Decentralized but not fragmented: A new way to think about operations

Future-ready organizations need to shift towards more agile and technology-driven operations.

Future-ready organizations need to shift towards more agile and technology-driven operations. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Obaid Bokisha
Chief Operating Officer, e&
Saeed Al Zarooni
Group Chief Procurement Officer, e&
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Business?
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
This article is part of: Annual Meeting of the New Champions
  • Organizations seeking out more progressive operational models need to shift towards more agile and technology-driven operations.
  • Decentralization enables a distributed and autonomous approach to decision-making and management, enabling an agile ecosystem.
  • Taking a decentralized approach can foster a culture of collaboration and innovation.

As businesses seek out more progressive models that build scale and maximize value across operations, it can’t be business as usual.

For companies to become more adaptable and growth-oriented it means strategically shifting from traditional, centralized operations towards a more agile, technology-driven model.

Fuelled by the rapid pace of innovation and the growing demand for digital services, business leaders are embracing agile methodologies and decentralization to drive their companies into the future.

Success lies in the orchestration, not just the conception

The narrative around innovation often celebrates the eureka moment, the flash of brilliance that sparks a revolutionary idea. But for many businesses, the true engine of progress lies not just in conception, but in orchestration.

Operationally sound businesses are the unsung heroes of innovation. They bridge the gap between ground-breaking ideas and tangible results, applying sophisticated processes as the tools to translate vision into reality. Here, meticulous execution and an ironclad focus on operational excellence become the foundations of success.

As a global technology and investment group, e& operates across 32 countries, with five distinct verticals and numerous subsidiaries. This complex structure transcends countries and cultures and is home to 90 nationalities, presenting significant operational challenges.

Despite these hurdles, the company continues to evolve as it accelerates digital transformation and empowers societies. Through this journey, e& has learned valuable lessons about maintaining consistency in delivering quality services across diverse markets, as it works towards a broader purpose.

Decentralization, a key component of this evolution, allows for a more distributed and autonomous approach to decision-making and management, enabling an agile and responsive ecosystem. It helps navigate the complexities of its global operations while maintaining the consistency in service quality that it delivers, ultimately driving its purpose to digitally empower societies.

Decentralization also enables businesses to balance the need for control and standardization with the benefits of local autonomy and adaptability. By decentralizing certain functions or decision-making processes, companies can empower local teams to respond more effectively to regional needs and market conditions.

This can lead to increased innovation and opportunities, improved customer satisfaction, enhanced overall performance, and cross-collaboration.

Have you read?

As e& continues to digitalize its operations, its data capabilities have been a key driver of growth. For example, e&’s telecommunications core business and its expansive customer real estate give it a strong foundation for optimizing its fintech solutions.

Telecom data provides valuable consumer insights, and by leveraging it in conjunction with advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms, e& develops innovative financial products tailored to the needs of its customers.

Demystifying decentralization for business

Decentralization is often misunderstood as fragmentation, where tasks and decision-making are scattered and disconnected. Real decentralization involves a cohesive framework where autonomy and collaboration intersect harmoniously.

Imagine a company like a team sport. In any high-performance team, everyone has some control over their actions (autonomy) but works together (collaborates) towards a common goal. This is decentralization, and it facilitates quick decisions based on specific situations, such as local markets and customer needs. Ultimately, decentralized models empower local teams to make faster decisions, fostering agility.

On the other hand, there are teams with no clear plans. Participants are doing different things. Communication is often absent, and it leads to confusion, duplication of efforts, and missed opportunities ­– this is what fragmentation looks like.


Decentralization helps avoid this by giving teams more control while keeping everyone on the same page about the overall goals. This model enables teams to act fast and adapt, while fragmentation creates chaos.

Decentralized models can reduce the symptoms and drivers of fragmentation and lead to quicker decisions and dynamic cohesion. However, decentralization needs to be balanced with centralization to ensure clear guidance, overarching strategy, and a joint platform for the organization.

e& operates a portfolio of telco, fintech, and lifestyle brands, such as Etisalat Cash in Egypt, UPaisa in Pakistan, and Careem. Its decentralized operations in these countries, where currency fluctuations can be a challenge, demonstrate resilience but are supported by the stability of its operations in countries with more stable currencies.

Achieving the right balance between centralization and decentralization is key to organizational effectiveness. Finding the right balance between control, where it matters, and freedom is what makes a company successful.

Blockchain technology, with its decentralized and secure nature, offers a powerful analogy for decentralization. It’s built on several key principles that can be applied to operations, including decentralization, immutability and transparency.

Blockchain principles as a model for business operations

Blockchain is designed to operate without a central authority, ensuring transparency, security and consistency. Adopting the principles allows for distributed decision-making processes, where multiple parties can participate and validate operations without the need for intermediaries.

Similarly, in decentralized business operations, decision-making authority can be distributed among various teams or departments, enabling more agile and responsive decision-making.

Blockchain technology enables local control and autonomy using smart contracts, distributed ledger technology, and automation. In the case of e&, automation has enabled its backend operations to become faster and more precise.

Its subsidiary Careem, which serves 50 million customers across 74 cities, uses artificial intelligence to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks like testing, debugging and deployment, giving software engineers more time to concentrate on tasks that require strategic thinking and creativity.


How is the World Economic Forum creating guardrails for Artificial Intelligence?

Decentralization demands a profound transformation in strategic thinking, organizational culture and operational practices. By adopting the core principles of blockchain and nurturing an ecosystem of innovation, companies can redefine their role and impact within the rapidly evolving digital landscape.

Decentralized operations models, which emphasize the empowerment of teams and individual business units to make decisions, can be a key component of this transformation. Ultimately, by embracing decentralization, organizations can enhance agility, improve decision-making and foster a culture of collaboration and innovation.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
BusinessEmerging Technologies
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

How corporate intrapreneurs can use small wins to create big change

Nancy McGaw

July 19, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Sign in
  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum