by Todd Thibodeaux

Navigating the brave new world of decentralized IT

Aug 15, 2017
CIOIT Leadership

As economic and competitive pressures push organizations toward more rapid product and service delivery, the ways organizations engage with technology – and the people who support it – are changing.

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As economic and competitive pressures push organizations toward more rapid product and service delivery, the ways organizations engage with technology – and the people who support it – are changing. According to a recent report by CompTIA, Considering the New IT Buyer, 46 percent of U.S. workforce professionals say that who pays for new technology depends on the tool in question, signalling greater autonomy by line of business (LOB) managers to equip their teams with the right solutions.

With business units hiring their own IT professionals and managing technology independently, organizations should brace for the nuances of navigating decentralized IT resources, compared to traditional IT departments. 

Maintaining security when IT is scattered

Outside of highly regulated industries, many organizations don’t pay enough thought to cybersecurity needs and vulnerabilities until they – or a peer – suffers a data breach. All businesses stand to benefit from a heightened security posture, but the stakes are greater those operating with a decentralized IT department.

Security has long been recognized as a fundamental benefit of centralization, with 40 percent of employees citing security and compliance as a primary benefit of shared IT services. But decentralized IT services need not complicate security, so long as organizations establish thorough controls.

Maintaining security is less a technical issue than a structural one. Regardless of how decentralized an organization’s IT department is, there remain several core services that should be maintained by a dedicated team, such as universally adopted cloud platform solutions and a firm’s network backbone.

When services such as specialized application development are localized within LOBs, organizations must foster a culture of thorough documentation and rigid adherence to foundational security precautions. This is vital given LOB managers’ growing temptation to self-provision cloud resources, as nearly 4 in 10 respondents claim that cloud computing has made it simpler to adopt new technology without IT’s involvement.

While LOB employees and managers may have the technical savvy to deploy new apps and services on their own, they often lack awareness of potential security risks – necessitating proactive support and regular trainings from embedded IT resources. Whereas traditional security training often focuses on workstation and email safety, organizations with decentralized IT environments must prioritize more targeted education around cloud platform procurement and use. 

Enabling rapid innovation

IT professionals’ roles are evolving from gatekeeping and policy enforcement to supporting business objectives that, more often than not, hinge on technology. Thirty-nine percent of organizations cite implementing systems to increase efficiencies as a top strategic goal, alongside 35 percent pushing to launch new products and services.

Business units with their own IT resources should keep a few best practices in mind to best take advantage of their capabilities:

  • Prioritize business knowledge: Technical skills are no less important for embedded IT staff, but understanding LOB challenges, needs and opportunities is equally crucial. This represents an opportunity to reframe IT support from a purely reactive role into a proactive force for transformation. LOB leaders should encourage their IT professionals to identify avenues for improving existing department processes, serving as an internal resource for synthesizing team inefficiencies and technological capabilities into unique solutions. Reflecting this need, more than half of business units have created hybrid roles that combine technical and business knowledge to support the organization.
  • Open lines of communication: Decentralization shouldn’t mean fragmentation; while each LOB tackles distinct problems, other teams have likely encountered (or will encounter) similar challenges. Rather than continually reinvent the wheel, business units should ensure embedded IT staff communicate regularly with IT professionals throughout the company. While the goal is not to forge a monolithic IT department, technology professionals should have mechanisms to share challenges and strategies with their peers to prevent redundant problem-solving.
  • Discourage bureaucracy: Processes and standards are valuable, but business units can’t afford to let technology become a bottleneck instead of an enabling force. Nearly half (45%) of CompTIA study respondents claim that ideas about technology come from different areas of their organization, and it’s critical that IT professionals engage with and are supportive of these efforts. Technology procurement processes should encourage rigorous analysis without discouraging LOB stakeholders from participating in the search for new tools and technologies. Embedded IT professionals are facilitators, not arbitrators.

Empowering your business

Embedding IT professionals into individual LOBs offers organizations a chance to become more agile and embrace productivity-enhancing technologies faster. Especially in the case of hybrid IT professionals with business-facing responsibilities, better awareness of business unit workflow presents opportunities to introduce new tools and solutions. As organizations push LOBs to produce faster and become more adaptable, decentralized IT departments can offer the right combination of insight to support flexible, profitable operations.