At the 2018 Gartner Symposium and ITxpo, CIO UK caught up with some 10 CIOs to reflect on and debrief the analyst house's annual European conference, commenting on the sessions, themes, analyst briefings, venue and networking opportunities for UK CIOs.
Having made the trip over to meet UK CIOs each year since 2015, ahead of the 2019 Gartner Symposium and ITxpo which takes place in Barcelona from November 3-7 here is non-comprehensive CIO UK preview of sessions to look out for, and suggestions on getting maximum value from the visit, whether a seasoned attendee or making your first trip.
Since the $2.6bn acquisition of HR and business specialists CEB, Gartner has dialled up discussing the human implications of technology change in its opening keynote rather than focusing purely on predictions and somewhat abstract conjecture. Contributors to the CIO UK podcast in 2018 noted they found the opening keynote messaging more relevant than in previous years, but what follows are some CIO-specific sessions which we have picked out which could complement your schedule.
Mark Raskino is back with his CEO Concerns 2019 research presentation, which will digest the findings of his team's research of Chief Executives and focus on the implications and actions for CIOs.
Distinguished VP Analyst, Tina Nunno, is presenting on 'Leadership Positioning for CIOs: From Defense to Offense' as well as 'Depoliticizing IT Investment Decisions for CIOs'.
Complementing their usual CIO Agenda research is Yuko Adachi's discussion on 'CIO Leadership in 2023' if you are inclined to look that far ahead in your career.
CIO UK favourite Ian Cox will be presenting on 'Mastering the Essentials of Strategy for Digital Business', 'How Do I Create and Communicate a Compelling Strategy', and 'Hack Your Way to Adaptive Strategy' - each with a CIO-specific focus from the respected CIO 100 panellist.
CIO story sessions
To hear directly from your peers, Gartner has a helpful 'CIO Stories' section on the conference 'Speakers' page which includes all the end-user CIOs and CTOs speaking at the conference. Contributor to the CIO UK podcast Damian Smith, Head of IT at the England and Wales Cricket Board, is among them. Also speaking is the CIO from the World Health Organization, Bernardo Mariano Junior, CIO and SVP at $61bn Norwegian energy company Equinor, Åshild Hanne Larsen, and Airbus CIO Luc Hennekens.
The CIO and CEO of Danish logistics giant Maersk, Adam Banks and Soren Skou respectively, will also take part in a session with CEO and CIO analyst Raskino.
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 4 November, on Tuesday 5 November at 5.45pm ahead of the country receptions - and if you are still there on Wednesday 6 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 3 November until the morning of Thursday 7 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.
Indeed, the beach bar was the venue for the CIO UK podcast's discussion with ECB Head of IT Damian Smith in 2018, looking ahead to the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
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 137-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.