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Book Review: IT's Transformational Effect: The Real Point

Carr set the business-technology world on its ear when he published an article in the Harvard Business Review in May 2003, with the headline "IT Doesn't Matter."
McDowell doesn't necessarily disagree with Carr's premise. "If you're honest, all the low hanging fruit has been picked," he said in an interview, referring to the obvious early productivity enhancers, such as spreadsheets and word processors. "All those technologies have been applied in such a way that we don't have to change much how we work. We can use all of that and continue to do what we're doing."

Microsoft VP Robert McDowell says business technology needs buy-in from all levels.

Microsoft VP Robert McDowell says business technology needs buy-in from all levels.
Just as cost justification is a major theme of Carr's book, measuring return on investment is one of McDowell's. And technology's ability to alter that equation is the real point. "People's yardstick for value too often focuses on measuring productivity in terms of their cur- rent processes, rather than looking at technology as a catalyst for radically rethinking how you do things," says Steve Hankins, chief technology officer of Tyson Food--a sentiment echoed throughout the book.

McDowell's book is presented as a series of spoken-word case histories, representing an impressive list of companies and their technology executives: Chevron, Cisco Systems, Mary Kay, Microsoft, Tyson Foods, Wachovia, and Washington Mutual, to name only a few. McDowell wraps the interviews with his own analysis and considerable experience. He organizes his material into categories such as "Making The Business Case for Technology," and "Governance, Culture, And The Challenge Of Running IT."

If, as the VP of a major technology vendor, McDowell has a "buy Microsoft" agenda, it's not apparent. Instead, McDowell argues that business-technology strategy needs buy-in from all levels, not just the technologists. "The ownership of the business case for technology should be in hands of business," McDowell said.

Why? Because IT matters.