IT Doesn't Matter? Business Processes Do

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IT Doesn't Matter
IT Matters
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For the full story, also see the landmark book

Business Process Management: The Third Wave

Has IT has reached the Winter of its life as an enabler of competitive advantage? Or is it Springtime, the season of growth for forward-thinking companies?

From the authors of the business bestseller Business Process Management: The Third Wave, read Howard Smith and Peter Fingar's critical analysis of Nicholas Carr's IT article in the Harvard Business Review.

"Smith and Fingar present a provocative summary of today's debate over whether IT has become a sunset industry" -- Leslie Walker, Washington Post, Sunday, August 17, 2003; Page F03

"Howard Smith and Peter Fingar ... argue that Carr is not only wrong but dangerous. They remind us of what happened when Harvard Business Review published Michael Hammer’s 1990 article “Reengineering Work.” Too many Harvard MBAs decided to take the easy part of Hammer’s advice and downsized their companies to death. Unless Carr’s argument is debunked, the current crop of reigning MBAs will be tempted to run WordPerfect on mid-1980s PCs connected to IBM 360 mainframes." -- Robert M. Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet and founder of 3Com, from his article "IT Matters", MIT Technology Review, June 2004

We won the debate! Download a comprehensive Powerpoint presentation from the Infoconomy "Effective IT" Event, London, March 2004, in which co-author Howard Smith debated on stage with Nicholas Carr.

Also read Howard Smith's review of N Carr's new book, Does IT Matter?, as published in CSC World

Coverage at SearchCIO.com

A new book by Howard Smith and Peter Fingar
IT Doesn't Matter? Business Processes Do
August 2003
Meghan-Kiffer Press
ISBN 0929652355
128 Pages

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Note: If you haven't yet seen Nicholas Carr's IT article, you can get re-prints from Amazon.com, or from Harvard Business Review

Comments, suggestions and feedback to authors@bpm3.com

Other reviews:

Library Journal
Smith (chief technology officer, Computer Sciences Corp.) and consultant and educator Fingar are both heavily involved in the IT field, notably in the area of business process management. They have written a vigorous rebuttal to Nicholas Carr's provocative article about the commodification of the IT industry, which was published in the May 2003 issue of the Harvard Business Review and drew some notable rebuttals from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other sources. Instead of proclaiming the death of IT, the authors see a new age dawning of business process management (BPM). They dispute the idea that in many ways IT has become a utility and assert that business processes are taking over where data processing has left off. ... a spirited commentary on a controversial subject and a strong defense of the importance of the IT industry.

Transform Bookshelf
In this response to Nicholas Carr's Harvard Business Review article, "IT Doesn't Matter," the authors make the case for IT mattering. For example, they describe the benefits that large companies like GE and Cisco Systems are achieving through their investments in IT. For those who didn't see Carr's controversial article, the crux of his argument is that IT follows a pattern strikingly similar to earlier technologies like railroads and electric power. For a brief period, as they are being built into the infrastructure of commerce, these "infrastructural technologies" open opportunities for forward-looking companies to gain sustainable competitive advantages. But as the availability of these technologies increases and their cost decreases — as they become ubiquitous — they become commodity inputs; they no longer matter. Smith and Fingar write that "although Carr's article embodies several individual truths, his assumptions, premises and conclusions all merit closer examination if, as in the Indian story of the Blind Men and the Elephant, the whole picture of IT and business strategy are to come into focus." The authors refute specific points in Carr's article, providing a more hopeful view of IT and its future potential, particularly the promise of business process management. A highly readable examination with interesting examples and quotes.

This book is an important read for higher education leaders as they sort through the hype, rhetoric and promises of competitive advantages in the midst of addressing 21st century challenges in higher education.

Smith believes that Carr's arguments fly in the face of common sense ... In his critique of Carr, Smith takes up both of these points, particularly focusing on the fact that modern and emerging information systems will put more power, and not less, in the hands of managers who will then be able to innovate without enormous risk and costs.