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Does It Matter?: Information Technology and the Corrosion of Competitive Advantage Hardcover – May 18 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 193 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Press; 1 edition (May 18 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591394449
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591394440
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 14.9 x 21.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 399 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #464,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


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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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ben Rothke on July 8 2004
Format: Hardcover
'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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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By A Customer on June 30 2004
Format: Hardcover
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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By A Customer on June 24 2004
Format: Hardcover
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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