Gartner Symposium 2010

Last week, I was able to attend this annual Gartner event – something akin to SAPPHIRE, the SAP uber-users group meeting, without the vendor specific rah-rah. An interesting event – 7400 attendees, over four days. A typical conference – multiple sessions along major tracks, and I bounced between sessions dealing with these issues:

  • Master Data – Continuing to look for the latest information – this is still a fast growing software market, and ideas around things like “data governance” (people and process) first, “master data management” (tools – machines talking to machines) second, are getting established within many corporations.
  • Change Management, Agility, IT in Transition – things like mixing “fast twitch” (agile) and “controlled” (waterfall) methodologies, and balancing limited resources & requests across multiple competing initiatives.
  • Emerging Business Priorities – less on the technology, more towards a realization of / developing understanding on how economy and technology are changing expectations and strategies of the business – and how the business can (and / or should) leverage technology to make sure they succeed  / thrive.
  • Vendor management / Dealing with strategic vendors – Consolidation (acquisitions) in the vendor space, plus the sense that some vendors (like Microsoft, Oracle, SAP) may feel they are locked in to our business – so how do you manage them so that you get what you need from the relationship?
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Other major topics covered at length:

  • Cloud computing – this topic is absolutely being hyped to no end, with every Gartner analyst and visiting vendor holding the topic out as the Next Great Thing. It was actually kind of annoying, even though I did not attend any sessions in this area – and I heard as much from other attendees. I did hear (more accurately read – via twitter (see below)) that the Cloud sessions were often full to overflow, so there is definitely great interest in the marketplace. I am encouraged by the progress being made, but still not sure that The Cloud is ready to host ERP and Financial apps without more clarity on security and integration. I do owe props to the session speakers – topics attempted to get specific about applying the cloud to the enterprise sooner rather than later, but apparently were a little thin on these specifics.
  • Social networking – another heavily hyped idea, with breathless stats on the growth and future popularity (and profitability) of social networking in the enterprise. I think this one was a bit more hype than reality, at least from an “IT shows leadership” perspective – less than 400 active twitterers (<5%), and a bare majority of hands when asked how many have a personal Facebook page.
  • Consumer impact on Corporate IT – lots of conversation and sessions on the proliferation of consumer devices, and the impact of consumer-based assumptions / expectations on internal IT. I have already expressed some opinions on corporate IT’s ability to think like consumer or internet product developers (link spoiler alert: it’s a challenge based on the reward structure). However, I did see a nice contract when listening to a presentation on change management; it’s easy to get folks to change when they are going to something they want – like an iPad or an effective data query tool.

Other observations:

  • Animated keynote speakers – I saw Mark Benioff (, John Chambers (Cisco), and Steve Ballmer (Microsoft) – and it seemed like they were all trying to be the funniest, wittiest, loudest guys. Very animated, a bit pandering – made me feel like the audience was full of insecure twenty-somethings that needed to get jazzed on the iconoclast leading the company.
  • Forecast error – during the show, Gartner reported 40% more attendees then they had planned for, and noted that they were seeing multiple overflow sessions. Although they were proud of their ability to flex and scale, I was a little surprised by the magnitude of the miss.
  • Twitter – I was impressed to see that Gartner published a hashtag in the conference material, encouraging a community / conversation that could immediately and easily be tracked. This, I believe, is one of those classic “killer app” scenarios for Twitter – if you can spare the segmenting of your attention, you can monitor a number of different threads of interest at once. Also, you can take the pulse of a large audience (say, during the keynotes) as the twitterers react positively and negatively about the speaker – in near-real time.

My #GartnerSYM twitter stream (and replies)
Overall #GartnerSYM twitter stream

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Fascinating post, thanks.

    Couple of thoughts:

    You would probably know better than I, but the 5% of twitters jives with my understanding of social media participation. Of people who read blogs etc., I remember a rule of thumb being that 8% or so respond and 2-3% create entries.

    Isn’t this maybe a measure that Twitter sits between responding to a blog and creating a blog?

    The fact that barely a majority of attendees even have FB pages shows a shocking disinterest in a major area of business. If a company’s “tech leaders” have so little curiosity about technology, maybe they should consider a more appropriate line of work. I’m thinking something that involves a cesspool and shovel…

    As for cloud based computing, Gartner generally attracts bigger or bigger name companies. I don’t see how a company with an existing IT infrastructure sees much benefit from cloud computing. The big benefit is not paying for any of the IT infrastructure, personal and administration costs.

    My company (about $12M in revenues) has entirely shifted to a cloud based ERP/Accounting, CRM and BI tool. The capabilities we have paid about $180K for over the last two years would have cost a mid- to large-sized company creating an on-premise solution between $5-$8M with ongoing $1-$2M license/support/personal costs.

    I think the real advantages of cloud computing will go to small businesses that can expand and offer services at a price mid- to large-sized businesses couldn’t contemplate.

    Of course, Gartner wouldn’t invite companies that small to present, because they are not representative of companies that pay for their services. And small companies are too busy growing to spare people going to confabs.

    Of course, your thoughts and insights are very much appreciated.

  2. Thanks for the detailed summary and your observations, James. I was struck by the indications of low participation in social networking by people one might otherwise expect to be more evidently engaged. I’ve observed and been puzzled by similar low levels with people in small business. Andrew’s point about general rates of active participation, especially by “creators” – to use the word in the Forrester sense – looks right to me.

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