Businesses are entering a "new era of decentralisation" because of technology, according to research from the Economist Intelligence Unit.
The research, sponsored by Ricoh, shows that by 2020 the impact of new technology in the workplace will mean 63 per cent of business leaders will prepare for a shift towards a more decentralised business model - aided by better systems and processes. The results are based on a global survey of executives.
Responsibility for business decision making will move from centralised management boards towards more individual employees, the report predicts.
"We believe that businesses will be more process-orientated, requiring critical information to be more decentralised in that data can be received, stored and retrieved by employees," said Chas Moloney, a director of Ricoh UK.
Moloney said such transparency means decision making will become less hierarchical, and will allow employees who are collaborating directly with customers to make important business decisions "without delay".
The research also shows that by 2020 many business leaders believe that customers will "be the main source of new product or service ideas".
In addition, 86 per cent of business leaders participating in the research agreed that customers will become "an integral part of internal decision-making". Project teams will typically include people from outside the organisation such as customers and business partners.
But despite the expected increase in the decentralisation of processes, said the Economist, central governance is essential to protect business critical data.
"This will be challenging", it added, "as currently 43 per cent of all business critical document processes in European organisations rely on hard copy data".
Only 22 per cent currently have "the fully automated workflow that is required", said the Economist.
The Economist Intelligence Unit surveyed 567 executives globally. A third were based in Europe.