My Research Agenda – Haydn Shaughnessy

I’ve spent the past 25 years exploring how economies transition. A big chunk of the explanation will always be the restless human obsession with technology (and the valuations now possible when you innovate a key process).  But for me, technology is really about behavioural change. Technologies succeed or fail because of the decisions users make about them.

As a lead analyst on the new Gigaom platform I’ll be exploring that point of interaction between what technologists want and what markets accept (and the why and how). I’ll be heavily focused on financial services as a test case for new enterprise systems, with an eye on pharma and environmental services too.

Fifteen years ago we were on the threshold of a new paradigm called application service provision (ASPs) and thin clients, in a newly minted web where the tech community had also dreamed up a new class of objects called “Internet Appliances”, one of which became a start up named Android; Friendster and MySpace were the big names in social networking and Napster was a household name.

That generation of web innovation stalled for a decade but is now in full swing as SaaS, apps, IoT and of course smartphones, Facebook and Spotify. Why some initiatives acquire huge momentum and change the world is down to the choices people make either when they are informed enough or fear exclusion.

My research agenda is built around trying to understand these developments and paint the picture of trnsformation; it gets more specific with the development of business platforms (we call them marketplaces too but platforms are not just the O2O market such as Uber – the wider, longer history of platforms and how they are becoming a new enterprise operating model is extremely important to the future of work); the success factors for ecosystems; the development of a new economy based around social groups – like crowdsourcing, crowdfunding and the long run redefinition of work as a continuously changing portfolio of tasks.

In amongst this I count the horizontal disruption caused by smartphones and the redefinition of financial services as main areas of interest.

Disruption and the enterprise dialogue

I study disruption and transition. Here at Gigaom I have helped pull together some new thinking on how we can plan to disrupt or respond to it. It’s a work in progress. I hope to give technology and business the framework for discussing new options and glue that together with another new initiative – integenerational leadership and the capability to discuss a firm’s future over two generations, today’s leaders and those who will need to compelte the key transitions.

Platform businesses

In my books The Elastic Enterprise, co-authored with Nick Vitalari, and Shift: A User’s Guide to the New Economy,  I have gone deep into how platform busineses evolved describing the main success factors for companies that want to transition to this new way of organising business.

The financial services sector is a big candidate for a platform approach (they invented it back in the mid-1990s with initiatives at Fidelity!), so my main sector speicalism for now is financial, though I can see environmental and pharmaceutical companies going this route soon.

Financial services

I am mapping out the new global money flows as the economy shifts from one that relied heavily on US-China symbiosis to a post-crisis world dominated by enabling platforms that will globalise small and micro-businesses and change the face of entrepreneurism.

In this new world financial services will be an integral part of trade rather than a derivative service. Banks have to adopt and I am tracking how they go about it, particularly the technologies they opt for.

O2O and integrated platforms

The latest incarnation of the platform model is the O2O market – although Uber and Airbnb are the best known versions, Chinese platforms are developing increasingly wide-ranging and well integrated platforms for all kinds of offline and online products and services, backed by global 3 day delivery. Who will be the new knights of the apocalypse, the 8 – 10 c0mpanies that define the future? I am following that battle because few of us understand how the new entrants, the giants of China, and the slightly older ones from Korea, really function and what kind of promise or threat they hold.


Finally my big passion but one that is tough to grapple with is how we all, executive, startup, employee, freelance, have to deal with new options – how we need to free up time to generate new options, see options that ight be hidden, understand our personal time and energy budgets to manage options, and find ways to do decent real options analysis in pace of old fashioned business plans. I call this the future of work. I’ve been developing tools in this area and hope to refine those too in the course of the next year.