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Our 2016 Research Agenda

During my many years as LEF research director, I think the question I have been asked most often is: How do you decide which topics to research? It’s a fundamental issue that goes to the heart of what we are trying to do, and the value we hope to deliver.

2016 LEF research

We chose these topics (and promoted this language) because we sensed the emergence of new digital dynamics that we thought would become important over time.

We have long believed that a research approach that is both intuitive and structured is required. The former is essential because we think it is our job to anticipate emerging client needs. For example, few if any customers asked us to write reports on consumerization, outside-in, value chain mapping, double-deep employees, or, most recently, the Matrix. We chose these topics (and promoted this language) because we sensed the emergence of new digital dynamics that we thought would become important over time. In many ways the art of successful thought leadership research is to stake out leading edge spaces a few years before clients know they need them.

But an equally important part of our research mission is to tell a coherent overall story regarding the co-evolution of business and information technology, and this requires a stable research structure. For most of the last decade, we have used the five-domain research framework shown in the figure below.

2016 LEF Research Jigsaw

Taken together, we think these five broad categories encompass the key dimensions of digital business change today (the sixth describes the range of services we provide). As many of the topics listed in the figure are inter-related, we have long used the visual metaphor of a jigsaw puzzle. Successful LEF research projects tend to connect with one another and help build an integrated narrative.

The most consistent message has been that our customers want a mix of futuristic aspirations and more pragmatic advice.

Of course, we also regularly ask our clients how our research can be improved, and we greatly appreciate the feedback from our Client Advisory Board (CAB) meetings, as well as our ongoing discussions with individual members. Here, the most consistent message has been that our customers want a mix of futuristic aspirations and more pragmatic advice. They particularly want research that is directly applicable to their own situations. More on that later.

The paragraphs above describe the logic behind our research strategy. To implement this strategy, we do one research project in each domain in each year, balancing thought leadership with more practical initiatives. This approach allows us to advance our knowledge of each domain, keep our overall digital narrative moving forward, and help our clients both day-to-day and over the longer term. The five projects below explain how we plan to pursue these goals over the course of 2016.

  • Embracing ‘the Matrix’ and the Machine Intelligence Era
    While it is easy to see the internet, the web and the cloud as just different words for the same thing, in each case new language emerged to reflect a major shift in digital capability. We are now using ‘the Matrix’ to describe an emerging technology marketplace increasingly defined by machine intelligence. Technology’s ever-improving ability to see, talk, listen, identify, analyze, locate, track, control and decide is changing how firms operate and innovate. I will be leading this project along with Phil Falato who has recently joined our UK-based team. We will publish an overall position paper early in 2016, and a case study-based report later in the year. Machine intelligence will also be the topic of this year’s LEF Study Tour.
  • Leadership at Every Level – Proven Steps to Improved Business/IT Relationship Management
    Over the last few years, the LEF has conducted more than 30 multi-day BRM training workshops across a wide range of clients and industries. Improving the relationship between Central IT and the rest of the organization clearly continues to be a major client need. In this project, our two lead BRM training practitioners, Robina Chatham and Kirt Mead, will interview our past and present BRM workshop clients (and others) to discuss what has worked best (and least) in these programmes, and what has helped make change stick. Our goal is to identify the most critical BRM success factors – anything from CIO participation to BRM psycho-graphics. This research will both assist clients with their BRM challenges and help shape our future BRM offerings.
  • Xperiencing the Employee of the Future
    Over the last eighteen months, our Xperience Labs have become increasingly popular with clients as a way to envision how today’s Internet of Things and consumer technologies can be rapidly deployed to make people more productive and engaged. For example, in 2015 we worked closely with a client, National Grid, to demonstrate the field engineer of the future. In 2016, Lewis Richards and Doug Neal will extend this case study approach to show how technology is changing employment in healthcare, automotive, defence, civil service and other sectors, with the practical goal of helping firms determine which departments, tasks and individuals can most benefit from gaining deeper, first-hand experience of what modern technology can do.
  • India’s Hi-Tech Future
    In 2015, Simon Wardley took on the immensely ambitious task of assessing China’s increasing ability to challenge Silicon Valley for global technology leadership. This year, Simon will take on an equally important challenge: evaluating India’s ever-expanding involvement in just about every part of the global IT industry ecosystem – including its powerful services firms, growing domestic market, advanced R&D pursuits, deep Silicon Valley integration, high-profile global CEOs, and more. Taken together, Simon’s Silicon Valley, China, India and value chain mapping work provides a unique toolset with which to anticipate the evolution of the global technology industry.
  • The Sharing Organization
    One of the reasons that managing technology within large organizations is so challenging is that just about every major new digital initiative cuts across existing silos and fiefdoms. While the need for effective internal and external collaboration is clear, relatively few companies rate themselves highly in terms of leveraging organizational and ecosystem resources. Our newest LEF research associate, Matt Ballantine, has taken on the task of assessing the political, technological, cultural and individual dynamics that lie behind these challenges, with the goal of helping firms identify successful collaboration practices that can improve their ability to engage, learn, share and innovate.

In addition to these five scheduled research topics, each year we leave room for at least one additional project to be defined as needs and events unfold. Among some of the topics currently under consideration are: The Digital CIO; Internal Venture Capital Funding; Balancing Old and New Clout; Critical CIO Success Factors; Mergers, Acquisitions and Divestments; and more. Clients interested in these or other topics should let any of us at the LEF know.

Putting our research to work

As always, we greatly appreciate any feedback you might have on these or any other issues, and we wish all of our clients, prospects and extended LEF family a healthy and prosperous New Year.

As mentioned earlier, clients are keenly interested in applying our research to their particular business situations. Over the last year or two, we have responded to this need by more closely aligning our advisory services with our core research areas. As shown in the lower right corner of the figure, these services now extend well beyond group events, seminars and Study Tours. They include workshop-oriented sessions in all of our five domain areas – with BRM training, Xperience Labs, Value Chain Mapping, Social Media Awareness and developing Digital Narratives being particularly popular. These research-based advisory services are an excellent way to get maximum value from your LEF membership. They also provide extremely valuable research input.



Jude Andrew 14.03PM 29 Feb 2016

I am particularly interested in the Cyber security angles that need to be considered when pursuing a digital transformation program in an organisation.

David Moschella 14.32PM 29 Feb 2016

Hi Jude, While we havent addressed this issue directly in our research, the following piece might be helpful The lead author, Paul Dorey, would be a good person to speak to about this, which we can arrange


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Research Commentary

PDF (344.5 KB)


David Moschella
Research Fellow
David Moschella, based in the United States, is a Research Fellow for Leading Edge Forum.  David's focus is on industry disruptions, machine intelligence and related business model strategies.  David was previously Global Research Director of the programme. David’s key areas of expertise include globalization, industry restructuring, disruptive technologies, and the co-evolution of business and IT.  He is the author of multiple research reports, including Disrupting the Professions through Machine Learning and Digital Trust, 2016 Study Tour Report: Applying Machine Intelligence, There is Now a Formula for Machine Intelligence Innovation,  Embracing 'the Matrix' and the Machine Intelligence Era and The Myths and Realities of Digital Disruption. An author and columnist, David’s second book, Customer-Driven IT, How Users Are Shaping Technology Industry Growth, was published in 2003 by Harvard Business School Press.  The book predicted the shift from a supplier-driven to today’s customer-led IT environment.  His 1997 book, Waves of Power, assessed global competition within the IT supplier community.  He has written some 200 columns for Computerworld, the IT Industry’s leading publication on Enterprise IT, and has presented at countless industry events all around the world. David previously spent 15 years with International Data Corporation, where he was IDC’s main spokesperson on global IT industry trends and was responsible for its worldwide technology, industry and market forecasts.    


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