Nicholas Carr has done quite a good job keeping his name in the technology headlines this year. Ever since his Harvard Business Review article in May saying that "IT Doesn't Matter" he's been the target of tons of news articles, and just about every IT exec has taken a few potshots at him. The latest was a panel discussion at the latest Sun conference where even the moderator called Carr's piece "brilliant, but wrong". Carr's argument has been portrayed incorrectly by a number of his critics. He's basically just saying that technology is a commodity, and any advantage you get out of it will be immediately copied by your competitors - so you can't rely on technology as your competitive differentiation. I think there is some truth to that statement. Many companies that insist they have the best technology find it to be a fleeting advantage. However, the flip side to the argument doesn't necessarily apply - not always staying up on the best technology doesn't give you any additional advantage yourself. Carr's view is a little idealistic, and anyone who looks around at IT implementations knows that it's often not the technology but the implementation and execution on strategy that matter. So, companies that invest in better technology and use it wisely to support a strong business proposition can do quite well. There are still plenty of companies that buy the latest technology and then use it poorly - and those companies might want to listen to what Carr is saying. Meanwhile, one of the best quotes goes to Benchmark's Bill Gurley (misnamed in the article as Hurley): "This is like advising the Indians in the 1800s that you don't have to invest in rifles. Just wait 10 years and those rifles will be a lot cheaper." Carr is right that technology by itself doesn't much matter - but that doesn't mean companies shouldn't be investing in new technologies or taking risks. Well-implemented technologies to support a strong business strategy can certainly give a company an advantage. It's all in the execution.
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