In November 2017 then Cape CIO Dave Jones shared his reflections on his first trip to the Gartner Symposium and ITxpo in Barcelona, discussing the venue, sessions, one-on-one analyst briefings and networking opportunities for UK CIOs.
Having made the trip over to meet UK CIOs each year since 2015, here is CIO UK's non-comprehensive preview of sessions to look out for at the 2018 Gartner Symposium and ITxpo which takes place in Barcelona from November 4-8. Also included are some suggestions on getting most value from the visit whether a seasoned attendee or making your first trip.
You will struggle to avoid Gartner's opening keynote, fortunately or otherwise, as it will be beamed into every corner of the venue on Monday morning. Loved, loathed and misunderstood - like other tech company keynotes Gartner's opening session is as much a piece of avant garde performance art curated by the Gartner Politburo to generate headlines and buzz as it is supposed to provide value to its audience. Open your mind and dive in, but there are some CIO-specific sessions which should provide more immediate value and relevance:
Mark Raskino's CEO Perspective 2018 takes a look at how CIOs should respond to the biggest challenges facing Chief Executives and is always worth checking out, as is the 2019 CIO Agenda. CIO UK contributor Ian Cox's session on Strategy at the Speed of Digital Business is surely worth taking the time to see also.
A number of UK CIOs have spoken highly of Gartner's Tina Nunno, and her presentation on The Politics of Consensus-based Decision Making for CIOs looks like it will be of interest for those interested in culture and the politics of securing backing and buy-in.
Suzanne Adnams is presenting on making sure diversity and inclusion initiatives realise their potential which could provide useful information for CIOs working to develop the diversity of their organisations.
CIO story sessions
To hear directly from your peers, Gartner has a helpful CIO Stories page which includes all the end-user CIOs and CTOs speaking at the conference. 2018 CIO 100 members James Munson from the DVSA, and Martyn Wallace the Chief Digital Officer for Scottish Local Government are included, along with the VP and Global CIO of Shell Downstream Craig Walker.
I'm generally not one for events apps, but Gartner's events navigator is a useful tool and works well in the browser. A full itinerary of sessions is listed, and for those who have opted in you can view a list of attendees.
This is fully searchable by country, job role, and industry. Those who are opted in with a CIO or CTO job title and from organisations in the UK are listed here.
Visit the ITxpo
What's the best way to make sure conference attendees also visit vendors in the exhibition hall? Make sure that not only is the drinks reception there, but that the nibbles and refreshments stands are integrated in to the exhibitor stands themselves!
You will be able to get your Cava, Rioja and Catalunyan delicatessen fixes from 5pm on the evening of Monday 5 November, on Tuesday 6 November at 5.45pm ahead of the country receptions - and if you are still there on Wednesday 7 November another reception takes place in the ITxpo again at 5.45pm.
It's definitely a conducive atmosphere for debriefing the day's activities and Gartner have found a good balance here of semi-formal work-related socialising.
Speak to the CIO UK team
I will be in attendance and in Barcelona from Sunday 4 November until the morning of November 8 November - if you are at the conference and want to catch up, contribute your thoughts to an article, speak to the CIO UK podcast, or just grab a coffee and a chat on your transition from one session to the next then do not hesitate to get in touch!
Find the beach bar
Gartner doesn't seem to shout too loudly about the beach bar run by one of their exhibitors, presumably because it doesn't make great sense to have a load of delegates a few hundred metres away enjoying a bite to eat and a drink on the Mediterranean coast when all the sessions are taking place in a hotel and conference centre. Rest assured it does exist, and is worth popping to for a refreshment and bit of fresh air when you've been cooped up inside.
Analyst one-on-ones and vendor negotiation sessions
Gartner analysts are being semi-serious when they joke about being trained to talk for 30 minutes without stopping for client briefings. The Gartner events team seems to run a pretty slick operation for organisation one-on-one analyst briefings, while CIOs tell me the vendor negotiation sessions and contract brokering services are where organisations can really get value from their subscription.
Restaurants, cafes and cultural sites
Your agenda is likely to be pretty hectic, but if you're going to be in Barcelona for a few days you might as well take in some of the sites and culinary delights. A good place to start is with Antoni Gaudi's 136-year-old basilica Sagrada Familia to see how construction is coming along - you can read an interview with the Sagrada Familia CIO Fernando Villa here about the technology behind the Catalan architect's magnum opus.
For the early arrivals in Barcelona, entry to the Picasso museum in the old town is free on Sunday afternoons. Entry to the main area of Gaudi's Park Güell is ticketed, but the surrounding park is open to the public and offers some of the best views over the city.
Nestled between the sites of the old town and the beach is La Xampanyeria, a standing-room-only Cava bar which serves glasses, bottles and filling chorizo buns - if you are near the marina it's worth visiting for it's fantastic atmosphere.
Top-notch food is never far away in Barcelona, but for foodies the Hofmann culinary school comprising the Michelin Star Restaurant, Taverna, Arroz and Pastry Shop is where the next-generation of Catalunyan master chefs are honing their skills. A 20-30-minute taxi from the conference venue, Mirabe is a few kilometres in land and nestled in the hills. Serving first-rate Mediterranean cuisine, the restaurants boast an excellent wine and gin list, and has some of the best views the city has to offer.