An increasing attack surface promoted by a dynamic enterprise IT environment has had security teams facing more cyber threats and searching for more ways to combat them. However, having an array of security tools doesn’t necessarily make an enterprise more secure. In fact, new research from IDG and ReliaQuest suggests thattool sprawl” or “tech sprawl” may be working against IT teams’ efforts to keep pace with bad actors. Worse, it can potentially increase an organization’s risk profile.  

IDG and ReliaQuest surveyed 400 IT leaders in the United States in late 2020 and found that enterprises maintain an average of 19 different security tools to address various security challenges. However, many organizations are struggling to manage and get the most from their security toolset — and aren’t achieving the visibility, control, or return on investment (ROI) they seek 

The 2021 ReliaQuest Security Technology Sprawl Report takes a closer look at the challenge of security tech sprawl — and what organizations can do to manage their security tools and risks more effectively. Here’s a look at a few key takeaways from our new report: 


To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with having an extensive collection of security tools. If you really need the firepower, then line it up. However, you also want to be strategic about your investments. And you want to ensure your security teams can access actionable intelligence. If not, what’s the point in having these systems? 

Based on our survey results, many IT leaders are no doubt asking themselves that exact question. Most of these leaders (85%) say they’re adding technologies faster than they can productively use them. (That’s a notable increase from 71%, in our previous survey.) On top of that, 37% say their teams are having more difficulty determining the source of security incidents. Why? There are simply too many security tools and technologies for them to manage but unified visibility into them.  

This complexity can lead to security loopholes and costly consequences. As one survey respondent underscored, a security team’s inability to find and address malicious code swiftly could result in damaged, lost, or compromised data — and potentially, “great losses” for the organization. 


Our survey found that many organizations are aligning advanced tools designed to solve niche problems, believing it will provide security teams with an advantage in combating sophisticated threats. However, quite often, those investments end up adding to the tech sprawl that hinders defenders’ efforts 

Ninety percent of IT leaders in the new IDG and ReliaQuest survey say security tool overload has had a negative impact on their organization’s operations. Adding to the chaos: Many respondents say that while they added six security tools, on average, in the previous 12 months, they’ve also deactivated seven technologies during that same period due to dissatisfaction with capabilities or performance.  

Here again, the tech sprawl issue is creating risk. Security teams distracted by too many tools, or tasked with constantly learning new solutions, can’t help but be less productive. That, in turn, can undermine their ability to attend to security basics, like defending against ransomware and implementing necessary security controls — exactly the types of issues the organization needs to manage actively. 


So, how serious is the problem of tech sprawl? More than three-quarters (78%) of respondents say they’ve reached a tipping point where the number of tools in place is having a negative impact on security. In our previous survey, just over half (53%) said they’d reached this critical point. 

The 2021 IDG and ReliaQuest survey results suggest that IT leaders are eager to rein in tool sprawl in their organization and become more effective at using and managing the tools they want to keep. Most respondents expressed a strong need for integration and automation of disparate security tools and better visibility across their toolset so that they can operationalize proactive security programs. We also learned that 89% of IT organizations are already working actively to consolidate security technologies and tools to help increase visibility.  

This is a positive trend. With more visibility and tighter integration across tools, IT organizations can better understand which tools are most effective. They can then begin weeding out solutions that aren’t delivering value. That number could be high: According to our survey, only about one-quarter of IT security tools in place today22%, on averageare vital to organizations’ primary security objectives. 

While investing in the right security tools is important, it is also critical to streamline operations – gain a unified view into your ecosystem, reduce security gaps, and drive towards a more effective security investment strategy overall. You’ll also be able to identify and focus on the metrics most useful for tracking progress toward and achievement of your security goals — and demonstrating security tool ROI to stakeholders. 

For more findings and analysis from the 2021 IDG and ReliaQuest survey, download a free copy of our report today