Information Technology
May 29, 2003 7:11 AM   Subscribe

Does Information Technology(IT) matter? A recent Harvard Business Review paper has been criticized for its controversial stance that IT does not matter. Does it?
posted by SandeepKrishnamurthy (13 comments total)
Am I missing something? How do I read the article without paying for it? It does sound interesting.
posted by monkeyman at 7:20 AM on May 29, 2003

You are not missing anything, monkeyman. The site has a good summary of the arguments and media coverage, though.
posted by SandeepKrishnamurthy at 7:22 AM on May 29, 2003

Evidently his argument is working. The small college I work for just laid off 4 of the 5 IT guys. Including me.
posted by Hugh2d2 at 7:26 AM on May 29, 2003

His primary argument: we're at the point where any technological improvement in the management of information will be quickly and broadly copied, rendering it meaningless for competitive advantage.

Yeah, I pretty much agree with that.
posted by insomnyuk at 8:00 AM on May 29, 2003

LOL. Does anyone miss the irony of posting this discussion to a web site?

I, too, agree with his article. While the new advances in IT are exciting, they are also widely available and easily exploitable (one of the benefits of the last decade of IT development.) It's the old detente argument, extrapolated for IT - since everyone has easy access to the same features and functionality, the features and functionality are no longer a differentiating factor.
posted by FormlessOne at 8:07 AM on May 29, 2003

Just because something is strategically irrelevant is not the same as saying it doesn't matter. This guy's saying IT is losing it's glamour and becoming just another department. But would he say "Accounting doesn't matter"?
posted by techgnollogic at 8:19 AM on May 29, 2003

Well, defense industry information technology is still pretty relevant. The company I work for is doing pretty well with Bush in the white house.

So maybe it's only relevant if you throw billions of dollars at it.
posted by SweetJesus at 8:22 AM on May 29, 2003

his title is just a troll to get attention, IMHO

he makes some good points, he compares IT to railroads and electric power, both of which revolutionized things and then faded from the front lines but hardly irrelevant.

IT is so much more of an agile thing than those industries though, people can make software to do anything, they are just getting more used to it.

if all the trains stopped running, our grocery stores would be empty. if the electricit [blink]
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 8:26 AM on May 29, 2003

techgnollogic, IT departments losing their 'glamour' made me laugh, but maybe your IT Department is quite so spotty and geeky as mine.

On topic I think this is an interesting debate - but maybe a little eurocentric. I disagree with Carr though - we have a long way to go with this puppy.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 8:26 AM on May 29, 2003

his title is just a troll to get attention, IMHO

Well, i wouldn't go calling troll just's really what the premise of the article is about...

I also would agree that IT has stopped being a competitve advantage except for killer apps, and there always is one!

It's more about how it's leveraged. Everybody's going to be able to get's about how well you role it out and take advantage of it that's key. I think that's analogous to how well a manufacturing facility uses its new equipment.
posted by taumeson at 9:17 AM on May 29, 2003

Um, people have been saying this for years (its not the technology, but how you use it.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:02 AM on May 29, 2003

I wonder where he would post his website without a room full of IT geeks keeping his servers up and running.
posted by Nauip at 11:02 AM on May 29, 2003

Nauip - The biggest point in IT (without $$$ to read the article) is that you don't need a room full of geeks anymore.

I think that there are several areas where IT continues to change and grow in ways that are ... unusual, to say the least.

First, IT is moving away from the highly-paid professional (i.e. 6 figures for a mainframe administrator for a single machine to mid 30k's for a linux administrator for fourty or fifty machines) as the profession matures. Companies that can't maneuver to take advantage of this change in architecture are going to fall behind.

The problem that I can see with an article like this is that he's not taking into account the business information products that are entering the market today and over the next few months. The most exciting concept -- and it's only now becoming feasible with the increased processing power, storage, and broadband usage in the US -- is the 'realtime dashboard'. I work in a company that does real-time data processing for a particular industry, and subscribers to our service can use real-time data and constnatly updated forecasts to make snap decisions about marketing strategies and sales in the United States. Instead of waiting for 'yesterday's numbers' or 'last month's numbers', you have things updated minute to minute and accuracy is guaranteed. The concept is exciting because it's changing the way that this particular industry operates and it does provide a significant competitive advantage to companies that subscribe to our services.

IT never was an end, as the dot com kids thought it was -- the reason that the bubble burst is that IT is and always has been a means to an end, and some columnists are only just realizing this now and are seeing it as a diminished role.
posted by SpecialK at 11:32 AM on May 29, 2003

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