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'It Doesn't Matter' Summary

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Length: 960 words (2.7 double-spaced pages)
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Electricity, the telephone, the steam engine, the telegraph, the railroad and…..IT? In his HBR article, "IT Doesn't Matter," Nicholas Carr has stirred up quite a bit of controversy around IT's role as strategic business differentiator. He examines the evolution of IT and argues that it follows a pattern very similar to that of earlier technologies like railroads and electricity. At the beginning of their evolution, these technologies provided opportunities for competitive advantage. However, as they become more and more available – as they become ubiquitous – they transform into "commodity inputs," and lose their strategic differentiation capabilities. From a strategic viewpoint, they essentially become "invisible."
Carr distinguishes between proprietary technologies and what he calls infrastructural technologies. Proprietary technologies can provide a strategic advantage as long as they remain restricted through "physical limitations, intellectual property rights, high costs or a lack of standards," but once those restrictions are lifted, the strategic advantage is lost. In ...


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... devastating if there is a lapse in service. The same holds true for IT – any disruption can be devastating to a business, paralyzing it in ways that could not have been foreseen 50 years ago. Therefore, it's critical to minimize risk.
If Carr is correct, and IT is becoming our newest commodity, then it is critical for business leaders to shift their thinking quickly. It is no longer prudent to view IT as a strategic differentiator, but to view it as just another mission critical, albeit somewhat boring, foundational cost of doing business.

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