While looking through the source in more detail, I found that five of
the respondent letters partially agree with Carr's views of IT as a
commodity. I have included excerpts from those five letters below. The
source is the Harvard Business review and is in the form of a debate
using "Letters from the Editor" as a source of responses to Carr's
original article "IT Doesn't Matter". The full text of the debate is
available in PDF form directly from Harvard Business Online:
In this debate, there are multiple instances where respondants are in
at least partial agreement with Carr. I have quoted them directly from
their letters below.
1. John Seely Brown, Former Chief Scientist, Xerox
John Hagel III, Management Consultant and Author, Burlingame
"Nicholas Carr's article...is an important, perhaps even seminal
piece. It effectively captures the zeitgeist among senior managers or
large enterprises and gives eloquent voice to the backlash that has
swept through management suites regarding IT's business value."
"..many executives have started to view IT as a commodity because they
have not thought aggresively enough about how IT can bring about new
business practices. The differentiation is not in IT itself but in the
new practices it enables."
"IT's economic impact comes from incremental innovations rather than
"Rather than help companies understand that IT is only a tool,
technology vendors have tended to present it as a panacea. 'Buy this
technology and all your problems will be solved.'"
"It has never been true that IT matters in isolation. It only matters
in the context of a concerned effort to innovate based on new
possibilities and opportunities created by the technology. Then it
matters-and will continue to-a lot."
2. Jason Hittleman, IT Director, RKA Petroleum Companies
"I largely agree with Nicholas Carr's suggestions on how companies
should respond to the unbearable reality that IT is becoming more of a
"Competitive advantage should never be the sole objective of IT.
Rather, managing costs and assessing risk must become standard
objectives as well."
"IT will always matter-it will just matter in different ways now. IT
must continue to support the business - not just through the logical
application of technologies but also through the logical application
of common sense."
3. Marianne Broadbent, Mark McDonald, and Richard Hunter; Gartner Research
"Carr is correct that hardware and network connectivity are commodity
businesses and that some IT infrastructure services have evolved into
commodity services. But the article misses a big part of the
story...To put it simply, it's not about the box; it's about what's
inside the box."
"It has been known for many years that the biggest investors in IT
don't get the most value from the technologies."
"The major messages we have been giving CIOs over the past two years
have been that they should manage costs and risks aggressively and
work with business colleagues to design IT governance thoughtfully.
Beyond that, as in any business area, executives must understand the
need for risk-managed innovation."
"The danger is that by scanting the fantastic potential for innovation
that lies ahead in IT, Carr will lead executives to focus only on
controlling IT costs. That is a necessary discipline, but it is not
the real route to real business advantage."
4. Bruce Skaistis, President, eGlobal CIO
"Carr is essentially issuing a warning: Organizations need to get
realistic about what IT can and cannot do for them. In spite of all
the hype, wireless systems and other exciting new computer
technologies aren't going to create lasting strategic advantages."
"I also think Carr is trying to help us learn from the mistakes we
made during the late 1990s, when companies were making huge
investments in e-business initiatives in an attempt to achieve
competitive and strategic advantages. many of those investments never
produced significant benefits - many of the initiatives were never
completed. With the benefit of hindsight, Carr is telling us most of
those gigantic efforts were never going to deliver real strategic
advantage, even if they had been successful."
"In a very straightforward way, Carr has put a stake in the heart of
the misdirected thinkingabout IT that flourished in the free-spending
1990s. It's time for enterprises to be realistic about IT's role in
5. Mark S. Lewis, Executive Vice President of New Ventures, CTO, EMC Corporation
"I agree with Nicholas Carr that competitive edge gained by companies
through IT in the past was not due to the fact that they had IT and
others did not. It was due to how they used it..."
"IT never mattered. What matters are the people who invent
technologies and who deploy and use them."
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