Decentralizing Business Tech Poses Greater Risk for IT Management
Decentralizing business technology offers many advantages to enterprises — and many risks, too. On the plus side, decentralization can speed up innovation by enabling business units to take charge of their own growth and productivity. The downside, however, is that IT management becomes much more difficult, as technology fragmentation increases cost, complexity and security risks.
A recent survey of IT and business leaders, commissioned by VMware and conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and Vanson Bourne, drives this point home. It shows that while IT and business executives agree technology usage has grown increasingly decentralized over the past three years, this reduction of central control has its drawbacks — most notably increased vulnerability to cyberattacks.
Cloud: The Decentralizer
As reported by Infosecurity Magazine, cloud computing is a driving force behind decentralization and is helping to disrupt traditional business operations. The rapid adoption of cloud-centric technologies is posing major organizational questions, such as who is responsible for various critical functions in the enterprise.
Business leaders have a growing stake in the technology decisions that spur innovation and competitiveness, according to the VMware survey. Sixty-six percent of respondents said non-IT executives are “key decision-makers” for new applications, and 45 percent reported that their business department is developing its own cloud services.
The Dangers of Sprawl
IT management decentralization, or “sprawl,” can create critical security gaps. For instance, an environment in which business leaders bypass IT management to purchase technology often leads to fragmented standards — as well as higher costs, complexity and risk.
The result? A big batch of worry for IT, which finds itself losing control over purchasing and implementing the technology but still being held accountable for security throughout the enterprise.
In the survey, 73 percent of IT leaders said decentralization makes it harder to prevent cyberattacks. Similarly, 62 percent of business leaders said decentralization has increased their vulnerability to hacking. These findings are in line with a recent IDG survey, which showed that while enterprises continue to explore and pursue cloud adoption, they’re having nagging concerns about the safety of their data in the cloud.
Decentralization: The Innovator
Despite these security concerns, however, decentralization appears to be driving innovation. In fact, it’s enabling business units (BUs) to react more effectively to a rapidly changing competitive environment. BUs can, for instance, build and buy their own apps, authorize devices and play a major role in technology purchasing decisions, the survey found.
Two-thirds of respondents said a decentralized approach not only gives businesses more freedom to innovate, but also allows them to launch new products and services more quickly. And 63 percent said decentralization increases employee satisfaction at the same time.
If IT management isn’t ready or willing to embrace change, a decentralized solution may cause more harm than good, Infosecurity Magazine notes. But decentralization can also lead to innovative collaborations between IT and business leaders in cloud security, cost savings and other areas.
Indeed, this collaboration is key. There was wide agreement among survey respondents that IT management should enable lines of business to drive innovation but remain accountable for the company’s security.