When Nicholas Carr published his first article on this in the Harvard Business Review in 2003 it created quite a stir, the book was subsequently produced in 2004. There have been some very high profile debates on the subject … many between Carr and Don Tapscott (who has received almost as much press with his opposing opinion) but also Kevin Rollins, CEO of Dell.
This is an important book for anyone interested in the Information Technology world, not because Carr is right or wrong, but because it really makes the reader consider this industry and its value.
The heading of Carr’s book is a little misleading because he certainly considers IT to be an essential component of any business. From that perspective he agrees that certainly IT matters, however his feeling is that IT is no longer a strategic differentiator. Carr tells us that IT is just another business cost that at best keeps us on par with competitors. In that light he suggests that companies need to view IT differently as an investment, seeking more to keep costs down and be efficient as opposed to creating differentiation.
Understanding Carr’s point of view provides people in IT with a good counter argument and an insight into how others perceive our industry. If this is a valid point of view then we need to react accordingly, if we disagree with Carr then we need to be able to articulate counter arguments.
Enjoy the book! I will also mention Executive Book Summaries, because this is a great way to get a synopsis of business books in 8 pages without committing to buying a book that you may or may not enjoy. Carr’s book summary is available through these guys!