Today I’m writing from the Grand Westin Frankfurt after the completion of CDM Media’s CIO GAS (Germany/Austria/Switzerland) Summit. It was only a single day event, but a great one nonetheless.
First, for those of you that haven’t been to Frankfurt (like me prior to this trip) a little bit about the area. Frankfurt is the self-described “most international city in Germany” (fully one third of the residents don’t hold a German passport) and is the largest financial centre on the continent. It’s also a city rich in history – it was the home of Emperors and the site of their coronations for centuries and is the birthplace of Goethe, perhaps the most famous German son. It is, in short a fabulous city – metropolitan, cosmopolitan, and a fabulous blend of history and future.
But enough with the wide-eyed touristy stuff, and on to the event.
Our day started with a rousing keynote delivered by Wiebe van der Horst, SVP Global Process & Enterprise Architecture for BASF who, if you haven’t seen the commercials, make the chemicals that make just about everything around you. Wiebe’s talk on how IT needs to (and in fact how they can) move from being a reactive cost centre to a proactive value generator was the perfect way to kick the Summit off and really set the tone for the entire event – this was a topic that we would come back to time and again.
Next up was our title sponsor, Wipro, one of the world’s largest technology consultancies, to discuss their take on enabling digital transformation. Their Chief Executive for Global Infrastructure Services, GK Prasanna, got the ball rolling but quickly handed over to one of his good friends, Pierre Dulon, the CIO of Credit Agricole who had come up from France for the day. Any time one of our partners goes to the trouble of bringing in a practitioner to speak with them the effort pays huge dividends as the audience is so much more engaged with the messaging.
From there, the day unfurled at a break-neck pace with a steady flow of partner and delegate sessions. On the partner side we hosted (in no particular order) Unify, Actifio, Dell Software, Good Technology, EMC, Equinix, Blackberry, Virtual Instruments, and ServiceNow. Our delegate speakers were just as impressive as we had (among others) the Group CIO for the OMV Group (a passionate speaker), the CIO from Sulzer Management AG (a woman that has turned not just her IT department but her company around in a mere 18 months), and the Head of Global Transformation for Zurich (and you thought insurance companies were stodgy).
We wrapped our day with a great closing Panel discussion, sponsored by Fujitsu, that summed up the big issue of the day perfectly – Achieving Transformation. I’d like to say the conversation started mildly, but from the very first question the panelists and the audience were heatedly (but good natured-ly) discussing the biggest and most pressing issues in IT – the future of the department and the role of the CIO, the best ways to deliver business value through innovative ideas, the challenges with staff, and budgets, time and other resources, and how to effect a culture change within their enterprises to finally get rid of the IT-Business divide, a divide that IT is just as guilty in the creation of as is the so-called “Business”.
Of course, no discussion of an event is complete without hearty congratulations to the CDM staff. Ollie Stebbings, the VP of EMEA, and his team did a great job. Gina Dello was a one-man (woman) gang on the registration desk using grace and charm to keep the at times throng peaceful and content. Nadia Ashton and Stephanie Griffiths managed the flow of the day beautifully, keeping the delegates on track and helping them all get to exactly where they needed to be, exactly when they needed to be there, and all with a minimum of fuss. Ollie kept the partners happy (not that they had any reason not to be) and helped a number of them see that they absolutely needed to be involved with the full program the EMEA office is running while Nelson Soares, who joined me from the Chicago office, did the same for the delegates. It will be great, due to their efforts, to see familiar faces at other European events. For me, I got to smile and chat, laugh and make friends which at the end of the day is probably just about the best job in the world.
So, that’s a wrap on another great event. Next up for me is CIO Washington DC. Next week. No rest, apparently, for the wicked. I hope to see you all there. Auf wiedersehn!