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IT Still Matters

An article titled "IT Doesn't Matter" by Nicholas G. Carr published in May 2003 issue of venerable Harvard Business Review, announcing the elevation of IT into a mature infrastructure, in the same league as rail-road, electricity and hence incapable of providing any strategic advantage, seems to have generated good amount of controlversy. Fortune columnist David Kirkpatrick wrote in his column Stupid-Journal Alert: Why HBR's View of Tech Is Dangerous: "One of the article's most glaring flaws is its complete disregard for the centrality of software." Pete Delisi wrote in SOUND OFF column of CIO magazine: "What I believe he misses is that IT is not only a transport technology, as are all the other technologies he compares it to. IT is also a "processing" technology capable of doing more than carrying electronic signals or goods, which basically arrive at their destination without major value being added by the technology in the transport process."

The HBR article defines IT (Information Technology -- if you are still wondering) as the technologies used for processing, storing, and transporting information in digital form. But still uses specific embodiments of IT such as number of hosts connected to the Internet as an indicator of IT's overall maturation. Conclusions drawn from state of a specific IT segment cannot be applied to the the whole of IT. I agree that the Internet itself may be in a fairly advanced stage of development. But then, the Internet, however important, is just a segment of IT and cannot be equated with IT. IT is much broader and has seen evolution of many such segments: Transaction Processing, Personal Computing, Desk Top Publishing, Multi-Media and so on. The Internet is only one among many manifestations of IT.

In my opinion, this is the biggest flaw of the HBR article -- It takes a fairly narrow view of IT. It may be okay to compare the Internet with Railroad but it is not fair to compare IT with Railroad. Comparison with the general category of Trasnportation would be more appropriate. Maturing of Railroad did not preclude aviation based transport or even the network of highways for the ground transportation!


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 5, 2003 11:21 PM.

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