The Decentralization of Technology Drives Innovation and Strains IT: A Podcast With the EIU

In this first of a four-part podcast series, explore the effects of technology decentralization on IT.

“I think this is the most in-depth study ever done on this topic,” says West Coghlan, senior editor for technology at the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

IT in the Enterprise

Coghlan refers to a new study sponsored by VMware, which looks at how technology is dispersed across modern businesses. The EIU survey targeted 600 people distributed equally across the Americas; Asia-Pacific; and Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). All the respondents were director-level or above, from companies with an average revenue of $2.1 billion, and representing 20 industries. Half of those surveyed were business users, and the other half were IT professionals.

The research shows that IT purchasing and decision-making, once centralized in the IT department, is now fragmented across the enterprise. “It’s across all industries; it’s global,” says Coghlan. “We think it’s representative of what’s happening everywhere.”

One Big Island, Several Small Islands

The report, titled “The IT Archipelago” points to a change in the traditional structure of the enterprise. “We call it the IT archipelago because, when you think back, IT used to be one big island where IT professionals made decisions about which technologies they’d buy, how they’d manage them, and how they’d keep everything secure,” says Coughlan. “Our research shows that technology is now dispersed across the organization and ‘mini-IT departments’ are growing up in accounting, legal, and in the business units. We’re calling it the IT archipelago because in addition to this big island, there are all these small islands emerging across the enterprise.”

According to the research, there are several explanations why this is happening. IT respondents say the primary issue is a lack of bandwidth. IT is receiving too many requests, they can’t keep up and, consequently, business users are independently implementing tech solutions. Business users say it’s because they have the business expertise needed to choose or build the best technology solutions.  

New Possibilities for Collaboration

Despite holding different views about decentralization, IT professionals and business users are both impacted by this digital transformation and changes across the enterprise are offering new ways to team up. One potentially negative consequence of technology decentralization is increased vulnerability to cyber attacks.  

“This sprawl, this archipelago as we call it, is creating serious security problems,” says Coghlan. “Collaborating around cyber security offers a great opportunity for business users and IT to find new ways to work together for the good of the business.”

Listen to the podcast for greater detail about where IT and business users can find common ground to both advance the business and keep the enterprise secure.