What happens to proprietary systems that provide competitive advantage?
Carr: There's nothing in the utility model that says all software has to go to the shared utility model. We can see in the early stage with something like Amazon Web services the ability to write your own code but use utility suppliers to run it and to store it. Companies will continue to have the ability to write proprietary code and to run it as a service to get the efficiencies and the flexibility it provides.
One of the great advantages of IT is its modularity. Companies should not think of this as some all-or-nothing choice. You can tailor your systems and your use of utility suppliers to do anything you need to do with IT. You shouldn't think your choices are going to be constrained through this transformation; it's going to give companies more choices in the end.
What becomes of the corporate IT function in the age of the grid?
Carr: The corporate IT department has had a dual nature until now. One really important function has been the kind of technical expertise that keeps the computing machines running.
Over the next five or 10 years, the technical aspect of the IT department will become less important. It will slowly evaporate as more of those experts go outside onto the grid. But the information management and information strategy elements will become, if anything, more important. The ways companies take advantage of digitized information will become more important, not less.
The big question in the long run is, do those types of skillsinformation management and thinkingremain in a separate IT department or do they naturally flow into business units and other traditional parts of the business? My guess is that over time, they'll begin to flow into the business itself and that will be accelerated as individual workers and business units get more control over the way they are able to organize and manipulate their own information. I would be surprised if maybe 20 years from now there are still IT departments in corporations.
That doesn't mean that the skills in those departments are going away. The more technical skills will probably move out into the supplier community and the strategic thinking, or tactical thinking about information, will flow out into the business itself.
When I wrote Does IT Matter?, I focused on the noun in "information technology." But information has always been a critical strategic element of business and probably will be even more so tomorrow. It's important to underline that the ability to think strategically, to think in business terms about informationwhether it's information about your business or the transformation of your products into pure informationthose skills will be critically important to companies, probably increasingly important, in the years ahead.
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