Two Weeks, Three Time Zones, Four Summits

It’s been a while since I last wrote, and there’s been a crazy amount going on so this will be a bumper post as I get you all caught up on the last few weeks.

The national CIO Summits are some of our biggest Summits of the year and this fall’s iteration was no exception. It kicked off two weeks ago Sunday (November 9th to be exact) at the fabulous Miami Marriott, Biscayne Bay. As is in keeping with all of our Summits, attendance was limited to less than 50 delegates, so it wasn’t the size of the crowd that made it the biggest, but instead the size of the organizations that crowd worked for. With companies like Carnival, Halliburton, Time Warner, and Bank of America in attendance, it’s safe to say that the roster was littered with CIOs and senior IT executives from across the Fortune 500.

The event got rolling with a Think Tank led by former Chevron CIO Denise Coyne on the ever-challenging topic of IT-Business Integration and Alignment. This served as the perfect icebreaker and warmed everyone up for the conversations to come. Throughout the next few days we listened to keynote presentations from Guru Vasudeva (CTO at Nationwide) and Ted Colbert III (CIO at Boeing), participated in panels that featured speakers from Wells Fargo and FedEx, and sat in on numerous Think Tanks and Roundtables delivered by execs from all industries. If I had to nail the theme for the event down to just one topic I’d have to say it was the new era of digital transformation in which we find ourselves, the collective efforts of IT to respond to the change, and the innovative and dynamic ways in which IT is driving the enterprise forward. For those that were there it was an incredible opportunity to learn and share, talk and understand. For those that weren’t, it was a real opportunity missed.

As CIO wrapped midday on Tuesday, the team eased straight into Mobility. I really have to hand it to the CDM staff as a whole, they never missed a beat as they said good-bye to one group and welcomed another. Rachel and Kristen and Allie and Alex handled the delegate interactions brilliantly, waving goodbye with one hand as they shook hello with the other. Nelson and the boss himself Glenn made sure all of the partners felt appreciated and acknowledged, and our newest team member Joran did an amazing job of going with the flow, following the team’s lead, and integrating beautifully, with just a handful of days at CDM under her belt before she arrived on site.

Mobility didn’t have the luxury of being eased into the way CIO did with a relaxing all hands Think Tank conversation, instead hitting the ground running with an opening keynote delivered by the VP IS for UPS, Ken Finnerty. Ken’s opening talk on delivering enterprise innovation through the pairing of a couple of key so-called “disruptive” technologies – Mobility and Big Data – was bang on in it’s focus and messaging. It certainly set a high tone for the event as a whole.

As the most mature, or at least most widely adopted, of Gartner’s “Nexus of Forces”, Mobility is a discussion that leads not to theoretical guess work, but concrete, real-world case study evaluation. Among those delegates sharing their experiences (both good and bad – no fear of sharing among this group) were speakers from Coca-Cola, the American Cancer Society, and 1-800-Flowers. The applicability of mobile technologies it seems knows no bounds, and companies of all sizes and all walks of life are benefitting from deployments targeted both internally and externally.

We closed out Mobility on Wednesday with an invigorating panel discussion on the future of Mobility, and it’s potential conversion with another hot topic area, the Internet of Things. The conversation was passionate and involved, and our panelists each got there fifteen minutes of fame, wowing the audience with their vision.

With that we wrapped, shook hands, patted backs, and flew off to our various homes for a brief visit with loved ones before the road beckoned again. This time our travels took us to the desert and the FireSky Resort and Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona to host the second of our bi-annual Big Data Summits as well as the CME/Telecom Summit (CME being Communication, Media, & Entertainment).

The Big Data Summit is fast becoming one of our flagship events, rivaling the national CIO Summit as well as the market vertical focused Finance and Insurance Summits as events that draw the who’s who in their fields. It was a little awe-inspiring to see the names and faces in the room with representatives of The Weather Channel, Pfizer, Mapquest, and Capital One all in attendance.

One of the most interesting issues as a result of the Big Data and Analytics investments over the last few years is that of accountability and ownership – just who owns what, exactly? To explore this topic we pitted a Chief Analytics Officer (Pamela Peele from UPMC) against a Chief Data Officer (Donnie Yancey from Mapquest) and let them go at it. No voices were raised, no fingers were pointed, and no fur flew, but a more involved conversation I haven’t seen in a long, long time. After our Think Tank leaders established initial viewpoints, the entire crowd got in on the act, and I don’t think there was a single person that didn’t add something to the conversation. Ninety minutes expired before any of us realized it, and another fifteen passed before we had to be reminded that the networking reception had started, and would we all mind very much heading to it.

That seeding conversation laid the foundations for what would be one of the most interactive events I’ve attended in a long time. Our opening keynote presenter was Gus Hunt, the former CTO of the Central Intelligence Agency. Gus is a dynamic speaker with a great conversational style but more importantly with incredible insights, and tremendous experience. Gus didn’t so much make a presentation as he told a story, weaving together elements of Data & Analytics with others from Cloud, Mobility, and Security in a way that more than one attendee referred to as “the best speech I’ve heard on that topic in my life”. It seemed a shame to end the session, but what came after mitigated that because successive sessions were just as good.

As with the Mobility Summit, the Big Data Summit sessions avoided the theoretical and dove deeply into real-world case studies of what actual practitioners were actually doing. Whether it was Harvard Innovation Labs, NutriSavings, The Weather Channel, or AutoTrader, each speaker brought something meaningful and useful to the conversation, and provided insights that everyone could learn from. And when our close friend John O’Brien from Radiant Advisors presented his company’s vision on how to build the right governance framework, there wasn’t a person in the audience that wasn’t frantically taking notes. The Summit concluded on Tuesday with a panel on just that topic – Data Governance – and so we book-ended the event with active and impassioned debate.

Lunch was a brief affair for the CDM staff this time, with just a brief 15-minute turnaround between the close of the Big Data event and the launch of the CME/Telecom one. Once again the onsite team (Jen, Gina, Kelsey, Jason, and John) handled things with aplomb, transitioning audiences seamlessly and gracefully. As the only constant between teams and events, it always impresses me just how good and consistent a job the CDM staff do, regardless of who is actually doing it.

With CME/Telecom we were working with a much more intimate group, just two dozen individuals, but all highly placed in the industry and their organizations, so the event didn’t suffer at all for the smaller group of voices. Frank Palase, SVP of Strategy and Innovation with DirecTV shared his experiences of 20 years with the organization via a great talk on how to move beyond theoretical strategizing and get to actionable execution. It sounds simplistic I know, but given where IT leaders are at these days in terms of role reinvention, a direct hard-hitting talk like the one Frank gave was great for cutting through the chatter and fretting.

From there our agenda ran wild; we had deep-dive technical sessions on SDN and NFV implementations, people-focused management sessions looking at the workforce of the future, and pretty much everything in between. We looked at the cloud and mobility, understood data and analytics, and evaluated the impact of M&A activities (a particular hotspot in these industries right now). Our analyst partner, the great Ray Mota from ACG Research, also shared his company’s insights into the future impact of virtual managed services, insights that included some very practical and tactical approaches to establishing and measuring value.

And before we knew it, another event was done.

Dinner and drinks by the pool lasted well into the night as fledgling business relationships turned into fledgling friendships, and everyone’s network grew just that much larger, and just that much more tightly knit. As Wednesday turned into Thursday, we wended our way to the airport all tired but fulfilled after yet another round of successful CDM Media events. Next up CIO San Francisco on December 4th, and then back the FireSky the 7th through 10th for CISO and Cloud. I hope to see you there.

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