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. Courageous Leadership and Fearless Reinvention: Focusing a Fresh Lens on the Future OrganizationNow more than ever, CIOs, CISOs, CTOs, CDOs and business technology executives are being looked upon by the CEO, the Board and Line-of-Business (LOB) leaders to lead courageously and authentically and to offer new way to leverage technology to drive innovation and create new go-to-market strategies and business models. Business technology leaders are also being looked upon to help design the future of work as executives across all industries strive to keep employees engaged and productive regardless of where they work.
  2. Transforming Cybersecurity Strategies to Successfully Address the Evolving Threat Landscape. Cybersecurity continues to rank as the #1 priority for CIOs, CISOs and business technology executives, according to a recent survey of more than 150 technology leaders conducted by HMG Strategy. It’s hardly surprising, given the massive escalation of ransomware, nation-state and other types of cyber-attacks that have been unleashed throughout 2021. As the threat landscape continues to change, CIOs, CISOs and business technology executives need to apply a fresh mindset to their cybersecurity strategies to successfully safeguard the enterprise. This includes identifying the cyber skills that are needed to defend the organization on a go-forward basis.
  3. Enabling the Business to Move with Speed and Agility. Another top priority as cited by 47% of CIOs and business technology executives in the HMG community is the ability to enable the business to move with speed and agility. On a broad scale, CIOs and business technology leaders are leaning on technologies such as low code/no-code platforms, cloud platforms, AI and data analytics tools to enable line-of-business leaders to identify and act quickly on shifting customer behavior and other market shifts.
  4. Identifying Technologies That Can Move the Business NeedleAs technology serves as the engine that powers the business, CIOs, CTOs and business technology executives are being counted on to identify and educate the CEO and the Board as to how digital technologies such as AI, machine learning, the Internet of Things, edge computing, automation and data analytics can help their companies act on new business opportunities and create new revenue-generating capabilities. 
  5. Strengthening Your Personal Branding to Win the Global War for TalentThe global talent shortage is becoming more acute than ever, with members of the HMG community continually citing the challenges they’re facing in retaining, attracting and growing a diverse talent pool across geographies. While cybersecurity skills are at the top of the list, CIOs and business technology leaders are increasingly looking for people who can think creatively and help the company to tackle its top business and operational challenges while identifying opportunities to grow the business. One effective way for business technology executives to attract and retain talent is by strengthening personal brands. Tech executives who are well known for their authentic leadership and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion help make their organizations more attractive to the types of talented technologists that are needed to support the company’s vision and mission. 
  6. Breaking Glass: Driving Progress with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Programs. One of the most dramatic changes that occurred with corporate culture over the past year is that the transition to video meetings leveled the playing field, creating greater equity between virtual participants. These and other changes, including widespread calls against racial and social injustice, has spurred a heightened focus by Boards of directors and executive teams for moving diversity, equity and inclusion programs beyond the current state. These shifts have prompted a growing number of technology executives to play a more decisive role in shaping DEI programs, including ensuring that diversity cascades across all levels of the enterprise and not just at the Board or executive level.
  7. The Technology Leader as Cultural Change Agent. Oneof the greatest challenges cited by CIOs, CTOs, CISOs, CDOs and technology executives in the HMG community is finding effective ways to keep employees engaged and motivated in a remote work environment for the foreseeable future. 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 to the second half of 2021 and beyond, 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.
  8. Preparing Yourself to Be Boardroom-Ready. Most Board members at publicly held companies lack technology expertise. Since most companies are digitally operated, this is one of the chief reasons why boards are increasingly recruiting technology executives who understand the intersection between technology and the business. Meanwhile, within the companies they work for, 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 other types of companies.
  9. The Customer-Centric CIO. Thanks to their unique view across the enterprise – along with the role that digital experiences are playing in the customer journey – CIOs and business technology executives are playing a deeper role in reinventing the customer experience. As companies strive to become more customer centric, CIOs, CDOs, CTOs and other technology executives are in a prime spot to help business leaders to identify and execute on opportunities for improving the customer experience. These insights are drawn both by 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. 
  10. Technology and ESG: The CIO’s Role in Driving SustainabilityEnvironmental, Social and Governance (ESG) is a hot topic among Boards of Directors, regulators and investors. ESG, also referred to as sustainability, is prompting deeper discussions at the executive level in terms of steps that can be taken by organizations to reduce their carbon footprints and to help make both their business and environmental models more sustainable. As COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation efforts, CIOs and business technology executives are poised to play a significant role in either adding to or reducing their organization’s carbon footprint. CIOs and business technology executives in the HMG community can and should partner with the executive team to orchestrate their organization’s ESG efforts and help devise strategies to enable their companies to reduce their carbon footprints. 

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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