Round II: Readers Have More to Say About Carr’s “IT Revolution”

Nicholas Carr—who is notorious within IT circles for his 2002 article in the Harvard Business Review claiming that IT no longer matters—stirred up readers with his predictions about The Next IT Revolution.

We published some of the thoughtful letters to the editor commenting on Carr’s analysis.While the overall tone was negative, most readers agreed with at least some of the points Carr made.

What could we do but continue to let them have their say?

Re: Carr’s Outlook on IT

While I agree with some of Mr. Carr’s ideas, such as data center consolidation, I disagree with the idea that utilization rate is a solid measure of value for most computing systems.

Most PCs, networks and servers are designed to have very low utilization rates. Five percent utilization for a PC is about right, 50-60 percent utilization for a network is appropriate, 35-55 percent utilization for a server is acceptable.

Think if it like this: A computer is like a car. Most people spend a small amount of time in their car, so it has something like 15 percent utilization on any given day. Now imagine only being able to use public transit to go places. Sure, in New York City that is fine, but not in many other urban or suburban areas.

Imagine highways having to achieve 80 percent utilization before they get expanded; rush hour would be next to impossible. 80 percent or more network bandwidth utilization creates that same kind of backup in traffic. Imagine only having one corporate bus that had to pick up everybody in the morning and drop them off at night!

That is what a 75 percent or more utilization can produce on a server.

If we start to take away the tools that improve our productivity in the guise of being more cost-effective, we are just being penny-wise and pound foolish.

Click here to read an article by Tom Pisello of Alinean highlighting the strengths of IT that Carr forgot. and Click here to read the first round of reader responses.

That kind of thinking does lead to a Revolution; it leads to a loss of productivity.

Thomas Stiehm, Principal
Digital Focus

Carr Is Correct, These Posters Are Wrong

IT now serves the careers of its members. 15 years ago, why was there no “Chief Telephone Officer” in the executive suite? Because the bloody phone mostly worked, and for what you get—the ability to talk to anyone anywhere any time—was incredibly inexpensive.

How is it that IT has leveraged years over years of failure to deliver a stable, safe, low-cost, reliable business tool to the desktop, by asking for and obtaining a senior management-level voice—CIO/CTO? One can only assume blackmail and/or a lot of slick-talking BSers.

I have worked in Corporate IT for several clients. The plan there is: Buy big, safe brand-name “solutions,” deploy them inside tight PM/Change Management, and make sure your rear is covered for the inevitable business failures. Nearly gone are innovation, hacking, responsibility and customer satisfaction (when we do have that, it is usually obtained by reducing the definition of “customer” or “satisfaction”).

I am working on a paper now, “The Rise of Stupid IT,” in the spirit of David Isen’s“The Rise of the Stupid Network.”

My solution is that IT must be split into two streams—and this solution is the antithesis of what the industry is calling for. I recently attended an event here in my city (Calgary), the point of which was how governance is what it’s all about now. A room full of lawyers and CIOs replacing what used to be a room full of hackers and technologists. Again, was such talk ever used for the telephone infrastructure in a corporation 15 or 25 years ago?

And is the whole PC/IT thing not really a more sophisticated telephone?

1) Infrastructure—the hallmarks are that it is tiny, and is expected to use legacy systems and keep them running for very long periods of time. New products are introduced to the company WHEN they are ready, not on any external schedule, and not on demand of any business needs. Innovators and hackers work here. You do not outsource these people or functions. (See barrage of recent press on the failure of outsourcing in general.) This type of IT reports to whoever is in charge of Facilities.

2) Consulting—provided as a resource to business departments that have pressing needs that could be covered by technology. These consultants are managed and paid for from departmental budgets entirely. Project Managers work here. Business application developers work here. They report to business people. Any questions about them and their work that senior management has are directed to the business manager they work for. Period.

You may outsource these people at will, they work on a project basis. Experts may be drawn from Infrastructure on loan. These projects do NOT change the operation of infrastructure. The lines of reporting are entirely business-related, based on the project in question. If business managers don’t know enough lingo to manage these resources, they have to fund “translators.”

Smart business managers will of course learn the lingo, or smart IT consultants will learn the business and be promoted there. Companies that get what I’m saying will survive in the emerging economy. David was right about AT&T.

Maybe I’m right about corporate IT?

Gary Chernipeski
Senior Partner
OpenPlanIt Inc.
Calgary, AB

Next page: Why IT is more important than electricity.

CIO Insight Staff
CIO Insight Staff
CIO Insight offers thought leadership and best practices in the IT security and management industry while providing expert recommendations on software solutions for IT leaders. It is the trusted resource for security professionals who need network monitoring technology and solutions to maintain regulatory compliance for their teams and organizations.

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