Yes, it’s time for the annual Gartner Symposium for 8,500 senior IT executives, including over 3,000 CIOs. The symposium, an annual event that takes place at the Orlando Disney hotels, is in one word, overwhelming. This year it is a sold out event. There are up to 16 parallel sessions at any one time from sun-up to sun-down and hundreds of vendors exhibiting products and services.

The conference sessions were addressing topics from strategic planning to how to negotiate software licenses but most sessions dealt with the digital/mobile topic and everything associated with it, with minor mentions to cloud and security. Failing to talk about security in Monday’s keynote speech by Gartner analysts was disappointing after the Home Depot and JPMorgan news, I was expecting more focus on enterprise security.

The new theme was digital humanism. Peter Sondergast, senior vice president of Gartner and one of Monday’s keynote speaker talked about Gartner’s proposed “digital humanism” framework of putting people first, embracing unpredictability and protecting personal space.

These are interesting concepts that are already being used as differentiators by organizations such as Microsoft and Blackberry. The CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella repeatedly highlighted in his Mastermind interview on Tuesday that while a mobile-first approach is important, it is the individual, not the device we need to focus on, making the device easier to learn, use and configure to the person’s own requirements. Jeff Holleran, senior director, enterprise product strategy at Blackberry, talked passionately (at a one to one discussion) about the Blackberry Passport device that has a dual personality, one for the individual’s personal interactions and the other for work-related tasks, two profiles, two phone numbers, two billings but can’t copy files from the work profile to the personal one.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was interviewed during Gartner's "Mastermind" session.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was interviewed during Gartner’s “Mastermind” session.

Nadella is new to his role as CEO of Microsoft and his first Gartner Mastermind interview wasn’t as exciting as his predecessor Steve Ballmer — no shouting or jumping up with both arms waving — but he did provide interesting views. He explained the importance of Windows 10, not just because the core has been rearchitected, but also because it is the first step in a whole new set of Windows that will work on many different hardware platforms. Nadella admitted that Microsoft got the user experience consistency wrong in Windows 8, but has fixed it for Windows 10. When asked what happened Windows 9, he said “it came and went.” He talked about cloud computing and how it is becoming a utility rather than a strategic differentiator, expecting that for example every mobile device connects to the cloud but these devices still need to be managed.

With the new focus on everything digital, according to Daryl Plummer, senior vice-president at Gartner, unpredictability ensues. It is not just that a software developer for this platform may have millions of users and therefore testers of the mobile applications but how these are being used that causes the unpredictability. That’s why having a stable technology core is so important.

Protecting personal space is more than having password and security. Gartner’s rules lists such essentials as: everything the mobile user does should be an opt-in rather than mandatory and make the customer profile fully open and available to the customer. And the golden rule to follow is how would you yourself like to be treated as a customer.

The Gartner symposium is one of the biggest gathering of IT professionals to learn about upcoming technology challenges and breakthroughs. As always, it was well organized, with knowledgable staff who were always there to help. It is a large conference with sessions taking place in a number of places, but I found that walking to and from the hotels the sessions took place, wasn’t too bad. Of course there are lots of golf carts offering a quick transport from one session to the next for convenience and speed (but not for exercise).

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