Blog post

10 Years on, and it still matters?

By Gregor Petri | May 20, 2013 | 2 Comments

If an article, 10 years after its initial publication date, is featured in several look backs, reviews, Q&As and still gathers reactions and emotional analysis, it can be concluded it must have struck a chord – or in this case – more an open nerve.

In May 2003*, the Harvard Business Review published “IT Doesn’t Matter” , an article by then still largely unknown editor  “at large” Nicholas Carr.

The premise of the article was that infrastructure has a diminishing impact on competitiveness and that IT was infrastructure (although Carr in the recent Q&A seems to indicate he meant IT Infrastructure is Infrastructure, a lot less controversial idea).

Given all the recent analysis around, I only want to zoom in on one aspect.

What still amazes me after all these years is how the last decade of IT was impacted/hindered/predicted/paralleled  (pick one based on your personal emotional state with regard to the article) by the three short recommendations that were included – almost as an afterthought – in a small breakout box on page 8 of the article.

The article gave the following three “New rules for IT management”

  • Spend Less  : Which arguably coincided with a decade of corporate IT anorexia?
  • Follow, don’t lead  : Today we know that consumer-play IT – and not corporate IT – leads most of IT innovation (think Facebook, Twitter, Google, Netflix), and Web-scale IT is arguably about corporates following consumer-plays?
  • Focus on vulnerabilities (as for any utility the dependence on external providers increases) – Which ironically is today’s main argument for corporate’s preference for private (over public) clouds?
Is the relationship between the last 10 years of IT and the article a question of coincidence, a perfect crystal ball,  extreme influence or simply good penmanship? Let me know what you think (in the comments or via @gregorpetri)

Comments are closed


  • Gregor: Small typo. It was 2003 not 1993 that Carr’s essay came out.

    Amazon AWS leadership definitely took this vision to heart and it paid off bigtime.

    On ‘vulnerabilities’, I think the biggest one was the inability of IT departments to respond in an agile fashion to LOB requests. Hence the developer self-service revolution ushered in by AWS is a classical market response to this. Not surprising also that a company that specialized in consumer products e-commerce led the way per your other observation.

  • This blog resonated with me. The crystal ball is not so difficult to manufacture. In the absence of independent thought leadership within an organization, CIOs will follow the crowd. The crowd is led by the wisdom of the populous who are drawn together by the recognized experts (i.e., Gartner). And the recognized “experts” (analysts) learn about trends-to-be from the marketing arms of the industry. What we predict, therefore, can be Dell’s, SAP’s, IBM’s, (and others) self-fulfilling prophecies.

    “Consumer-driven” is a moniker on which we should not – as IT leaders – place too much importance or interpret too literally.

    Consumers may drive how we interact with technology or what types of applications have value. IT depends largely on infrastructure; but it also is dependent on design thinking – a unique skillset that marries consumer “desire-ments” to technical solutions.