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

3.6 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1 edition (May 18 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591394449
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591394440
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 15.2 x 24.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 399 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #463,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"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.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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By A Customer 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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By A Customer 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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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. Worse, IT is blind to its own faults and fails to see that the technology we use and the services we provide are commodities as Carr claims.
Make no mistake, Carr does not make claims that technical innovation is unimportant, nor does he claim that technology properly applied is useless. At issue is the way that technology is misused, which goes back to the fact that IT is so focused on technology that business suffers from unfulfilled promises, application of technology to non-problems, and plain arrogance of those who are supposed to be providing services and solutions to support business imperatives.
This book is must reading by the CxO community. It should wake up the business executives to the fallacies foisted upon them by IT to the point where CIOs and senior IT executives will be held accountable for how well they support business initiatives instead of how technically advanced their shops are. To that end the fact that this book is published by Harvard Business School Press, meaning that it stands a chance of being read by outsiders who do have the power to demand changes in IT, is one of the valuable aspects of this work.
Summarizing, this book is about chronic problems that plague most IT shops, and is also about looking at IT in a more objective way. Do not expect solutions because they are in short supply in this book, but do expect an honest look at the way IT has diverged from being a business support function to being a money pit for corporate resources. Also expect to see technology and IT services placed in their proper context, with all of the hype and mystery stripped away.
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