CSC: No One Says IT Doesn’t Matter Any More

InsightaaS: CSC’s Leading Edge Forum carries occasional posts from several CSC experts — notably, author and analyst David Moschella, who has grown from a role as the executive responsible for IDC’s international research into his current position as an advisor to CSC’s global enterprise clientele. In this post, Moschella revisits a famous HBR article and subsequent book (“IT Doesn’t Matter” and “Does IT Matter” respectively) by Nicholas Carr, another source who appears periodically in Across the Net.

Carr’s statement was contentious at the time (I remember being flown to a CIPS event Edmonton to appear on a panel with him, so that there would be at least one sympathetic party in the room!), but as Moschella points out here, the intervening decade has clearly demonstrated the importance of IT to business strategy. There are nuances to Carr’s position that are frequently lost in debate, but Moschella’s concluding point certainly stands: “While there will always be scepticism regarding particular IT trends and fashions, no one says that IT doesn’t matter any more.”

I recently presented the data shown below to the IT leadership team of one of our major clients. The first question that was asked surprised me. Haven’t business leaders said for decades that information technology was a major force of change? In other words, are these seemingly impressive findings really all that new?

How quickly we forget. In May 2003, the Harvard Business Review published an article entitled “IT Doesn’t Matter” by Nicholas Carr, then a largely unknown HBR editor-at-large. The paper argued that IT was being commoditized, and thus offered little hope of sustained competitive advantage. Consequently, most firms should focus on reducing the cost and risk of IT. The article set off an impassioned debate, and the phrase “IT doesn’t matter” soon became part of the IT industry lexicon.

As with many provocative writings, Carr clearly over-stated his case. He now freely admits that the article was “really about IT infrastructure”…

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