Does IT Matter?

Posted on May 18, 2007  /  3 Comments


Has IT even begun to matter in the business sector in Sri Lanka?

Is it because we focus on the technology, not the information management applications of IT?

Does the problem lie with IT educators who have not had exposure?
Does IT Matter?’’ was the topic of the LBR-LBO Chief Information Officer Forum yesterday (May 16, 2007).  The basis for the title was an article published in the May 2003 edition of the Harvard Business Review by Nicholas G. Carr Titled IT (Information Technology) does not matter.

Nicholas Carr argues that IT has become just another commodity input to businesses and that IT can not give businesses that competitive edge.

[T]he evolution of information technology in business and show that it follows a pattern strikingly similar to that of earlier technologies like railroads and electric power. For a brief period, as they are being built into the infrastructure of commerce, these “infrastructural technologies,” as I call them, open opportunities for forward-looking companies to gain strong competitive advantages. But as their availability increases and their cost decreases – as they become ubiquitous – they become commodity inputs. From a strategic standpoint, they become invisible; they no longer matter.

The panelists at the Forum were all quite good and the moderator was exceptionally good but unfortunately the discussion really did not go anywhere. Looking back, I think the discussion was not fruitful because they were dealing with a moot point–IT has not even begun to matter in Sri Lanka.

I am going to stick my neck out and give a genesis of the problem as well

  1. IT is not a serious input to business processes in Sri Lanka.
  2. IT is not a not a serious input because most IT managers are clueless about information management, the real use of IT, and
  3. IT managers are clueless because they are taught by people who have not used IT for information management.

At this point I am simply making assertions based on personal experience. Two anecdotes in particular come to mind.

  1. An interviewee when asked whether she had done any programming in C+ said, no, she has not but she has taught the subject.
  2. A university graduate in business administration with several IT qualifications under his belt, when asked to do a particular analysis, thought a laboriously colorized arrangement of numbers on Excel was an analysis. This is not the first time I had to ask somebody wash the colors off and do some real analysis.


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