The IT Pendulum and the Federated Future of IT

This blog post is sponsored by the Enterprise CIO Forum and HP.

In a previous post, I asked whether the consumerization of IT, which is decentralizing IT and is a net positive for better servicing the diverse technology needs of large organizations, will help or hinder enterprise-wide communication and collaboration.

Stephen Putman commented that a centralized IT department will just change focus, but not disappear altogether:

“I look at the centralized/decentralized IT argument in the same way as the in-house/outsourced development argument—as a pendulum, over time.  Right now, the pendulum is swinging toward the decentralized end, but when people realize the need for collaboration and enterprise-wide communication (dare I say, ‘federalization’), the need for a centralized organization will be better realized.  I think that smart centralized IT departments will realize this, and shift focus to facilitating collaboration.”

I agree with Putman that the IT Pendulum is currently swinging toward the decentralized end, but once large organizations realize the increased communication and collaboration challenges it will bring, then the IT Pendulum will start swinging back a little more toward the centralized end (and hopefully before people within the organization start taking swings at each other).

A federated approach combining centralized IT control over core areas (including, but not necessarily limited to, facilitating communication and collaboration) with business unit and individual user autonomy over areas where centralization would disrupt efficiency and effectiveness, may ultimately be what many large organizations will have to adopt for long-term success.

The Federated Future of IT, which would allow the IT Pendulum to swing in harmony, balancing centralized control with decentralized autonomy, may not be as far off as some might imagine.  After all, a centralized IT department is one of the few organizational functions that regularly interacts with the entire enterprise, and is therefore already strategically positioned to be able to best support the evolving technology needs of the organization.

However, the required paradigm shift for IT is shifting its focus away from controlling how the organization is using technology, and toward advising the organization on how to better leverage technology—including centralized and decentralized options.

Joel Dobbs has advised that it’s “absolutely critical” for IT to embrace consumerization, and John Dodge has recently blogged about “striking that hybrid balance where IT is delivering agility.”  Historically, IT Delivery has been focused on control, but the future of IT is to boldly go beyond just a centralized department, and to establish a united federation of information technology that truly enables the enterprise-wide communication and collaboration needed for 21st century corporate survival and success.

This blog post is sponsored by the Enterprise CIO Forum and HP.


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