Throughout organizational history, the decision of how much authority to decentralize and how much must go through the corporate hierarchy has been under ongoing refinement and debate. Many organizations experience times where the company is ruled by an iron fist at headquarters, with much of the authority and direction coming from a few key executives. At other times, front-line or distributed employees are empowered to make key decisions with loose guidance and little status reporting from headquarters.

The decision of whether or not to centralize applies not only to decision-making but also to systems and functions. Lately, the discussion has become quite trendy regarding customer intelligence within businesses that work in separate business units, product lines, geographies or marketing units. Hewlett-Packard is undergoing this transformation right now. In the past, the HP way was extremely decentralized with much of the control and decisioning at the business unit level. However, HP is currently consolidating their systems infrastructure, including data warehousing, from 28 data centers down to less than 10.

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