Nick Carr is the author who made a big splash a few years ago with the controversial book Does IT Matter? CIOs and computer geeks around the world were irritated by Carr's suggestion that IT no longer offers organizations a competitive advantage. Interesting concept, but I never bought into it either.
Don't let that turn you off from Carr's latest book, The Big Switch. I finished reading it earlier this week and found it to be a very interesting and well-researched work. Carr's premise this time is that the world of computers has much in common with the history and evolution of electricity. The Big Switch taught me a lot about development of that wall outlet we take for granted; although that might sound like a boring subject, Carr makes it engaging and really caused the light in my head to go on (no pun intended) with his analogy to the computer industry.
Have you ever had e-mail problems at your office? Maybe the main server goes down or some other unusual event occurs, causing you to lose your e-mail/web connection. It happens just about everywhere at some point. But have you noticed how reliable a service like Gmail is? I'm pretty sure that in the 5+ years I've been using Gmail I've never run into a service outage. Ever.
That's one of the points in The Big Switch: Just like when companies who used to generate their own power eventually switched over to central power stations as they started to appear, many of the services provided by your company's IT department (e-mail, storage, etc.) should be instead be outsourced and centralized for greater efficiencies and reliability.
It all comes down to having your organization focus on doing what it does best and outsourcing the rest. Sure, you might have a great IT department today, but can it really compete with the service levels, reliability and cost structure of some of the better outsource solutions? Even if this doesn't result in a dramatic, wholesale shift in the long term, it's clear that it makes a lot of sense for select applications and will continue to become a more viable approach going forward. Hmmm...maybe Carr was right all along and IT really doesn't matter!
Very good book. Highly recommended.