I have just finished my first ever visit to the Gartner symposium as a representative of SOCITM – the society for IT managers in UK local government. Every year SOCITM produces a report detailing what they think local government needs to know about the fast-changing landscape of the IT industry in general, and since this is of relevance to an enterprise architecture function I was priviledged to go.

So what did I learn there? Gartner’s main focus was in a few areas:
– preparing for the economic cycle to start to move in a  positive direction again (less useful for us as government spending cycles are lagging the private sector)
– cloud computing, and all its forms, challenges and opportunities
– social software and what it means for management, government, technology and strategy
– what Gartner calls “Pattern Based Strategy” – their take on an emerging way of organising the strategic thinking in business (more on this in another blog post as its quite an interesting topic in itself).

In other words, lots of interesting stuff. Since SOCITM paid for my ticket (no local government budgets were harmed during the making of this blog!) I was assigned a range of topics to cover (all based around security, app development, and risk management), and consumed about 25 hours of Powerpoint in 3 and a half days. I am now in the process of turning all that stuff into coherent papers for SOCITM’s membership.

If you’re an IT person and get the chance to go, even as a slave to someone, do it! It’s a quite incredible experience. That doesn’t mean it’s magical, though: there are problems just like there would be if you went anywhere. To help I have compiled…

Martin’s top tips for attending the Gartner Symposium and ITxpo

1. you need a mobile device with good battery life and wifi (if you want to tweet from the sessions themselves -and you do). smartphones and netbooks are good: laptops are a brick once the battery goes
2. by the end you’ll be staggering drunkenly round the conf centre wondering if you really are aligned with the dominant agile strategic paradigm. Don’t worry, the feeling will pass.
3. just because you’re here it doesn’t mean your company is Shell or HSBC and has gazillions to blow on all the amazing stuff you have seen. Be reasonable
4. similarly, Just because you were here doesn’t mean you are an analyst: your insights don’t make you invulnerable
5. when you get back to the office, no-one will believe anything you say
6. don’t leave your critical faculties at home: remember that everyone, including your friendly analysts, have a bias
7. there is some kind of biting lice in the conference centre – take some cream
8. food is expensive, so nick as much as you can from the centre and try to blag your way into as many receptions as you can.
9. despite the combined brainpower of all the attendees, actual networking opportunities are quite thin on the ground. Tweet! GartnerSym needs more tweeters. I met 3 people this way. (Yes! 3!)

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