As information technology has grown in power and ubiquity, companies have come to view it as evermore critical to their success; their heavy spending on hardware and software clearly reflects that assumption. Chief executives routinely talk about information technology's strategic value, about how they can use IT to gain a competitive edge.
But ,scarcity, not ubiquity, makes a business resource truly strategic -- and allows companies to use it for a sustained competitive advantage. You gain an edge over rivals only by doing something that they can't.
IT is the latest in a series of broadly adopted technologies -- think of the railroad or the electric generator -- that have reshaped industry over the past two centuries. For a brief time, these technologies created powerful opportunities for forward-looking companies.
But as their availability increased and their costs decreased, they became commodity inputs. From a strategic standpoint, they no longer mattered.
That's exactly what's happening to IT, and the implications are profound.
In this article, HBR's Editor-at-Large Nicholas Carr suggests that IT management should, frankly, become boring. It should focus on reducing risks, not increasing opportunities. For example, companies need to pay more attention to ensuring network and data security. Even more important, they need to manage IT costs more aggressively. IT may not help you gain a strategic advantage, but it could easily put you at a cost disadvantage.
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