LONG BEACH, CA (Laserfiche) March 3, 2009—A recent Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) global survey of 227 executives—in government, education, professional services, life sciences, and financial services—suggests that organizations in the private and public sector believe that increasing both centralized control and local autonomy is needed for organizations to run efficiently and for employees to perform their jobs effectively.
The survey, part of a research report titled Disciplined Autonomy: Resolving the tension between flexibility and control, produced by EIU on behalf of Laserfiche, aimed to discover how organizations manage the tension between the autonomy sought by professionals and the centralized control required for efficiency and risk management.
“Study after study—including ones conducted at the Economist Group—show that the more employees feel empowered, the more productive they tend to be,” said EIU Senior Editor Dan Armstrong. “As long as there’s transparency into employee activities, there’s often no need to impose strict processes and control, which can inhibit innovation and drive away talent.”
“The survey revealed a surprising paradox created by modern information technology,” said Laserfiche Vice President of Marketing Tom Wayman. “To boost responsiveness organizations are becoming increasingly decentralized, and yet with the right tools upper management gains greater control and insight over policy and direction.”
Participants in the survey fit the definition of knowledge workers: over half spent more than three hours per day working with or processing documents, such as: forms, e-mails, manuals, presentations, or contracts, and nearly half spent at least four hours per week following up on documents to see if they have been received, approved, or acted upon.
Among the survey findings were:
- Employees feel that greater freedom leads to better job performance.
- Over the past five years, 68% of organizations said they increased centralization to control risk and increase efficiency, while simultaneously increasing autonomy to enable employees to work more closely with customers and give them more freedom over how much of the work gets done.
- More than half (51%) of respondents occasionally or frequently “bend the rules” to be more productive, while 32% said they did so to make a quick decision to close a sale or retain a customer.
- 57% of respondents said business pressures, over the past five years, to bring products to market faster or respond to customers more quickly caused decision making authority to be given to operating units our other groups outside headquarters.
The survey also suggests that to balance the advantages of control and autonomy organizations should keep the following principles in mind:
- Use IT as an enabler, not a driver.
- Over-communicate with key stakeholders when rolling out a significant change initiative.
- Commit to proper training and support during and after the implementation of new processes and systems.
- If possible, standardize rather than centralize. Standardization leads to greater efficiency and more effective corporate governance.
Respondents from the private sector came from companies with average annual revenue of about $1 billion. A significant portion of the respondents also came from the government and education sectors. For more information please see Disciplined Autonomy: Resolving the tension between flexibility and control, available at www.eiu.com and www.laserfiche.com.
About the Economist Intelligence Unit
The Economist Intelligence Unit is the world’s foremost provider of country, industry, and management analysis. Founded in 1946 when a director of intelligence was appointed to serve The Economist, the Economist Intelligence Unit is now a leading research and advisory firm with more than 40 offices worldwide. For more than 60 years, the Economist Intelligence Unit has delivered vital business intelligence to influential decision-makers around the world. Its extensive international reach and unfettered independence make it a trusted and valuable resource for international companies, financial institutions, universities and government agencies.
The Economist Intelligence Unit bears sole responsibility for the report content. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s editorial team executed the online survey, conducted the interviews and wrote the report. The findings and views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsor.
Laserfiche® creates simple and elegant enterprise content management solutions that help organizations run smarter. Laserfiche® offers a suite of products and services that address enterprise-wide challenges from the perspective of executives, records managers, IT staff members, and end-users. Since 1987, more than 25,000 organizations—including government offices, Fortune 1000 companies, healthcare and financial organizations, and non-profits—have used Laserfiche software to meet these challenges, improve productivity, and enhance data security. By digitizing paper archives, Laserfiche enables users to instantly pinpoint the information they need. Secure Web access allows firms to share information with remote offices, business partners and clients, while comprehensive security options ensure compliance with government- and industry-mandated standards.
Dan Armstrong, Economist Intelligence Unit, Senior Editor, (212) 698-9710 email@example.com