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Beyond the News

Is IT a business driver or business drives IT?

In 2003, the article “IT Doesn’t Matter” written by Nicholas Carr caused a “frisson” in the IT industry as a whole. The title really touched the egos of technologists and CEO’s of major IT corporations who even bothered themselves to answer Carr’s provocative paper in public. However, by analyzing his arguments nearly 10 years later makes easier to see that Carr was not completlly “out of his mind” when he published the article at Harvard Business Review.

One point that sparked major skepticism and even criticism is related to Carr’s idea that IT has become a commodity; and he does it comparing information technology to railroads infrastructure and electricity (Carr, 2003). Now, in 2012, what we see is actually the IT industry focusing more and more its strategies to sell commodities, rather than new technological tools. “Salesforce and other SaaS providers were the first to identify applications that could be delivered as commodity services; now the cloud is penetrating deeper into enterprise IT and identifying other discrete service opportunities”. (Knor, 2011)

Photo: Doreen

The escalators in a metro station; is IT becoming a commodity just like electricity?  Photo: Doreen

Moreover, we can also recognize this trend in the governmental level. For example, the central IT organization of State of Minnesota (2011) has implemented what is called “IT Commodities Standards” for the purchasing of new IT products and services.

One of main critics of Carr’s article is the former Intel’s CEO Craig Barrett who said in an interview published by Richard Wallace that any company, from IT to medical, including automotive and aviation, rely on IT to develop their products and to keep ahead to the competitors. “I have said you have the possibility of a jobless recovery if you don’t have that IT infrastructure upgrade”. (Wallace, 2003) On the other hand, we have witnessed in the last 10 years the “Corporate IT” moving from pure information technology to ICT (Information and Communication Technology), which levers the IT concept beyond the simply implementation of technological tools. It also involves human resources, company’s culture and business goals. “Investments in technology infrastructure must be part of a larger local planning process to succeed”. (Luger, Maynard 2007)

Hence, my view is that the corporate world has embraced technology as per own needs and not the other way around as IT business people (mainly CEO’s and Sales Directors) wished to. Perhaps in terms of personal use of gadgets this phenomenon has actually been happening. Mobile phones are bought nowadays, for example, not always because someone needs a new phone, but rather because it is “hype to ‘wear’ the newest piece”.

On the other hand, business leaders are aware that functions such as Data Management, which heavily relies on IT tools, also need human “drivers” and intellectual capabilities to deliver results. It is not everyone who can handle MySQL or even Access and Excel. So, IT tools are out there available to anyone in great amount, but its importance (or matter) will depend on how it is used and manipulated. Any investment in IT must be carefully analyzed to evaluate its impact on the core objectives of a company instead to be incorporated as a solution itself.

 Bibliography:

Carr, N. G. (2003) IT doesn’t matter. Harvard Business Review; May2003, Vol. 81 Issue 5, p41-49.

Knor, E. (2011) Cloud computing: IT as commodity. [Online]. Available from: http://www.infoworld.com/t/managed-services/cloud-computing-it-commodity-913?page=0,1. (Accessed: 5 January 2012).

Luger, M. I. Maynard, N. C (2007) Information and Communication Technology and the Places Left Behind. Prometheus, Vol. 25 Issue 3, p267-282.

State of Minnesota (2011) Officie of Enterprise Technnology [Online]. Available from: http://mn.gov/oet/policies-and-standards/it-commodities/#. (Accessed: 5 January 2012)

Wallace, R (2003) Intel’s Barrett fires back in IT relevance debate. [Online]. Available from:  http://eetimes.com/electronics-news/4044574/Intel-s-Barrett-fires-back-in-IT-relevance-debate. (Accessed: 5 January 2012)

Weill, Subramani, Broadbent, “Building IT Infrastructure for Strategic Agility,” Sloan Management Review, Fall 2002, Volume 44, Number 1, pp. 57-65.

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This entry was posted on January 20, 2012 by in English, IT.
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