IT matters

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

(a reaction to Nicholas Carr's article IT doesn't matter)
Nicholas Carr’s essay “IT Doesn’t Matter” is indeed, a very intriguing and interesting article. It significantly questioned every IT-oriented person on IT’s capabilities and impact in our lives. The whole article doesn’t actually emphasize literally that Information Technology (IT) doesn’t matter, what Carr was trying to point out is that IT has become a commodity, providing little competitive advantage.

Carr summarized it that IT is diminishing as a strategic advantage. This argument was supported by 5 signs that he actually claimed to be indicators that IT buildout is much closer to its end than its beginning. These indications include (1) IT’s influence exceeds business needs; (2) IT has become available and affordable to all; (3) the internet has caught up with demand; (4) IT vendors are competing to position themselves as commodity suppliers, even as utilities, and; (5) the investment bubble has burst that most companies are overspending on IT investments and they get very little in return.

Generally, the article says that most companies have overestimated the strategic value of IT. They have overspent on technology in the quest of surpassing their competitors. They perceived IT as an advantage tool over others forgetting that in order to efficiently make IT as an effective lead in outperforming competitors, they should first know how to manage IT. This was the keyword Carr refused to reveal in his article – IT management.

“No one would dispute that information technology has become the backbone of commerce.”­–this line significantly, is one of the facts Carr has presented in his article. IT has indeed, played its important role in business nowadays, even individual traders have viewed IT as a very important tool in setting up and developing their businesses. However, Carr has stressed out that IT has become a vanishing advantage in one’s corporate. I personally, disagree to this statement since, he perceived IT as hardware and standard commercial software. Competitive advantage doesn’t result from these perceptions, instead, the result must come from the effective management by persons who utilize IT as an effective and advantageous tool. IT, when managed well, is a great advantage.

Carr has also identified that the growing number of IT means has introduced the unmanageable availability and out of control, increased waste and enormous unnecessary expenses. This fact actually, shows the negative side of the emergent number of IT tools, however, seeing the positive approach of it, it must be taken in mind that IT must be easily acquired and made available o every individual so that the global community can increase their standard of living through easier communications and lower-cost transactions. Additionally, the pervasive availability of IT creates new business opportunities for opportunity-seeking individuals.

“When companies buy a generic application, they buy a generic process as well.” I strongly oppose to this assertion made by him. He pointed out that no companies will be able to recognize competitive leads over the other if they’re employing the same application since it similarly, applying the same process. What Carr has missed out in his assertion is that the use of standard or common software does not entirely mean that you are following a uniform process. As Paul Strassman stressed out in his rebuttal letter to Carr’s article, “It is not what you buy but what you do with it.” He also added that Carr most likely used the same MS Word program to write his article as Strassman used in writing his rebuttal letter, yet, they got different results. This significantly means that it is on how a company use or employ the application can make a difference between two companies buying generic applications.

By and large, Carr was like suggesting the following: (a) Cut IT budgets – this proposition was somewhat be changed into “minimize IT investments”. His reason for this is that, companies are investing enormously yet, they’re getting little in return. Cutting entirely the finances in IT doesn’t solve the problem. IT investments need just be properly managed in order to get good returns. (b) Invest only after others have succeeded in experimentation in IT investments – this suggestion is somewhat appropriate. Instead the company has to spend a lot in experimenting what IT means are best to acquire in improving their operation, it’s better to let others do this for them. However, this is just unethical. There are a lot of ways to choose in discovering new ideas without spending much. (c) Delay IT investments since later on, it would be less expensive and more affordable – this recommendation is somehow the reality in the innovating business. Prices on IT tools are dropping and less expensive as new innovations are being introduced in the market. This is a good strategy to minimize the companies’ expense, however, the drawback is, the tool might not fit to the current needs of the company due to the fast innovation that the company might be going through as well. Thus, it needs corresponding innovative tools. (d) Disregard the innovative offers being offered by vendors like software upgrades, since these vendors are just seeking profits for their own. – This is somewhat true, however, it is just appropriate that companies need to upgrade their IT means in order to strengthen or support their normal operations. Fast innovations have drawbacks. These drawbacks must be avoided and prevented by simply, acquiring innovative means to wipe them out.

Recognizing all the ideas I presented and all Carr’s views and propositions, we may independently say, IT doesn’t really matter, or IT never mattered, or IT does and will really matter. Actually, what significantly matters is the human that invent IT, the one who deploy and use it. Like other human undertakings, IT has its own advantages, drawbacks and trends. But it must be remembered that mostly, the application of IT has helped human to solve his problems. IT’s significance is best realized when properly developed and utilized by us—humans. The issue must never be pointed to IT but to its inventor instead. IT will matter if it’s being employed appropriately. As Broadbent, McDonald and Hunter have stated in their article in reaction with Carr’s piece, they analogized IT to a box and quoted, “It’s not about the box; it’s about what inside the box.” To put it simply, it’s not IT itself that matters but it’s the inventor and user of it that really matters. Keywords are the inventor—human and IT management.

Personally, I was impressed by how Carr has presented the facts about the reality in IT world today. His own strategy of comparing the past and present IT was well expounded and illustrated. Reading and comprehending it was actually an added knowledge to me. It was a worthwhile moment to spend analyzing his ideas and perceptions about IT. The article also has able to teach me how to react and contradict to his assertions and notions. I was able to widen my awareness and expand my logical analysis by making my own perceptions and interpretation on the issue. The bottom line is, reading the article was indeed a good learning experience.

The facts he mentioned in the article such as the growing number of IT tools, the increasing number of fiber optic cable installations, the vast number of host computers connected to the internet, the ever-increasing number of sites in the World Wide Web, etc., are no new to me and I find them not really surprising cause I’ve already predicted nor expected that these things would happen. Obviously, these are the things being foreseen by past analysts and it’s anticipated that it would really blow up in the next few years. What really pleased me in the whole article he wrote is Carr’s guts to entitle the article as “IT doesn’t matter”. The choice of article title is badly chosen. The contents of the article didn’t really accentuate that IT does not matter. He never mentioned that IT is not significant and stated that even if IT doesn’t exist life would still be the same. Perhaps, Carr’s absolute intention is to grab the reader’s attention. In this way, he succeeded but honestly, the title is misleading.

After all the facts and flaws in the article have been presented, I can say that IT’s implications and impact to our lives have never been this significant to me. Reading the article, analyzing and understanding it was an additional knowledge and perception that must be valued and kept in my future undertakings and applications. The article radically, helped me to view the words information technology in a broader sense and perceive them with the right understanding and awareness.

Being an IT student, I am really exposed to daily activities that for almost a hundred percent, involves information technology. From using a cell phone—to watching a television—to using a personal computer in making a project, these activities were just once common stuffs to me, but now, equipped with enough knowledge on IT evolution and innovation, I can say that there’s more to using them but, these IT means must be equally managed in every simple way. Indeed, I am already halfway to being an IT professional and to proving that IT does really matter when managed well by its inventor — the human.


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