In an MBA class I’m taking at UNLV this semester, one of my assignments was to read the article IT Doesn’t Matter by Nicholas G. Carr, which was published in the Harvard Business Review in May 2003. The title, which certainly provides some shock value, may be misleading without further explanation. Carr doesn’t imply that IT is unimportant in an organization, but rather that it should not be considered a strategic resource.
The most interesting part of the article is Carr’s argument that IT, as an infrastructural technology, is becoming a commodity just like the railways in the mid 1800s and electric power in the early 1900s. As a commodity, IT becomes something that every business has and provides no competitive advantage.
I’m not saying that Carr is wrong, but I have a hard time comparing IT to commodities like railroads and power plants. Unlike other commodities, IT continues to evolve rapidly. For example, the graph on page 10 of the article measures the number of host computers on the Internet as a means to compare it to other commodities. In the changing world of IT, would this be better measured by smartphones, tablets, or another new device in a few years?
The article made me ask myself, “does IT provide a competitive advantage to an accounting firm?” I think it does – perhaps not so much the hardware and software themselves, but more in the way that they are used.