The themes presented throughout the 2017 Gartner Symposium in Orlando, Fla., weren't new: embracing disruption, evaluating emerging technologies, creating digital value at scale, becoming a true digital business, building a people-centric culture and growing leadership influence. But each year, the event brings new perspective and insight to these familiar themes, and 2017 was no exception.
More than 7,500 attended the annual five-day event tailored to CIOs and technology executives, featuring talks and workshops by Gartner analysts, academics, and notable business and IT leaders. The biggest takeaways weren't just about technology or trends, but also the importance of embracing a digital mindset and culture.
Associate site editor Brian Holak, features writer Jason Sparapani and senior executive editor Linda Tucci were at this year's Symposium for three of the five days, reporting on all of the most pertinent information for CIOs. This Instagram roundup highlights some of the best and most interesting moments from the event.
Tuesday: Disrupt or be disrupted
Tuesday, Oct. 3, 8:00 a.m.: "CIO Story: Tech Innovation at Starbucks: What's next?"
Gerri Martin-Flickinger, executive vice president and CTO at Starbucks, kicked off Tuesday's proceedings with a session that highlighted the coffee giant's digital transformation journey. That journey required a reinvention of company culture; talent and delivery that embraced digital natives; a cloud-based platform model; Agile methodologies; and emerging technologies, like virtual reality, Facebook at Work and conversational AI.
For more on Martin-Flickinger's session on innovation at Starbucks, read this Conference Notebook.
Tuesday, Oct. 3, 9:00 a.m.: "Guest Keynote: Make Something People Love"
It was a full house for Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian's guest keynote in the Dolphin ballroom. In his address, Ohanian said there is a surge in people's desires for authenticity and community online, and that conversation is not only key to Reddit's business model, but also to the future technology innovation. The "magic" of social platforms comes from different conversations, stories, perspectives and ideas, Ohanian added. For that reason, he emphasized that innovation isn't limited to Silicon Valley; it can come from anywhere and everywhere.
Tuesday, Oct. 3, 11:00 a.m.: SearchCIO video interview
Between sessions, SearchCIO staff stepped outside among the palm trees to film an interview with Xerox vice president and CISO Alissa Johnson, who was also a 2017 Gartner Symposium speaker. In the interview, she discussed tips for striking the right balance between innovation and cybersecurity, the difficulties of retooling cybersecurity culture, the General Data Protection Regulation and her experience of transitioning from a CIO at the White House to a CISO.
Tuesday, Oct. 3, 11:45 a.m.: "Gartner's Top Predictions: Pace Yourself for Sanity's Sake"
Daryl Plummer, a Gartner fellow and vice president, took the stage to share the research firm's top predictions. Highlights included the blockchain boom, as well as surges in chatbot development, AI job creation, internet-of-things devices and "self-disruption" on behalf of digital giants. But perhaps the timeliest prediction Plummer made was regarding fake news: By 2022, Gartner posits that the majority of individuals in a mature economy will consume more false information than true information. The rise of "counterfeit reality" -- driven by AI -- will contribute to digital distrust, he added.
Tuesday, Oct. 3, 5:00 p.m.: "Guest Keynote: Stories from Lonely Planet's former CTO"
Investor, adviser and former Lonely Planet CTO Gus Balbontin gave concept-driven advice to attendees about staying relevant in a disrupted world and what changes are needed in products, processes and culture in order to thrive. One piece of advice he had for IT executives: When disruption happens, don't point the finger; own it. "You aren't stuck in traffic, you are traffic," he said.
Wednesday: The human connection
Wednesday, Oct. 4, 9:00 a.m.: "Mastermind Interview Keynote"
On Wednesday morning, Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff (left) took the stage to discuss the platform ecosystem, Steve Jobs and innovation.
On picking a platform: "Pick one and be prepared to stick with it; it's the nature of our industry," Benioff said.
On Steve Jobs: "There would be no Salesforce without Steve Jobs."
On innovation: IT leaders need to cultivate a "beginners mind," as well as "listen and receive more."
Wednesday, Oct. 4, 11:30 a.m.: "To the Point: What CIOs Should Do About Digital Officers"
Gartner analyst Mark Raskino said CIOs shouldn't worry too much about chief digital officers. His advice: "Friend and extend them," because CDOs are almost always a short-lived position, with an average tenure of 18 months, and they aren't after a CIO's job as it exists today anyway. Raskino went a step further by saying CIOs shouldn't be afraid to go to their CEOs themselves and propose hiring a CDO. Why? Primarily because a CDO can bring new energy and strategic business insight to the executive table, he said.
Wednesday, Oct. 4, afternoon: Getting around the 2017 Gartner Symposium
There's a lot of walking at the Gartner Symposium. Luckily, when traveling between Disney's Dolphin, Swan and Yacht Club resorts, attendees have the option of jumping on a golf cart and being whisked through parking lots, sidewalks and bridges to arrive to their sessions on time. These makeshift routes are even equipped with traffic guards.
Wednesday, Oct. 4, 5:30 p.m.: "Guest Keynote: Competing Against Luck"
"God doesn't give us data; people do," said famed Harvard Business School professor Clay Christensen during his keynote address. In other words, data isn't some all-powerful force that will solve all of your problems. It's more important to understand why a customer buys into a product or service and what job people need done, Christensen said.
Thursday: Digging into the tech giants
Thursday, Oct. 5, 9:00 a.m.: "Gartner Keynote: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google"
Scott Galloway, professor of marketing at NYU Stern School of Business and founder of business consulting firm L2, gave the event's last keynote address. In it, he explained how "The Four" tech giants -- Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple -- fulfill needs in our lives, including our need for a superbeing, our need to love and be loved, and our desire to signal to others our worthiness through the purchase of luxury devices. Last year, Galloway successfully predicted that Amazon would purchase Whole Foods. His prediction this year: One of these four companies will buy the World Cup, March Madness or the Super Bowl in the coming years.
And that closed out my time at the 2017 Gartner Symposium.
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