5 Assertions By Nicholas Carr That Do Matter5 Assertions By Nicholas Carr That Do Matter
Set aside the emotions engendered by Nicholas Carr's writings. The author of the infamous "Does IT Matter?" spoke at Search Engine Strategies in New York this week and raised a number of cogent issues that should be keeping IT managers and CIOs awake at night.
March 21, 2008
Set aside the emotions engendered by Nicholas Carr's writings. The author of the infamous "Does IT Matter?" spoke at Search Engine Strategies in New York this week and raised a number of cogent issues that should be keeping IT managers and CIOs awake at night.His provocative assertions had little to nothing to do with the topic of the conference, and much of his talk was a rehash, albeit a compelling one, of his latest book, "The Big Switch."
But give Carr his due. He did a solid job of laying out some economic and technology trends that could ripple through the IT industry. Here's a list of what I thought were his most thought-provoking points; I hope you'll weigh in with feedback if you agree or disagree. 70% of IT labor is currently dedicated to upkeep, while 30% is focused on business issues. If true, it's a bit frightening, but experience suggests the real number could be that high -- if not higher. What's the IT time breakdown look like in your company? About 45% of corporate capital investment goes to computing infrastructure. For the record, he went on to say this isn't inherently bad, but he argued if the IT investment can be brought down (in part by the cloud computing model he argues is all but inevitable), it would free capital for investment in goods that directly impact the company's primary line of business. Is 45% of capital investment for IT/computing about right in your company? Should the figure be that high? Will cloud computing bring that figure down? Now that we're on the verge of being able to deploy computing in a utility-like fashion, the network really has become the computer, as Eric Schmidt and Sun Microsystems presciently asserted way back in the early 1990s. Do you agree with Carr's assessment that computing is mature, accessible, and reliable enough to deploy broadly on a utility basis? The market penetration and reach of small, lightly staffed companies that successfully leverage the power of the Internet to maximize their impact (think Skype, YouTube, and others) raises the specter of what Carr calls the "worker-less" company. That is, the most successful and profitable operations could ultimately be one or two-person shops with no office space, virtually no infrastructure, just a person with an idea that spreads like crazy on the Internet. He acknowledged this is a scary prospect for our economy. "We could see a hollowing out of employment in many sectors of the economy," he says. What do you think this means for the future of technology expertise as embodied in IT workers? Consumer software's success or failure will be measured less by units sold than by usage, and the ability of the software's developer to monetize the attention of those using the software. He pointed to examples such as the financial tools site Mint of how the economics and dynamics of power are changing. If he's right on this, what do you think it means for vendors like Microsoft and Oracle, who still make loads of money on licensed or packaged software?
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