For decades, the IT department has served as the central resource for technology within a company. IT hired the experts, set the standards, and supported business users. Today that model is shifting, across the globe and across industries. According to recent surveys commissioned by VMware and conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and Vanson Bourne, both IT and business leaders agree that the use of technology has become increasingly decentralized over the past three years. The impact of this IT decentralization is significant. And while it presents a number of challenges, it also opens the door to possibilities for bolder innovation and greater efficiency and cost gains.
Business Units Buy More Tech
Innovation, driven by business units (BUs), is changing the traditional role of IT in the enterprise. Lines of business (LOBs) increasingly see technology as a differentiator. As a result, BUs are building and buying their own apps, authorizing devices, and becoming key decision makers for technology purchases.
Business leaders are responsible for growth and productivity in an increasingly digital world. Technology enhances their business, but they can’t afford to wait on IT to catch up. Therefore, leaders tend to go around IT to get things done. And it helps that technology is more affordable and accessible than ever.
Decentralization Is Increasing Risks
This new dynamic, where business leaders go around the IT department to purchase technology, is fragmenting standards and increasing cost, complexity, and risk to the firm. IT decentralization has increased vulnerability to cyber attacks, and the IT department—despite its lack of control over the purchasing, implementation, and proliferation of technology across the enterprise—is still typically held responsible for security.
IT leaders are increasingly responsible for managing tech sprawl and have a reputation for supporting a “culture of no” in an effort to make the organization secure and manageable. However, business demands and technology adoption trends make it extremely difficult for IT to keep pace with BUs.
Business Units Leverage Tech for Big Gains
Contrary to IT’s point of view, LOBs view the IT decentralization in positive terms and cite its role in driving innovation, increasing responsiveness to market changes, launching products more quickly, increasing employee satisfaction, and attracting talent. BUs are embracing technology and driving innovation in order to realize efficiency, company, and market gains.
Changing Roles Offer New Opportunities for Collaboration
These agendas and motivations seem contradictory, but the reality is they overlap in many ways. There is wide agreement that IT should enable other LOBs to drive innovation but must set the strategic direction and remain accountable for security.
By using the right technologies, these powerful forces within an organization can find harmony and optimize for success. There are solutions to help established companies balance freedom and control to optimize their business and embrace digital transformation.
Explore this infographic to better understand how IT decentralization may be increasing risk, and learn how to harness the right technology to create synthesis between IT and executive needs.
Listen to a podcast series with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), in which VMware further explores the topic of IT decentralization with EIU senior editor West Coghlan.