Gartner: Can the IT department control all technology?

Gartner analysts at the analysts’ IT Expo in Las Vegas presented contradictory views on whether IT departments should exert centralised control over their organisation’s infrastructure.

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Gartner analysts at the analysts’ IT Expo in Las Vegas presented contradictory views on whether IT departments should exert centralised control over their organisation’s infrastructure.

The control exerted by IT departments has expanded as enterprise-wide initiatives such as datacentre consolidations, virtualisation and data integration have taken technology control away from business units. But conflict continues over the limits of that type of centralised management, according to IT managers and analysts at the event.

Colleen Young, a Gartner analyst, argued for strong centralised control at the forum here. Allowing research and development organisations to make all their own IT decisions, for instance, is just as much a mistake as letting business units go their own way on technology purchases, she said.

"It will become very clear, very, very quickly that they lack managerial expertise," said Young, of researchers, warning they may lock their businesses into poor deals and technologies.

Kristian Steenstrup, a Gartner analyst who took an opposing view in a debate with Young, said centralised control for IT departments is an impossible goal to achieve.

"There is a lot of technology in your organisation ... that will be outside your control," said Steenstrup.

He cited examples of technologies that will be outside of IT control, including technologies used by engineers, SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) systems, consumer technologies that are also used at work, and even the concept of cloud computing, which gives users access to services outside the company network.

An IT manager in an engineering research group at a manufacturer she asked not be named, said her company uses a decentralised approach. Currently her organisation isn't part of corporate IT; this approach is under reconsideration, and she is worried about the impact of centralisation.

"If we get wrapped up into the whole corporate IT [department], the needs of engineering get missed, because what a marketing person needs is not what engineering needs," she said. What could be lost is "the ability of engineers to innovate," she said.

An IT manager at a retailer said hjis organisation took a middle position. His company recently moved control of its cell phone and mobile devices back into the IT department.

The firm had turned over management of these devices to the purchasing department, which allowed employees to "buy everything and anything" when it came PDA or cell phones. As a consequence, the IT department, was getting requests for e-mail access on mobile platforms it didn't support.

A general rule on deciding what to control and what not to control is based on whether the technology uses the corporate network. If engineering, for instance, is using an advance technology that requires no internal development and is dependent on the vendor, the retail IT manager said, he will leave those standalone systems to that department. "We really don't want to grab them unless we have to," he said.

Diane Morello, a Gartner analyst, said IT is best off focusing on creating a few standards, particularly for consumer devices, to allow flexibility.

"It's about creating the framework for coordinating freedom without imposing lockdown control," said Morello.

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