr so accurately portrays. This book in on the mark. IT is too technology focused. Read more
Published on May 30 2004 by Rachel Tozier
1.0 out of 5 stars Twisty language beguiles the easily amused
It's star time. While filling in for a 'let go' editor of the Harvard Business Review (HBR), a business writer with no personal involvment or experience in IT uses prime-time pages... Read more
Published on May 30 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading
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. Read more
Published on May 30 2004 by "rogkburns"
2.0 out of 5 stars YOU BET IT DOES.
Happened to pick up and browse through this paperweight at the airport and patted myself for not having bought it. Read more
Published on May 28 2004 by Shashank Tripathi
1.0 out of 5 stars Urge all your competitors to read this book!
Two Harvard professors summarized Carr's ideas ... the most dangerous advice to CEOs has come from people who either had no idea of what they didn't know, or from those who... Read more
Published on May 28 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars A valuable guide
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... Read more
Published on May 17 2004 by "khulse6"
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