NICHOLAS CARR is once again grabbing center stage now that his new book, Does IT Matter? is hitting the bookstores. The book is essentially an expanded version of his provocative Harvard Business Review article in which he argues that IT has become a commodity—necessary for competitiveness but insufficient for advantage.
Carr argues that, in the past, companies such as American Airlines, FedEx and American Hospital Supply built their own proprietary systems to differentiate their offerings or lock in customers. Now that IT has become a commodity—a pervasive infrastructure—any company has access and any system can be instantly replicated. And therefore, he argues, any competitive advantage goes out the window.
Trouble is, his newly improved argument, like his original paper, is fundamentally wrong. Companies that heed his advice—don't spend; follow, don't lead—are doomed to mediocrity or worse.