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Nick Carr's 'IT Doesn't Matter' still matters

Ann Bednarz | May 15, 2013
Nick Carr's article "IT Doesn't Matter" was published in in Harvard Business Review in May 2003 and ignited an industry firestorm for its perceived dismissal of the strategic value of IT.

Suggesting that IT doesn't matter, that it's commoditized, and that cloud providers can do the job of IT fundamentally underestimated the value that IT brings to businesses, Mann says. "Nick Carr is a provocateur and author rather than a technologist, and I don't think he understood what IT does when it does it well."

More on the same page as Carr was analyst David Tapper, vice president of outsourcing and offshore services at research firm IDC, who says he fundamentally agreed with Carr's article.

"I think he got people to start to think about it, to say, 'Let's step back from what we do and ask: Where is this all going, folks?' He was right. I think he needed to modify it a little bit, but he struck the right chords," Tapper says.

To Tapper, one distinction Carr should have made is to specify who will care about IT in the future: "I think he should have said, 'To whom should IT matter?' Because it won't matter to the consumer, it will matter to the suppliers and the service providers," Tapper says. "The service providers are the ones that are going to buy all this stuff, they're going to integrate it and operate it." To everyone else, technology is just a tool to do their jobs, something that's taken for granted, according to Tapper. "Do I wake up in the morning thinking about my telephone or the boiler in my house? No. Only when there's a problem. Otherwise I never give it a second thought."

Tapper agreed with Carr's prediction that IT would move to a utility model. "Once the masses of the world need something, it always becomes a utility. There are no exceptions," Tapper says. "It's the only way you can deliver it. And technology is now something we can't live without."

March to the cloud
Ten years after the HBR article, companies still have a long way to go on the path to cloud computing.

"If you look at IT, the bulk of investment these days, certainly on the vendor side, is on cloud systems and applications," Carr says. "On the other hand, if you look at corporate spending, cloud is still a fairly small percentage of overall spending, even though it's growing quickly. So we're still kind of between two eras."

Tapper agrees. "Companies are in the stages of restructuring their IT departments and trying to form them around cloud categories, such as platform as a service. They're outsourcing or procuring different clouds. They're trying to get it under control. It's a bit out of control now -- one company had 30 Amazon contracts and didn't know about them."


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