The digital universe continues to grow year on year, according to a recent IDC report, which notes a growth of 62 per cent in 2009 alone. Frustrated employees are taking matters into their own hands by making use of online applications and cloud computing services to manage the information they need more efficiently.

As a result, IT departments are drowning under a tidal wave of data as new applications and software flood into the company infrastructure. If this is not addressed, then as businesses plan for 2011 the tug of war over who owns what will see business-critical information overlooked and opportunities to generate additional revenue missed.

A surprising 39 per cent of sales and marketing professionals cited a sluggish response from IT to their data requests as the main reason for buying their own software. As a result, business employees are increasingly taking matters into their own hands to manage the data they need, leaving IT departments out in the cold. Employees are by-passing IT departments to become ‘IT experts’ in their own right, using the online tools available to them to achieve quicker access to the information that they need.

The rise of new models such as cloud computing will create a headache for IT departments if they are not integrated in an overall IT strategy. Business users now think it should take hours not weeks to implement new technologies. When they perceive IT to be behind the curve, they’re going off under their own steam and purchasing software without realising the implications this has on their company. In 2011, without closer alignment between IT and the business, IT will only fragment further creating blind spots that pose serious security, regulatory and financial risks.

Highlighting the considerable friction between IT departments and business employees, the research found that over half of IT managers believe that control over company databases should reside with the IT department. By contrast, 56 per cent of business users believe ownership should fall directly with employees.

These conflicting opinions result in a fragmentation of company data. As the matter of ownership reveals a disconnect, so too does the way they prioritise management of the data, with 76 per cent of business users valuing accuracy in contrast to 57 per cent of IT managers who believe speed of access to data is most important.

Despite ongoing industry discussion around the huge challenge that businesses face today to house more and more data effectively, this research reveals that many businesses have some way to go to fully align business and IT. In order to effectively bridge this gulf, a process of education is required, to ensure that all members of an organisation are working to the same priorities when it comes to managing such a valuable business asset.