Skip navigation
Hardcover | $37.00 Short | £30.95 | 376 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 19 b&w illus. | September 2017 | ISBN: 9780262036726
eBook | $26.00 Short | October 2017 | ISBN: 9780262342179
Mouseover for Online Attention Data

Making IT Work

A History of the Computer Services Industry


The computer services industry has worldwide annual revenues of nearly a trillion dollars and employs millions of workers, but is often overshadowed by the hardware and software products industries. In this book, Jeffrey Yost shows how computer services, from consulting and programming to data analytics and cloud computing, have played a crucial role in shaping information technology—in making IT work. Tracing the evolution of the computer services industry from the 1950s to the present, Yost provides case studies of important companies (including IBM, Hewlett Packard, Andersen/Accenture, EDS, Infosys, and others) and profiles of such influential leaders as John Diebold, Ross Perot, and Virginia Rometty. He offers a fundamental reinterpretation of IBM as a supplier of computer services rather than just a producer of hardware, exploring how IBM bundled services with hardware for many years before becoming service-centered in the 1990s.

Yost describes the emergence of companies that offered consulting services, data processing, programming, and systems integration. He examines the development of industry-defining trade associations; facilities management and the firm that invented it, Ross Perot’s EDS; time sharing, a precursor of the cloud; IBM’s early computer services; and independent contractor brokerages. Finally, he explores developments since the 1980s: the transformations of IBM and Hewlett Packard; the offshoring of enterprises and labor; major Indian IT service providers and the changing geographical deployment of U.S.-based companies; and the paradigm-changing phenomenon of cloud service.

About the Author

Jeffrey R. Yost is Associate Director of the Charles Babbage Institute at the University of Minnesota, where he is also on the faculty of the Program in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine.


“Hardware is glitzy, software clever, but as Jeffrey Yost shows, it is the computer services industry that makes it all work for us. Telling the story of an industry, its firms, their cultures, and people in making modern IT, this book has long been needed, and Yost delivers.”
Kenneth Lipartito, Professor of History, Florida International University; coauthor of A History of the Kennedy Space Center
“Jeffrey Yost provides an indispensable road map for anyone interested in the rise and evolution of the vast computer services industry. His authoritative study shines bright light on a vital but underappreciated element of the Information Age.”
Steven W. Usselman, Professor of History, Georgia Institute of Technology; coeditor of The Challenge of Remaining Innovative: Insights from Twentieth-Century American Business