By Daniel Hunter

New figures from a study sponsored by Ricoh show that by 2020 the impact of new technology in the workplace will force businesses into a new era of decentralisation.

The research, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, shows that 63 per cent of business leaders predict a shift towards a more decentralised business model and that responsibility for business decision making will move from centralised management boards towards individual employees.

“We believe that businesses will be more process-orientated, requiring critical information to be more centralised in that data can be received, stored and retrieved by employees. Such transparency means decision making becomes less hierarchical and allows employees who are collaborating directly with customers to make important business decisions without delay,” says Chas Moloney, Director, Ricoh UK.

In the past, decentralised structures were generally viewed as inefficient in that they encouraged duplication and lack of consistent strategic direction. Recent Ricoh research shows that by 2020, effective business processes will empower workers to better meet the needs of the market place and enable organisations to be more agile in an uncertain economic climate.

Supporting closer customer collaboration is essential as the research shows that by 2020, business leaders believe that customers will be the main source of new product or service ideas. Furthermore, 86 per cent of business leaders participating in the research agree that customers will become an integral part of internal decision-making. In addition, project teams will typically include people from outside the organisation such as customers and business partners; this change is at the heart of the decentralised business of the future.

At the core of successful decentralisation in 2020, lies a network of integrated processes to manage information, and ensure that it is accessible by key knowledge workers, wherever they are, to make business decisions. In the future, there will also be a need to consider how experts outside the organisation can input and retrieve information to act on behalf of the business. The majority, 85.7 per cent, of business leaders agree that project teams will typically include members from outside the organisation, for example, customers, partners, communities.

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