Sanity check: Counterpoint -- five reasons to decentralize your IT department

Last week I gave you five reasons why you would want to centralize the resources of your IT department. Now here is the counterpoint: the top five arguments for decentralizing IT.

I extolled the benefits of centralizing your IT department last week, and now I'm going to provide the counterpoint: the top five advantages you can gain by decentralizing your IT department.

5. IT is a smaller target for budget cuts

Decentralizing primarily involves taking parts of the IT department - for example, software engineers for custom projects or help desk professionals - and assigning them directly to a department or business unit. This leaves a smaller group of professionals in the central services wing of the IT department. One of the advantages to this is that IT is not such a huge target when it comes time for budget cuts, and the IT workers in the business units are much more closely tied to revenue and so less likely to be viewed as expendable.

4. Less bureaucracy to manage

With a smaller group of IT professionals in central services, there are typically fewer groups, less hierarchy, and less political in-fighting. All of that adds up to less bureaucracy for IT leaders to manage, which means more time can be spent on developing effective IT strategies.

3. Projects get done faster

When you have developers, engineers, and architects tied directly to the business units, they tend to need fewer meetings and less communications in order to get on the same page with the stakeholders on the business side. That's because they work more closely with the business side on a daily basis and typically report up through the business leaders of the division. This type of streamlined communication can lead to projects that get done much faster and more efficiently.

2. Achieve better IT/business alignment

When business unit leaders have IT professionals and IT teams who are part of their department, they tend to demonize IT far less. And when IT pros are part of a business unit or department (in a large organization), they often do a much better job of learning the business and finding the technologies that can enhance it.

1. Increase responsiveness to users and customers

The number one value proposition is speed. Requests don't have to go into a central queue and then wait for the appropriate and/or available technologist to handle the request. Business leaders can work directly with the technologists in their business unit to solve problems, make changes to a project, tweak plans, make purchases, etc. This often results in much higher internal satisfaction with IT. For some businesses, this can also translate directly into higher customer satisfaction due to the perception of increased responsiveness.

For more on this subject, see:

Also, if you haven't already, please take our poll on whether you consider your current IT department to be centralized or decentralized.

Bottom line for IT leaders

Decentralization can result in an IT department that is leaner on central services, less of a target for budget cuts, gets projects done faster, is better aligned with the business, and provides better user satisfaction. However, keep in mind that decentralized IT also results in duplication of effort, places a much higher emphasis on multi-talented IT professionals, allows for less skill specialization, and is typically more expensive - although the costs are more spread out and absorbed into the operations of the various business units.


Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

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