Research Agendas

HMG Strategy’s Research Team is committed to tracking the most critical leadership and technology trends that matter most to its members, including the essential leadership progressions that are aimed at helping technology executives in our network strengthen relationships with the C-suite and board of directors and accelerate their career ascent.


2021 Leadership Research Agenda

1.    Heeding the Call for Courageous and Empathetic Leadership. As the clock turns to 2021, hope is on the horizon as millions of COVID-19 vaccinations are being distributed across the world. Yet, we continue to live in turbulent times, which will continue into the foreseeable future. The global health crisis is impacting everything from customer behavior to existing business models and supply chains operations, resulting in dramatic shifts to remote work and organizational culture. Meanwhile, CEOs are worried about the health and safety of their employees. Now, more than ever, CIOs, CISOs, CTOs, CDOs and technology executives are being looked upon by the CEO, the Board and Line-of-Business (LOB) leaders to lead courageously, authentically and with transparency to enable their organizations and their teams to succeed and guide the path to a brighter future. This includes the need for tech executives to raise their emotional intelligence and be responsive to the psychological well-being of employees.

2.    Being a Change Agent for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Programs. Citizens across the world have become much more active in tackling instances of systemic racism ad racial injustice. These actions are extending to corporate boardrooms where CEOs, board members and LOB leaders are becoming more active and vocal in moving diversity, equity and inclusion programs beyond the current state. There’s also a role for technology executives to play in shaping DEI programs to assert themselves as role models to further the cause and to help make IT organizations more inclusive across all levels of the enterprise.

3.    Using a Fresh Lens to Reimagine the Business. In these highly disruptive times, CEOs, Board members and LOB leaders are focused on new ways to grow the business, including fresh go-to-market and customer strategies. As such, they’re relying on CIOs, CDOs and technology executives to help identify and execute on future-state business goals. To deliver on these expectations, technology executives need to apply a fresh mindset, act courageously and encourage their teams to go outside their comfort zones to generate new waves of innovation and business value for the enterprise.

4.    The Need for Speed. The speed at which business is conducted continues to accelerate. CEOs and LOB leaders need to quickly identify and act on shifting market conditions, changing customer behaviors and fresh customer feedback to keep their products and services relevant and to devise innovative go-to-market strategies. CEOs and business leaders count on technology executives to enable speed – both through the infrastructure that supports the business as well as the data that drives the business. CIOs, CTOs, CDOs and other technology executives will increasingly be focused on delivering insights, metrics and dashboards to the CEO and members of the executive team to help accelerate data-driven decision making and keep pace with the speed of business.

5.    Tapping a Global Talent Pool. The technology talent shortage is becoming more acute than ever, with 89% of CIOs and decision-makers saying it’s difficult for their companies to find skilled IT professionals, according to Robert Half Associates. Cybersecurity skills are at the top of the list, followed by cloud security, cloud computing and cloud architecture skills. A growing legion of technology executives see the highly distributed work environment as an opportunity to recruit talent from across the global landscape. On the flip side, CIOs, CTOs, CDOs, CISOs and other technology leaders are concerned that their top employees can be plucked away by employers across industries.

6.    Cultivating a Connected Culture. One of the greatest challenges cited by CIOs, CTOs, CISOs, CDOs and technology executives in the HMG community – especially during the second half of 2020 – is finding effective ways to keep employees engaged and motivated for the long haul in a remote work environment. This also dovetails with how members of the C-suite are looking to foster a culture of high-performance leadership across the enterprise. Looking out across 2021, tech executives will be looking for fresh ways to imbue a connected and inclusive culture – both for long-term employees as well as new hires.

7.    The Boardroom Beckons. It’s been said that all companies are now technology companies. As a result, CEOs and Board members are reliant upon technology executives to help identify how technology can be leveraged to grow and support the business. CIOs, CDOs, CISOs, CTOs and other technology executives need to be able to clearly articulate to the CEO and the Board how technology can be leveraged to deliver business value. These skills can also benefit technology leaders who aspire to land board-level positions with non-profits, private and publicly held companies.

8.    The Customer Experience Reformist. In addition to reimagining the business, CEOs and LOB leaders are also squarely focused on reinventing the customer experience. As companies strive to become more customer centric, CIOs, CDOs, CTOs and other technology executives are in a prime position to help business leaders to identify and execute on opportunities for improving the customer experience. These insights are drawn not only from gaining a thorough understanding of the business and its customers but also through the support of internal customers – the organization’s employees. Many technology executives and their teams are gaining a deeper understanding of customer behaviors and interests by either experiencing what it’s like to be a customer of the company’s products or services or by working in a customer-facing role for a period of time to better understand and address customer pain points.

9.    Protecting the Enterprise Against Escalating Cyber Threats. Make no mistake – CISOs and cyber teams are at war against nation-state threat actors and other highly-trained adversaries. The recent SolarWinds cyber-attack is believed to be the most damaging hack of a Western government ever, along with still-to-be-determined impact on more than 425 companies in the Fortune 500 who receive services from SolarWinds. While the long-range impact for companies and government agencies continues to unfold, the attacks underscore how security is more important to organizations than ever. CEOs and Board members will be relying on CISOs and security leaders more than ever to help identify and respond to potential threats and to safeguard the enterprise and its crown jewels.

10.  Fortifying Your Personal Brand. As leaders in the C-suite, CIOs, CTOs, CISOs and CDOs play a critical role in positioning the enterprise for continued growth and success. As organizational leaders, technology executives need to embrace their own professional growth by continually nurturing and bolstering their personal brands. Not only does this help to fuel the career ascent of top-tier technology leaders, it also enables them to leverage their personal brands to attract and retain talent.

2021 Technology Research Agenda

1.    Reimagining the Future of Work in a Highly Distributed Environment. The COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to rapidly shift to work-at-home strategies, placing enormous pressure on technology leaders to ramp up access to VPNs, videoconferencing systems and distributed technologies to support a highly distributed workforce. Even after vaccinations have become widespread and the infection rate has flattened, many CIOs and technology executives expect to see large percentages of the workforce to continue working remotely. This will require the ability for teams to connect with each other using collaboration platforms such as Zoom and RingCentral. These factors are forcing technology executives to reimagine and conceptualize what the future of work looks like for their organizations to ensure that employees have access to the tools they need to remain productive on the road ahead.

2.    Mastering Your Digital Domain. Digital market disruption is creating havoc for companies across all industries. At the current churn rate, roughly half of the companies in the S&P 500 will be replaced over the next ten years, according to Innosight. In order for businesses to survive and thrive, courageous CIOs and technology executives must partner with their CEOs and Boards to identify how digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, automation, Big Data, analytics, the Internet of Things and cloud computing can be leveraged to craft customer-focused business models, identify and execute on new business opportunities and enable the enterprise to gain a competitive edge.

3.    Leveraging the Power of 5G. Now that the major wireless carriers are rolling out 5G networks nationwide, consumers and businesses can expect to see faster speeds and lower latency in using their wireless devices. Qualcomm estimates that 5G could deliver browsing and download speeds that are 10x to 20x faster than current 4G mobile networks. 5G offers tremendous opportunities for businesses across different industries. Early movers in retail, automotive, entertainment, healthcare, manufacturing and logistics stand to gain a competitive edge by introducing customer-friendly services such as virtual dressing rooms and augmented reality experiences which create competitive differentiation. Meanwhile, corporations stand to reap additional business and operational benefits by leveraging customer and operational data at the edge.

4.    Identifying the Right Business Cases for AI. In 2020, artificial intelligence continued to make further inroads into businesses – from helping to deliver more intuitive customer experiences to streamlining processes (Robotic Process Automation) and providing executives with deeper insights into customer and market shifts. As we look ahead to 2021 and beyond, CIOs and technology executives in the HMG community are sharing with us the need to identify specific use cases for AI and machine learning that can deliver true business value to the enterprise.

5.    Operationalizing Automation in the Enterprise. As CIOs and business leaders continue to identify applicable use cases for robotic process automation and other forms of automation (customer service, HR, finance, accounting), technology leaders will continue to partner with RPA providers to identify opportunities for handing off manual or time-intensive tasks to software robots to enable employees to focus on more meaningful cognitive activities. Hyperautomation also offers vast opportunities for technology and business executives to create new customer services and reimagine the business.

6.    Safeguarding the Future of Work. As CISOs and other security leaders continue to battle an escalation of phishing, ransomware attacks and other nefarious cyber threats facing their organizations, they must approach these challenges from the lens of a hybrid work model. This includes a focus on protecting the crown jewels as a subset of employees alternate between in-office and remote work environments and the vulnerabilities these can bring to the enterprise security model.

7.    Embracing a Zero Trust Security Model. As cyber threats continue to become more sophisticated and numerous – and as organizations dramatically expand their digital footprints - CISOs and security leaders are increasingly shifting to zero trust security models to protect the organization’s critical assets. Indeed, more than 60 percent of enterprise executives say their organizations are working towards or planning to introduce zero-trust security models into their organizations, according to a survey of 1,000 IT, security and engineering decision-makers conducted by Okta. 

8.    Thriving in a Hyperconverged World. As CIOs and their teams look to deliver greater business value to the enterprise, they’re shifting away from time and resource-intensive tasks such as operating data centers. This is part of the reason why a growing number of organizations are shifting to a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) model, as it allows companies to avoid vendor dependency while providing greater agility to the business under a hybrid cloud environment.

9.     Leveraging IoT and Edge Computing in the Connected World. Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and data are creating new insights for executives in manufacturing and other industries such as retail and entertainment. For instance, plant floor managers can draw upon IoT data and analytics to predict when a machine will require maintenance based on vibrations, sounds and other physical factors. Meanwhile, retailers are using IoT technologies to capture real-time customer data from kiosks and other sources. IoT technologies, combined with edge computing capabilities, can help executives to avoid unanticipated and expensive downtime for equipment and to quickly analyze and respond to changes in customer behavior.

10.  The Rise of Computer Vision. Computer vision is an emerging scientific field in which computers can gain understanding from the content of digital images or video using AI. There are a multitude of potential applications for computer vision, ranging from inspecting machines to identify worn or loose parts to advances that can be made in medical imaging, biometrics and surveillance.

For additional information, contact HMG Strategy’s Senior Research Director Tom Hoffman at


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