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In this article, we talk with David Willis, Gartner VP and Distinguished Analyst, about how AR professionals can position themselves and their organizations to get the most from this year’s Symposium/ITxpo theme and keynote.
David, we’ve been coming into a digital age for some time now — what makes this year’s Symposium theme, “Leading in a Digital World” unique?
The digital world gives consumers a very strong voice. Technology is everywhere, and because of mobile devices, it’s almost disposable. This mass digitalization carries over in to the physical world and affects every industry.
Things that used to be really proprietary, like banking, payments and retail, are now democratized to the point that everyone has access to them. Because those types of transactions leave data trails, companies are able to see things about their customers that they had never been able to see before. Likewise, we are seeing similar trends in healthcare, where more transparency is leading to better efficiency in the healthcare system.
The four forces — cloud, mobile, social and information — that Gartner unveiled two years ago are now being put into operation by many leading companies, and what they’re coming to realize is that to have a great mobile strategy, you need to have a great cloud strategy. To get more productivity in the workplace, you need to think about employee engagement through social. And we can gain more insight into the way our operations run or the way our customers think because of big data.
So the four forces are mutually reinforcing aspects. The nexus is real, and in 2013 and 2014 it’s being put into operation and it’s affecting the physical world.
It sounds as though integrating the multiple pillars of the nexus is becoming more and more of a vendor concern. How do you see this playing out at Symposium?
One of the challenges of convergence is that everything looks like a hybrid, and that leads to a great deal of creativity. So at Symposium, you’ll see a lot of different viewpoints on the nexus. For example, what is the impact on the big vendors? Who are the emergent vendors as a result of the nexus? The nexus creates so many opportunities to break down silos, and that’s an exciting thing.
Will we see more sessions at Symposium that combine the four pillars?
Absolutely. There’s a whole set of tracks around the Nexus of Forces itself . It’s not just a great mobile story, but one that is leveraging the scale of the cloud or one that allows you to gain better insight into your workforce or your employee base.
What advice would you give to AR professionals who are looking to hone their own knowledge base as it pertains to the nexus?
First, it’s important to grasp the fact that along with the nexus comes a big human element. It requires us to address people’s individual passions and find out what would engage customers more — in essence, what makes them happy. This creates an opportunity for AR professionals to tell stories that reflect the softer side of technology, as in how technology changes people’s lives, how it makes a better workplace.
Second, today’s IT investment decisions are cross-disciplinary — for example, a great security strategy may involve a great cloud strategy that has a mobile aspect. So, we’re not selling to a traditional customer anymore. We have to appeal to a wider constituency.
That’s a great point and leads to our next question: Given the cross-disciplinary nature of digitalization, what would your advice be to AR professionals as they consider who to bring to Symposium/ITxpo?
Symposium is a great opportunity to really see the depth and breadth of what’s going on in the IT industry, to get inside the heads of your most important customers and understand the top concerns of the CIO. So, for product development and product marketing and management, this event will broaden your view regarding potential buyers.
Sales enablement is another area that will benefit from this year’s program. In this slower economy, every deal counts. Symposium has a strong mix of technology, best-practice and leadership sessions that specifically address sales enablement — from next-generation customer relationship management systems, to how to effectively engage the workforce and explore what leadership means in a digital context.
And let’s not forget the sales force. The fact that sales itself is being revolutionized with mobile is a great reason to have salespeople at Symposium. We’re seeing a tremendous shift toward more-intelligent field sales. Tablets can keep sales reps out in the field, have them engage with clients and ensure that the right products are ordered, right in the moment. It’s a classic example of how mobile technology can create a great sales engagement moment.
How would you advise an AR professional regarding whether to come to Symposium or another Gartner event?
Gartner Summits are designed to drill down into specific innovations and roles, whereas Symposium is about getting the broadest view possible of what’s happening in the industry and in the world. IT is such a major force in the economy and government as well as in business. Symposium helps you view what’s on the horizon and expand your professional network to include people with whom you wouldn’t typically interact.
So it’s safe to say that Symposium is extremely valuable for multiple leadership roles. This brings us to the keynote: What can we expect from the keynote, and how will it benefit other members of the C-suite in addition to the CIO?
The informational value of Symposium can’t be underestimated, and the impact gets bigger every year. Senior leaders of any high-tech organization need to know what the top-level Gartner messages are for this year, and we typically reveal those in the keynote and the opening sessions. The Top 10 list for the CIO agenda for 2014 will be unveiled, as will the Gartner scenario for senior executives.
I’d note two offices in particular that Analyst Relations should strongly consider for the Symposium audience: the chief digital officer and chief marketing officer. This year, we’re seeing the rise of the CDO, which has led to the need for yet another seat at the executive table. We’re also seeing CMOs focus more and more on spending in the digital sphere. Gartner predicted last year that the CMO spend for technology will be bigger than the CIO spend for technology by 2017. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This means that CMOs have to learn to speak the same language as their technology-savvy counterparts as they begin to use third parties for their technology delivery.
Without giving away any secrets, can you give us a sneak preview of some of the key topics we’ll be covering this year?
One of the biggest technology issues we will address is that of information security. This has become a critical matter with current concerns about information leaks and increased cyberwarfare and Internet vigilantism.
We’ll also be exploring the depth and impact of the Internet in terms of revolutionizing industry, growing the overall IT market and creating new buying centers for people who are marketing technology products.
We’ll look at the services market as a key source of innovation and as an area of high growth — particularly how software as a service is opening up opportunities to create unique offerings, both on a mass scale and customized to an individual’s needs.
Symposium will have a huge series on emerging innovation and “Web-scale IT” that explores the way vendors like Amazon, Netflix, Google and Facebook run their operations.
From a vertical perspective, we’ll be talking about the future of banking, government, education, healthcare, energy and utilities — among other industries — in the context of digitalization.
There are the strategic initiatives tracks, which include areas like cloud, mobile and cognitive computing. And finally, let’s not forget the Maverick track, which focuses on disruptive technologies — the low-probability, high-impact initiatives that will be very thought provoking.
So, whether you’re a business leader or a technology expert, you can learn a great deal from the Symposium tracks.
This is all great information, David. One last question: Aside from the great content, networking opportunities and analyst insights, how can AR professionals themselves benefit from a trip to Symposium?
I see a major shift in Analyst Relations from viewing Gartner as the voice of the market to learning how Gartner can help inform your direction and get ahead of the rest of the market. For example, Symposium sessions can help identify alternative competitors that may be a blind spot, or identify new buying centers.
People are recognizing the value of AR as a vehicle to open up new ideas and innovation inside of their organizations, to hold a two-way conversation, executive to executive, that creates something greater out of that relationship. Symposium is an opportunity for AR to think outside the box.