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Top 14 conferences for CIOs in 2019

A busy CIO has to juggle so many priorities that it's hard to keep up with what's happening in the industry. Yet it's important to determine which developments are actually useful to the organization and which are more hype than reality. These conferences can help IT executives monitor the latest trends and learn what really matters.

The CIO's lot is challenging. When you are responsible for an organization’s IT strategy, you hover between the business and technology worlds—and must keep up with both. It’s virtually impossible to stay current on your own, given how quickly technology changes and the number of ways in which it's incorporated in business.

Fortunately, many organizations are eager to share their industry expertise at conferences and symposia. That’s true across technology in general, with quite a few conferences targeted at, say, security professionals or open source practitioners.

However, some events are designed expressly for C-level staff. In some cases, that means a 30,000-foot view of the technology landscape; in others, it is an opportunity to learn what’s coming soon from the vendors you rely on.

This conference collection features 14 events with information of value to CIOs. It ranges from expensive multiday affairs to one-day free local sessions where much of the value is in networking with peers. I chose these events after wading through the descriptions of dozens available to find the ones that contain executive-level content—and I highlighted four with a gold star as particularly notable.

The recommendations are largely personal. I have attended five of these events more than once and would happily return to them for the presentation depth and breadth and experts available. I chose the others based on recommendations from colleagues. The fact that many of these CIO-friendly shindigs contain content that is also useful for other IT pros is a bonus, should a CIO want to take advantage of group discounts to educate staff at the same time.

This list includes conferences in the last quarter of 2018 and through 2019, sorted by date, with as much detail as has been announced. Check the conference websites for more information; some encourage you to sign up for email updates. And bear in mind that if you miss this year's edition, you can contact organizers to get details of next year's offering.

Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2018

Twitter: @Gartner_inc


Date: October 14-18, 2018

Location: Orlando, FL

Cost: $6,000

Discounts: Public sector, group registration

The Gartner Symposium has an entire track devoted to the CIO, with workshops, access to Gartner analysts, and other perks. To be accepted into the track, a CIO must be responsible for a business unit or division with revenue of $250 million or more. Topics include growing the business by reorienting systems and processes around the customer; digital transformation; learning to demonstrate the entrepreneurial mindset of a start-up; and exploiting opportunities presented by analytical decision-making and emerging trends.

Assuming you meets its criteria and have the budget, this conference offers an analyst-level view of what matters to an IT organization, and an opportunity to connect with peers to mull over the insights.

CIO Perspectives

Twitter: @CIOevents

Dates and locations: October 18, 2018, Los Angeles; December 5, 2018, Houston; June 18, 2019, Boston; July 11, 2019, Atlanta. Other events in Silicon Valley (July), Chicago (September), Los Angeles (October), and Houston (December) are planned but not yet posted.

Cost: Not available

CIO Perspectives events bring together the expertise of the CIO magazine brand and an extensive network of IT leadership peers. These day-long executive forums take place annually in nine locations across the country: Dallas, Atlanta, New York, Reston (VA), Boston, Silicon Valley, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Houston. Created with the direct guidance of CIO advisory boards in each region, the agendas feature expert presentations, panels, workshops, and peer discussions on leadership, business strategy, and IT innovation. For example, the December 2018 event includes panels titled “The Trouble with Cloud Contracts: A CIO Crash Course in Managing Risk” and “Building a Cyber Security ‘Shock Absorber’ for the Enterprise.”

Connected Enterprise

Twitter: @ConstellationR


Date: October 22-25, 2018

Location: Half Moon Bay, CA

Cost: $2,750

Discounts: Early bird; Constellation Executive Network members receive one free pass

At this three-day summit and executive retreat, attendees—who have included executives from Arby's Restaurant Group, CBRE, Estée Lauder, Spotify, Symmons Industries, the University of Texas system, and the U.S. government—learn about topics that drive transformation. This year, blockchain, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing figure among the subjects under examination.

Its executive view of emerging issues and opportunities lets you hear about real-world projects, warts and all. This year, Credit Suisse and SunTrust will discuss lessons learned from AI projects, for example, and a Constellation analyst will talk about enterprise use cases for quantum computing with Rigetti Computing. All of this makes Connected Enterprise a valuable use of time and money.

O'Reilly Velocity Conference

Twitter: @velocityconf


Dates and locations: October 30–November 2, 2018, London; June 10-13, 2019, San Jose, CA; November 4-7, 2019, Berlin 

Cost: London £1445 (US$1,883); San Jose Gold pass $1,595, Silver pass $1,315, and Bronze pass $1,135; Berlin pricing not yet available

Discounts: Safari member, alumni, user groups, company teams, government, academic staff, full-time student, nonprofit

Velocity is billed as a great place for web operations and system engineering professionals to learn from their peers, share lessons learned, and exchange ideas with technology experts. However, O'Reilly says CIOs and CTOs looking to streamline operations will also find value. And where else would you find sessions like the following:  "A New Vision for the Global Brain: Deep Learning with People Instead of Machines," in which a data scientist from GitHub talks about using (gasp) human intellect; "Reliability Engineering for Humans," in which site reliability engineering concepts are applied to the health and welfare of the team; and "Don't Panic!" in which the Financial Times shares how it set up incident response procedures for production.

HPE Discover

Twitter: @HPE_Discover


Dates and locations: November 27-29, 2018, Madrid; June 18-20, 2019, Las Vegas

Cost: Madrid €1,795.00 (US$2,084); Las Vegas pre-event (April 13–June 14) $1,895, on-site (June 15-20) $2,095

Discounts: Public sector

HPE Discover, held twice a year—once in Las Vegas in June and once in Europe in the fall—offers a look at what Hewlett Packard Enterprise and its partners are building, as well as an embedded CIO Summit. The June 2018 event featured HPE subject-matter experts who discussed product directions in detail and as well as customer panels titled “HPE customers share their experience with predictive analytics, all-flash, and hyperconverged solutions” and “How to prevent your DevOps initiatives from stalling.” Hewlett Packard Labs helped CIOs look ahead with sessions such as “10 questions you never knew you had about quantum computing” and “Driving memory-driven computing from research to reality.”

The embedded CIO track, plus the relentless focus on enterprise IT, grants HPE a gold star. Of particular interest to the geekier CIO: The Labs pod in the expo provides a look at the future of IT, often with hands-on displays and access to the researchers who are creating that future.

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Drucker Forum

Twitter: @GDruckerForum


Date: November 29-30, 2018

Location: Vienna

Cost: €2,370 including VAT (US$2,752)

Discounts: Student group rate (minimum five); members, partners, and sponsors

The Drucker Forum this year delves into fundamental issues around machine intelligence and its role in decisions previously made by humans. The event introduction says, "Reasserting the human dimension means above all asking the ‘why’ questions that enable us to ponder deeply who we are, what we do, and where we should be going.” The speakers are top-notch deep thinkers with an emphasis on academia. So, for example, a panel titled “Strategy in the face of reality” includes professors from the London Business School, Columbia, and Duke University, and a session on the human pursuit of innovation includes the chair of the Leadership Initiative at Harvard Business School, the CEO of Sampark Foundation, and the CEO of IDEO.

The 2019 conference also will be in Vienna, November 21-22.

AI World Conference and Expo

Twitter: @AIWorldExpo


Date: December 3-5, 2018

Location: Boston

Cost: $2,195

Discounts: Early bird, academic, government, hospital-affiliated, group

Since AI and machine learning are hot technologies businesses are eager to adopt, CIOs need solid technology knowledge to steer their companies in the right direction. We can provide an overall list of the top AI and machine learning conferences to attend in 2019 (and, in fact, we will—watch this space), but most of those are geared toward the AI and machine learning practitioner.

The AI World Conference and Expo is aimed at enterprise executives and decision-makers from Global 2000 organizations, making it possibly more suitable for a CIO world view. The emphasis is on driving innovation and product development within the business rather than how-to information and tool sets. Some sample sessions: "AI as a Strategic Enterprise Capability," presented by Wells Fargo, whose representatives will describe lessons learned as well as specific use cases for machine learning; "Safety and Artificial Intelligence—Certification and Testing," a look at the use of AI in safety-critical environments, presented by Bell Helicopters; and a discussion of the issues around recruiting for AI, presented by MIT.

IBM Think

Twitter: @IBMlive


Date: February 12-15, 2019 

Location: San Francisco

Cost: Early-bird rate is $1,995

Discounts: Group rates

"Think" has long been IBM's tagline. When the company combined several conferences into one behemoth last year, it mixed high-level strategy discussions with tech talk to delve into the breadth and depth of technology and business topics to make us, yes, think. The conference runs the enterprise and emerging tech gamut: cloud, AI, data and analytics, blockchain, infrastructure…you name it.

For example, the 2018 conference featured Jaguar Land Rover talking about using IoT data to engineer better vehicles; Ticketmaster discussing its use of Watson Campaign Management for marketing; Interac, Deutsche Bank, and Boeing on blockchain use cases; and IBM's director of research presenting the company's quantum roadmap and how companies can become quantum-ready. All topics dear to a CIO's heart, they're mingled with an expo where in previous years you could meet Olli, a 3D printed autonomous bus that uses AI as its helpful virtual bus driver (who reminds you to bring an umbrella if rain is in the forecast).

Mobile World Congress

Web: https://www.mwcbarcelona.comhttps://www.mwcshanghai.com

Dates and locations: February 25-28, 2019, Barcelona; June 26-28, 2019, Shanghai; October 22-24, 2019, Los Angeles

Cost: Shanghai All Exhibition pass US$95, Gold pass US$1,250, and VIP pass US$1,850; pricing for Los Angeles event not yet available

Discount: Limited 30 percent off on all summits for All Exhibition pass holders

Mobile World Congress is being rebranded this year, with each city having a unique moniker: MWC Barcelona, MWC Los Angeles, and MWC Shanghai. As its name implies, it is the show to attend to learn about all things mobile, with innovations on display in telecommunications, computing, and connected vehicles. The Barcelona show themes include AI, Industry 4.0, immersive content, disruptive innovation, digital wellness, digital trust, and the future.

A sample of previous event highlights includes “The Growing Pains of Machine Learning,” “New Business Models in Digital Financial Services,” and a full afternoon dedicated to blockchain and another on IoT, both under the umbrella of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. There was also a Diversity/Women4Tech track, which will also be offered in 2019.

It’s big, it’s crowded, and it’s chock-full of distractions. But if you want to find out what’s happening in the mobile world (which, let’s face it, is the world we live in) and talk to people in the know, MWC is the place to be.

CIO Forum

Twitter: @PremierCIO


Dates and locations: March 25-26, 2019, Boston;  March 29, 2019, Atlanta; May 22-23, 2019, Philadelphia; September 18-19, 2019, Pittsburgh

Cost: Complimentary for director level and above

Premier Connects presents a series of complimentary forums featuring up-to-the-minute topics and expert speakers, each curated by an advisory council of CIOs and academics. The 2018 presentations included “Transition to an Outcome-based Organization,” “New Economics of IT,” and “Breaking Through Digital Deadlock: Strategies for Business and Technology Leaders.” For the budget-challenged, or for those who want to get their conferencing feet wet at a local event before diving into something costlier, these forums are a great start.

SAS Global Forum Executive Program

Twitter: @SASsoftware


Date: April 28–May 1, 2019

Location: Dallas

Cost: Complimentary for director level and above

The SAS Global Forum Executive Program is colocated with the SASGF User Program, offering an executive-level view of the many facets of analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning in industries such as healthcare, banking, education, and government. In 2018, for example, attendees heard from Hewlett Packard Enterprise's Mark Barnum on accelerating IoT insights at the Intelligent Edge; SAS experts on best practices for driving business value with CECL compliance; Prescient Models on forecasting the value of fine wines; and the University of Oklahoma on principles and techniques for maintaining excellent service quality in technology.


Twitter: @collisionHQ


Date: May 20-23, 2019

Location: Toronto

Cost: CAD$995 (US$758)

Discounts: Two for one

Collision covers a wide range of topics, from sustainability to automotive technology, but it has programs specifically for software development issues. It’s a big show, with more than 25,000 attendees. It’s also an opportunity to hear from C-level executives from many of the fastest growing and most exciting tech companies from around the world. In 2018, that included Al Gore; Susan Herman, president of the ACLU; John Zimmer, co-founder of Lyft; and Elie Seidman, CEO of Tinder.

MIT Sloan CIO Symposium

Twitter: @mitcio


Date: May 22, 2019

Location: Cambridge, MA

Cost: General admission $995, full-time MIT student $125, academic $345, government $645

The MIT Sloan CIO Symposium brings together IT executives from around the world and puts them on stage with faculty from MIT. The annual event offers a day of interactive learning and thought-provoking discourse on the future of technology, best practices, and business. The 2018 event featured a panel on closing the gap between strategy and execution, from the point of view of the editor in chief of MIT Sloan Management Review, the CMO of Trace3, the founder and managing partner of Strongbow Consulting Group, the CIO and SVP from Land O'Lakes, and a fellow of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. Another group of C-level executives compared notes about the CIO's role in C-level cybersecurity leadership. And there was a discussion on creating a digital culture with a mix of IT executives, analysts, and MIT researchers.

Microsoft Ignite 2019



Date: November 4-8, 2019

Location: Orlando, FL

Cost: TBA

Yet another event for businesses that are committed to a vendor’s products, Microsoft Ignite highlights the company’s involvement with cloud technologies, big data, and business intelligence. With more than 700 presentations, it’s an opportunity to immerse yourself with the latest tools and hear ideas directly from the experts. (And to walk a long way between meeting rooms. Wear comfortable shoes.)

It is likely that we will update this list through the year. Send your recommendations for conferences of value to CIOs via Twitter at @enterprisenxt.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.