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IT Matters: Today and Tomorrow

Say it ain't so.

Carr's thesis has resurfaced with the publication of a longer version of the story, in book form. Based on the title--Does IT Matter?--you might think Carr has softened his position. He hasn't.

Some business analysts continue to salute Carr for blowing the whistle on the IT establishment as profligate spenders on low-value systems that not only increase the cost of doing business, but also take management's eye off the strategies that really can lead to sustainable competitive advantage. But even if you don't buy that view, realize there's another, equally dark side to the Carr thesis that could lead to unexpected consequences for many organizations.

Like most occupations, the IT profession has its share of mercenaries who toil for no other reason than their paychecks. But within the most effective organizations, you'll find individuals who believe that harnessing technology to manage information really does improve enterprise and society. For those individuals, Carr's argument was a wake-up call, a cutting accusation that their belief in the value of technology may have been misplaced. What was once a passionate pursuit of innovation was now just another job.

While the effect on IT professionals was a little like a left jab to the psyche, the right hook came from executives long frustrated by the high cost and disruptive impact of tech initiatives. Many CIOs found themselves shunned by senior management, and when the economic recession required belt-tightening, the IT budget was viewed as obese. For those who bought the utility-model argument, running your own IT organization made about as much sense as building your own power plant to provide electricity.

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