Executive Forum

Navigating Your Digital Future

These are conflicting times in the digital world. On the one hand, the potential of information technology has never been greater. It’s easy to imagine a future business landscape filled with smart products, voice interfaces, software agents, sophisticated robotics, information-rich digital twins, deep learning-based automation, super-fast 5G wireless speeds and more. Who in the IT community would bet against this vision?

But unfortunately, it’s all too clear that achieving real business transformation via information technology often remains frustratingly elusive. In addition, powerful political, media and other societal forces are turning against the technology industry as never before in highly sensitive areas such as privacy, antitrust, economic inequality, national sovereignty and more. The headwinds are strong.

This intensive day-long conference will help digital leaders in large organizations chart their course between these conflicting dynamics. Through a mix of academic thought leadership, real word customer experiences, and recent LEF research, we will address questions such as:

  • What is the speed and state of digital transformation today? Why does it often prove so hard? What can we learn from companies doing transformation well?
  • Today, many industries are defined by their dominant industry platform. But where will the next generation of technology platforms come from, and who will build them?
  • How can large organizations become more agile and sustain the necessary cultural change by taking a technology lifecycle approach, and rethinking where people physically and virtually sit?
  • What do these challenges mean for the modern CIO agenda and the role of the traditional enterprise IT organization?

With the plenary sessions providing a foundation for focused afternoon discussions, you will learn what other large organizations are doing and thinking, at the same time as expanding your peer network. The day will close with an open-ended forum on today’s growing tech backlash, and LEF’s view that while society’s fears of IT are often highly exaggerated, the industry needs to do a much better job of explaining why the digital world will continue to do massively more good than harm.

Welcome & Introductions

Richard Davies, Managing Director

Living & Leading in the Transformation Era

Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice, London Business School

We are in the midst of a significant and far-reaching transition in which technological, demographic and social innovations are transforming how we live, how we work and what we care about.

For the last ten years, Professor Lynda Gratton has researched and written about the trends that are shaping this transition. In her most recent books, The Shift and The 100 Year Life, she has shown how these trends are influencing everyone – whatever their age and where ever they live and work. In her session, she will consider:

  • The impact that technology will have on the way we work, the skills that we consider to be valuable and what it means to be a human at a time of intense technological innovation.
  • How demography, in terms of both longevity and ageing, will define the next decade. What it will take for individuals and companies to make the best of this ‘longevity dividend’ whilst at the same time being careful about stereotyping and out of date assumptions.
  • The fundamental changes that are shaping the way that people are thinking about their families whilst navigating the boundary between their personal and work life.

Taking these three major trends into consideration she reflects on what this means for leadership. She believes that there is fast developing a ‘new deal’ and an inevitable move from ‘tangible’ to ‘intangible’ assets as the currency that attracts and retains people.

A Tale of Two Missions: From IT Modernization to Business Transformation

Dave Reid, Programme Director

In recent years, use of the term digital transformation has skyrocketed in the business press. Why? For more than a decade, companies have been migrating to various cloud computing and software-as-a-service environments, but the digital world now anticipates a much more powerful wave of change based upon some combination of smart products, machine intelligence, business platforms, automated processes, employee learning, chatbots, and more self-service, data-driven operations. Taken together, such capabilities provide a vision for transformed, 21st century, digital organizations.

But how real is this vision today, and where are companies on this journey? To better separate today’s transformation facts from the hype, this session will share the findings of one of our most recent pieces of research, examining The Myths and Realities of Digital Transformation and discussing issues including:

  • Has the term ‘Digital Transformation’ been over-used and abused, and is there confusion with the terms Modernization, Transformation and Disruption?
  • Is Digital Transformation a high business priority?
  • What is the RoI case?
  • Real transformation tends to cut across existing organizational silos; how can leadership overcome the inevitable inertia, politics, and short-term payoff concerns?
  • While businesses and governments find it easy to launch new digital initiatives, making change at scale often proves difficult, so how can enterprise IT make change stick?
  • Digital firms need digital people. How are organizations handling the people issues and nurturing the required learning culture?
Coffee Break
What Culture is Right for You?

Simon Wardley, Researcher

During 2005-06, with the implementation of a pioneer-settler-town planner (PST) structure in a high tech startup in London’s Old Street, one noted observation was that the different components of the structure appeared to have different cultures. LEF recently published A Lesson From The Past On Pioneering Organizational Structures, which was an opportunity to revisit PST, so it seems worthwhile to once again explore the issue of culture. This leads us to the question of “What culture is right for you”.

During this session, we will unpack the problem, examine what culture is and whether we can actually distinguish between what may be right, or may be wrong? What can we learn? What can we influence? Can culture itself be mapped? And if it can, should we really bother with doing so?

Future of Digital Platforms

Bill Murray, Senior Researcher & Advisor

Arthur C Clarke’s seminal novel Childhood’s End depicts how our creations can evolve to supersede us, with a few leaving the many behind.

Our creations, digital platforms, are evolving. They used to run functions, then they ran businesses. Now the most evolved digital platforms run business ecosystems. For traditional businesses who are prepared to change significantly, they can confer the ability to constantly evolve. The most advanced digital platforms even help them beat Amazon.

How do they do that? During this session, we will cover:

  • How they turbocharge both traditional (pipeline) & platform business models.
  • How they can make constant evolution possible.
  • How they industrialize learning.

Some commentators believe the AI-powered autonomous platforms of the FAANGs and their offspring learn and evolve so fast they can never be caught. Can we master Advanced Digital Platforms, or is it Childhood’s End?


Welcome Back

Richard Davies, Managing Director

CIO Perspective

An LEF client will share their perspectives on the challenges of transformation and the digital journey.

The Role of Shared Services in the Digital Era

Spencer Izard, Research & Advisory Lead

The last decade of shared services was defined by labour arbitrage and lowering the cost of service delivery for highly transactional back-office support functions. The next decade and beyond will see machine automation and intelligence drive new forms of operational and cost efficiency out of the bottom of shared-service delivery. The organizational model needs to evolve from its classic ‘fat bottom’ triangle, into a functional model operating further up the value chain by IT deploying enablement teams and accelerating the decentralized goals of specific BUs with benefits derived from centralized shared services practices.

In this session, we’ll unpack the following questions by demonstrating an evolutionary path for shared services in the digital age:

  • Has shared services reached its operating model pinnacle, or are there new value models beyond regional & functional organizations evolving into global business services?
  • Does the shared service concept need to evolve further past its existing apex into a front-office intelligence hub, or does it maintain its course as the bedrock of transactional efficiency of back-office capabilities?
  • What function does a shared-service organization have to provide, or evolve into providing, for organizations to move past IT modernization & actually transform operating behaviours?
Space: The Organizational Frontier

Caitlin McDonald, Digital Anthropologist

Working environments are changing faster than we can adapt and that’s becoming the new normal. We are caught up in the acceleration, trying to fit ourselves to the tools and team situations, knowing at some level that things could be so much better. But we often lack the mental models, evidence, and approaches to reflect on and shift patterns which seem to be getting in the way of a better workplace.

Amid this current of change, there are still moments that can give organizations the space to gain a more nuanced understanding of their communication and collaboration challenges, enabling them to find new (or return to old) ways of getting things done.

Caitlin’s ‘Space’ enquiry digs into the background hum of unquestioned norms, which are governing our habits and practices in different workspaces. With a rich body of primary ethnographic research, Caitlin offers new insight into how we can all have more in our working environments. She will address how organizations or teams can seize those transformational moments of pivoting from one state to another, and use them as opportunities to establish fruitful and satisfying working conditions.

Coffee Break

Creating Context: Part 1 (Elective Session)

This interactive session gives you the chance to engage directly with the LEF research team. A roundtable format ensures informal and direct dialogue, to debate and go deep on any aspect of LEF research that has been presented during the day. Gain direct insight from the LEF team and guest speakers from the day, as well as your peers, while you explore the topic of your choice. There will be four sessions running concurrently.

Creating Context: Part 2 (Elective Session)

Repeating the sessions from Part 1, this is a second opportunity to select a topic of your choice and debate insights, issues and perspective with the LEF team, as well as guest speakers and your peers.

Defending Digital

David Moschella, Research Fellow

The information technology sector is under attack as never before. The industry’s leading firms are now routinely accused of destroying jobs, ending individual privacy, widening economic inequality, inciting political polarization, abusing their monopoly power, being ripe for foreign manipulation, and generally being untrustworthy in an age of data-driven machine intelligence.

Is all this negativity just a passing phase, or a sign of something more fundamental? Bitter complaints and eye-rolling frustrations about the oil, pharmaceutical, insurance, banking, cable TV, telephone, airline and other major industries are now baked into contemporary culture. Does Big Tech face a similar future?

The good news is that most of these criticisms are greatly exaggerated. The bad news is that the IT industry is doing such a poor job of defending itself that many of these narratives have already taken hold. In this session, David will explain why so many of today’s attacks are largely unfair, and highlight the increasing need for the digital industry to respond much more directly to its many critics.

Summary & Close

Richard Davies, Managing Director

Review of the day followed by Networking & Cocktails

Who we work with


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