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Gartner Symposium takes on the big issues

One of the largest IT industry conferences of the year, the 2004 Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, began today at Walt Disney World's Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Fla. Consisting of more than 200 breakout sessions and more than 30 tracks, the event is designed to give technology professionals a better understanding of the hottest new IT technologies and trends. will be reporting from the event all week, but we sat down with Scott Winkler, a vice president and Gartner Fellow, to get a better idea of just what those issues are, and what attendees can expect from the show.

For starters, what exactly is the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo and who will be attending?
The Symposium/ ITxpo covers a very broad swath across all of IT and our attendees come to the Symposium/ITxpo for a very big view of the IT industry, and that encompasses a lot of disciplines. Each year we balance the agenda to try to bring out those hot topics that they've asked for and that our analysts know are really hot. We do a lot of surveys of the attendees to find out what is on their minds. We also create a lot of the agenda for them based on the inquiries that our analysts are getting from their clients, as well as our view of the industry and what is coming. What are some of those hot issues?
A number of areas that have come to the front this year come from a variety of sectors. First, I'd point out that software-based business agility is a very big topic. In fact, it's going to be the topic of our analyst keynote on Monday morning. It's focused on the equation of IT organizations' ability to serve businesses and organizations well in an environment that requires great agility, quick movement and the ability to support new directions, new strategies and new challenges. What they want to do is talk about how a new generation of software is going to create an environment where IT can be more responsive and more agile than any time in the past. Will this change affect companies regardless of whether they handle their IT internally or externally?
It would be regardless of that. It has nothing to do with where the IT is physically hosted. It has everything to do with software architecture -- your software architecture is something that you make a conscience decision about. So, what the analysts are talking about this year is their view of what is coming in the next couple of years, including maturing technologies that are going to really change the landscape of what an IT organization can deliver to its business. What are some of these changes?
They're talking about areas of standards, areas of interoperability. And they're talking about the ability for business analysts to get involved in mapping processes to software in such a way that they've not been able to before. They're talking about software becoming event-driven and about software being very much service oriented. The key message here is going to talk about service orientation. In that keynote, the important thing that they want to do is talk about not just software technology, but more importantly, how it enables business agility. Outsourcing continues to be on the minds of CIOs everywhere. How will Gartner approach this topic at the conference?
You're going to see a lot of discussion about sourcing and sourcing strategies. It's a topic that is on the mind of a lot of our Symposium attendees. [Discussions will cover] when it makes sense to do things internally, when it makes sense to do things externally, what people have had success in, what the trends are. And trying to understand -- when things are service oriented -- service deliverables versus cost issues. This is a topic that has been very much on the minds of the IT industry. Delivering service is still the No. 1 objective of IT, and so it is a question of how do I deliver the service well and how do I deliver it at the right cost. Sourcing is a big factor there. What about Linux?
The open source and Linux track is really popular. There continues to be a lot of questions on people's minds. They want to know what is real, what is not, what they can achieve and where it's going. Are there any other topics of interest that you'd like to mention?
One other area that I'd like to point out that continues to be a big growth area in IT is public sector stuff. In an era of enhanced spending for homeland security and a variety of other initiatives, we continue to see the IT pressure on the public sector to be pretty impressive in the sense that they're being asked to deliver a lot. So, those of our attendees that come from government organizations, they come out in force. There are a lot of them. And we've got specific tracks oriented toward public sector IT issues. For instance, one of our keynote sessions, a mastermind interview with Sean O'Keefe, the administrator of NASA, is a nice look at how software intersects with something like space exploration. But it's also a discussion about how a very large governmental entity can meet and exceed its IT issues.

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