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Untitled Document Editor's Note: For SOA to be efficient, governance is a must. Learn more in ebizQ's upcoming SOA Governance Virtual Conference

In 2003, the IT world was shocked by the Harvard Business Review article, "IT Doesn't Matter." The premise of Nicholas G. Carr's article was not that we can live without IT, but rather that IT is not a competitive advantage. Every company has IT, so IT isn't a competitive differentiator.

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how service-oriented architecture (SOA) can be a strategic IT differentiator for your company. I will demonstrate at a high level the goals of SOA and how it can create leverage to unlock knowledge. This unlocking of knowledge can lead to strategic advantages for your company.

In reviewing Carr's article about IT not being a competitive differentiator, we know that those companies not investing in IT at all are at a competitive disadvantage. To stop investment in IT means a loss of efficiency and therefore competitiveness. However, is it really true that investing in IT is not advantageous? Are there investments in IT that other companies are not making? Are there investments in IT that your company is making that other companies aren't? Or, are all companies investing in the same areas -- hence the lack of competitive advantage?

Are all companies using IT generically enough that IT really doesn't matter? The professional CIO and CTO know by experience that IT does matter. However, I would guess it is likely true that many companies have fallen into the rut of IT management. If processes are working to a large extent, why rock the boat with innovation or change? We have bigger fish to fry and other priorities, such as keeping IT costs down and dealing efficiently with internal customer IT needs.
Companies that treat IT as a cost center are demonstrating that they view IT as a commodity. They are in the same boat as the "IT Doesn't Matter" camp. There is little strategic differentiation going on here. On the other hand, companies that view IT as a strategic tool to leverage their differentiation will realize significant return on investment.

The reality is that the strategic use of IT does matter. The proper use and investment in IT to reduce costs, streamline employee work, improve employee collaboration and automate processes is amazingly underutilized and underappreciated. Even with the many disparate IT software systems in place today, IT is still not fully taken advantage of.


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