Carr: Not everyone will believe IT doesn't matter

Nicholas Carr, author of the highly-debated book "Does IT Matter," yesterday wryly conceded that it was "probably fortunate that not everyone will listen to me" as, if they did, the tech sector would "fall on the curb"."I think if every company decided that they would [lag in taking up cutting edge technology] then the entire industry or region could fall on the curb," Carr told a media panel at EMC Australia's Inform conference.

Nicholas Carr, author of the highly-debated book "Does IT Matter," yesterday wryly conceded that it was "probably fortunate that not everyone will listen to me" as, if they did, the tech sector would "fall on the curb".

"I think if every company decided that they would [lag in taking up cutting edge technology] then the entire industry or region could fall on the curb," Carr told a media panel at EMC Australia's Inform conference.

The light-hearted comment came as Carr used the panel to again wheel out his arguments that businesses should not compete to acquire the most up-to-date technology, as, in business terms, technology should be seen as a "commodity" rather than a tactical business tool.

"[IT] is an essential resource but is it strategic?," Carr asked. "My argument is that even though it's become more and more essential, the ability to distinguish one company from the rest has diminished."

According to Carr, the era when technological innovation could set a business apart from tis competitors has passed, saying that IT had become a ubiquitous product that is "so standardised that any innovation can be rapidly copied at the technological level."

He cited the creation of the Sabre System by American Airlines in the 1960s to process passenger reservations as an example of innovation that did create a competitive edge. Carr said the system took 10 years to create at an enormous cost. However, he says it took competitors "years to figure out how to copy it and in that time it [American Airlines] was able to turn that system into an enormous competitive advantage."

Carr says that businesses should no longer compete for the most innovative IT systems, saying a better approach to IT would be to "manage it as a commodity and look at it as a commodity".

"[IT is] something you have to invest in and have to maintain, but trying to get ahead and trying to be on the cutting edge will cost a lot more money without getting many returns," he said.

Fellow panellist, John O'Neill, chief executive officer of the Australian Soccer Association, agreed with Carr's comments, saying that although technology has changed the way people do business it's not necessarily a competitive tool anymore.

"I think Nick's point is that the competitive advantage of being the first to market has been eroded," he said.

Carr said businesses that chose to stay behind the curve in technological innovation would benefit from the competition driven by vendors in supplying the new services.

"I think that increasingly there's so much competition between vendors that as within many other industries that are maturing vendors seek that little edge over each other and that pushes the innovation itself," said Carr. "Then its not competition between customers, they can take advantage of the vendor competition to get the resources they need at a lower cost."

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