The Business-Technology Weave

Aug 11 2010   12:52PM GMT

Centralized and Decentralized IT Deployment

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott

[Note:  My promised security prediction will be in my next post]

I was reading an interesting chapter in a book entitled The Tower and the Cloud [Editor Richard N. Katz, © 2008, Educause, ISBN: 978-0-9672853-9-9]. That chapter is Beyond the False Dichotomy of Centralized and Decentralized IT Deployment, by Jim Davis.

He makes the effective case for two fundamental requirements:

1)  Consistency and control by virtue of centralized authority, and;

 2)  Autonomy of sorts for requirements that pertain solely to various units’ independent needs, thus engendering local control (independent of “institutional” involvement).

Large enterprises, as opposed to SMB, certainly need a more rigid (for lack of a better word) control: a “Wild West” bloom of independent, redundant, and overlapping programs, content, and control is neither efficient nor productive. And yet, local business units and departments often have unique, even insular, requirements as they deliver, produce and serve. Mr. Davis talks about “horizontally layered”… “locally managed service components on top of institutional service components to form complete services.” I suspect this happens in most organizations – whether by hook or by crook… but hopefully by some sort of design. Most local twists to the “bouquet” of solutions provided by the enterprise rest on common general supports.

Small and Medium businesses aren’t faced with quite the same challenge: They may be wholly “local,” a one-spot reference on a map, with an IT department that can effectively manage and control with a simple stroll through a plant or office, and a peruse through assets in a central computer room. However, medium business likely has a similar challenge if only differing in scale. In fact, in the medium realm, IT leadership often finds departments or locations bristling at a lack of freedom. Mr. Davis’ term, “coordinated autonomy,” sounds a little gimmicky and trendy to me but there needs to exist a certain freedom for imagination and problem solving – and within prudent limits there does exist a need to improvise on occasion.

I liken it to a home project I had going the other weekend. Wouldn’t you know, I had tools that were sooooo close to serving a specific project need… but – I sprang for the purchase of the right tool, and possibly its use on a one-time basis. (It wasn’t too expensive). But what else are you going to do in those circumstances? You have to get the job done. In the case of coordinated autonomy, and decentralized deployment, a happy balance can be established. Set a template for:

1)  Requests and permissions

2)  Negotiations

3)  Prudent additions for customized needs

4)  Understandings regarding management (maintenances and forward progressions) of local deployments and solutions

There are always exceptions to policy: Lubricate your sticking points. Don’t blunt any individual’s imagination, or your organization’s collective imagination, in furthering business and IT’s support to that business.

I cycle back to my Business Implementation Team (BIT). Here we bring qualified members of the senior executive class (including C-Level from time-to-time), and IT leadership representatives along with suggestions from the “where the rubber meets the road” business and user class. We can brainstorm in the BIT forum, but we are here primarily to move business and allied technology forward in a meaningful way. The entire thrust is for moving forward.

Authority and permission for deployments, and the twists and stripes throughout the organization regarding procurement, support, control of content, sanctioned solutions, etc., can always be navigated and negotiated.

But do not allow old constraints and old-school thinking to keep you in an outdated box.

August 11th: On this day in 1866, the world’s first roller rink opens (Newport, RI)

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