As devastating as the previous two blows have been, the knockout punch may not come for years. I recently spoke to a successful IT pro, six years out of a professional master's program in information management. When I asked him why he got into the field, he spoke about his early interest in technology, but he also noted the influence of his father, an executive who had advised him that getting into computers was a can't-miss career choice. Today, enrollment in computer science and information management programs is down dramatically, in large part because of a culture that now views an IT degree as a ticket to nowhere.
The Wrong Lessons
It's irresponsible to assert that Carr is dead wrong. The emergence of standards and commoditized technology will enable more efficient modes of information management. And no professional can refute Carr's suggestion that many IT organizations are inefficiently managed and too technology-focused. The truth sometimes hurts.
Unfortunately, these claims often lead to false conclusions by those who fail to understand the evolution of technology. Arguing that sustainable competitive advantage cannot be achieved through IT is as misguided as asserting that the quality of management is irrelevant to organizational success. Not every organization will employ technical innovation as a competitive advantage, but those that fail to employ and manage technology effectively will surely fail.
In 50 years, we'll look back at the role that technology played in the early 21st-century organization and snicker about how naive we were. The transformational power of technology will continue to be felt in new ways, and organizations that leverage information using the tools of technology will continue to enjoy competitive advantages. Let's hope there are some good IT professionals around to get the job done.