WHERE DO WE DRAW THE LINE? Should IT managers control all aspects of a company’s technology, such as the choice of cell phones used by business staff and the high-performance computers used by researchers?

For sure, the control exerted by IT departments has expanded as enterprise-wide initiatives such as data centre consolidations, virtualization and data integration have taken technology control away from business units. But conflict continues over the limits of that type of centralized management, according to participants in a forum at the recent Gartner ITexpo in Las Vegas.

Colleen Young, a Gartner analyst, argued for strong centralized control. Allowing research and development organizations 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 clear very, very quickly that they lack managerial expertise,” said Young of researchers, warning they may lock their businesses into poor deals and technologies.

But Kristian Steenstrup, another Gartner analyst, said centralized control for IT departments is an impossible goal to achieve. He cited examples of technologies that will be outside of IT control, including technologies used by engineers, 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. “There is a lot of technology in your organization … that will be outside your control,” said Steenstrup. By Patrick Thibodeau