Research Agenda 2020

The theme for LEF’s 2020 research agenda is Scenarios for the 2020s. Much of our recent thinking and work has been driven through the lens of Transformation as defined in our April 2019 report, A Tale of Two Missions: From IT Modernization to Business Transformation. Moving into 2020, we acknowledge that there are powerful macro transitions beyond technology, both economic and political. In the economic realm we see continuation of east vs. west debates, resetting of trade tariffs and moves towards greater regionalization. Politically we live in a time of polarized values, where the importance of diversity, climate, the role of business in society and national identity are forcing leaders everywhere to consider what this means for their organizations.

Research Agenda 2020

These drivers combine to whip up powerful disruptive forces, potentially changing the flows of goods and services around the world, and we will continue to watch anticipated shifts including the anticipated increase in data-based services vs. traditional goods. We believe that the significant yet unrealized potential of new technologies such as AI, machine learning, IoT, 5G and automation (to name but a few) will continue to reshape competition – and could reshape just about every industry sector. We will watch the changing shape of markets, in particular India and China and other emerging economies. Finally, in a recent talk at our European Executive Forum, we were reminded by Lynda Gratton of London Business School that demographic changes including an ageing population and workforce will challenge us to think about how we both work and live our lives.

As we considered all of these things against a backdrop of IT modernization, business transformation and industry disruption, we formed the following questions which will underpin our work:

  • When will the critical transformation enablers of 2020s – a wave of tech including IoT, AI, blockchain, voice interfaces, 5G, etc. – become widespread, industrialized and ready for prime time?
  • Governments, media and the public increasingly see tech-driven automation as both threat to be countered AND essential to productivity and competitiveness. How do companies and governments manage this increasing tension?
  • Machine intelligence is used much more extensively within giant technology firms today. How will traditional firms be able to operationalize AI in coming years?
  • Open source has succeeded beyond even its proponents’ dreams, but as tech innovation shifts eastward and use of free software diminishes, is the open source door closing?
  • Climate change seems destined to move up the business agenda through the 2020s. How can companies and Enterprise IT better prepare their sustainability responsibilities?
  • What will happen to toxic IT legacy over the long course of the 2020s?
  • As technology becomes more strategic and pervasive across the modern enterprise, how must digital leadership evolve – inside and outside of Enterprise IT?
  • Intangible assets are becoming more important; what possibilities are enabled in the age of the digital twin?

We will explore each of these questions in depth in 2020. And as ever, our research reports and position papers will be complemented by a series of immersive events, including of course our Study Tour. In 2020 it will be led by Simon Wardley, examining the Industrialization of Technology.

We hope our clients, partners and friends enjoy the forthcoming seasonal break and look forward to addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by this agenda in 2020.


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