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Top 25+ conferences CIOs should attend in 2017

A guide to the best conferences for CIOs in 2017. These events can help any CIO get up to speed -- and make useful people-connections, too.

Staying abreast of technology trends and IT innovations is a difficult task. Topping the list this year are converged architectures, high-performance computing, advanced analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), connected systems, and, of course, cloud everything.

Fortunately, conferences and events make it easier to discover what’s new and compare notes with peers at the same time. However, not all conferences are created equal. Some just aren’t geared toward CIO concerns and interests, while others—ostensibly for specialists—have tracks that are worth a CIO’s attention.

To help you sort through which conferences to attend to get the most for your time and money, here’s a comprehensive guide of the best events to attend in 2017. You’ll find them handily categorized as must-attend, worth attending, or worthy mentions, although your individual mileage may differ.

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Must attend conferences for CIOs

I selected conferences in this category according to how well each addresses the top IT trends for this year. The rankings also take into consideration several other factors, such as quality of speakers, previous years’ attendee comments, and attendance growth year over year.

The order in which these conferences are presented here is alphabetical and does not denote a ranking beyond the general “must attend” categorization.

HMG Global Innovation Summit

  • Twitter@HMGStrategy
  • Webhttp://www.hmgstrategy.com/events/home.asp?eventID=138
  • Date: January 12, 2017 (Palo Alto, CA), March 9, 2017 (New York)
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA, New York, NY
  • Cost: No attendance fee for academics or non-vendor employed C-level executives and senior-level IT pros in the private or public or non-profit sectors with organizations that have $200 million-plus revenue or the equivalent. If you don’t fit this criteria, you'll need to submit a registration request to see if you will be accepted and at what fee level. 

This conference, conducted by HMG, has as its roots a founder who previously served as an IT consultant for the likes of Gartner, IBM, and Unilever, and who also served as president and CEO at The Advisory Council. Hunter Muller now heads HMG Strategy, with a 300,000-plus global CIO and senior IT professional network.

The company’s summits focus on career development as well as technology and business prowess. The events are thus prized as much for networking and potential career advancement as for the technology education. This particular event covers all aspects of enterprise IT as well as transformational leadership development and innovation and growth strategies.

Reasons to attend: Career development, career advancement, and to learn new IT strategies and tactics to compete against transformed competitors.


Gigaom AI Now

  • Twitter@Gigaom
  • Webhttps://gigaom.com/ai/
  • Date: February 15-16, 2017
  • Location: San Francisco, CA
  • Cost: Ranges from regular pre-registration price of $1,795 to a walk-up VIP package at $4,995.

For years now, artificial intelligence (AI) has been a futuristic subject. Heck, machine learning is still new to most CIOs. However, the reality is that both machine learning and AI are in use today in many organizations. Those not using it are already well behind the curve.

This event is one of the few focused on how AI is used now, how to get started using it, and how to optimize it if you’re already dabbling in it. It’s also a good introduction on the many ways different business units are likely to use AI so you can prepare for that as well. I doubt they go into AI-fueled shadow IT, though perhaps that will be on the agenda for next year. But mark my words, shadow IT is about to take on a life of its own. It’s best to stay ahead of that bugbear by staying informed so you know what to look for and guard against.

Reasons to attend: Learn to be an intelligent machine master, prepare for AI-based shadow IT, and learn how to compete against competitors using AI and machine learning.


Interop

  • Twitter@interop
  • Webhttp://www.interop.com/
  • Date: May 15-19, 2017
  • Location: Las Vegas, NV
  • Cost: Ranges from $249 for a business hall day pass to $3,299 for a full-access, five-day pass.

This oldie but goodie event has been a mainstay on IT calendars for the past 31 years. The organizers stay abreast of tech changes—and that acumen and credibility has kept this conference at the top of every CIO’s list.

Sessions such as the Container Crash Course and the Future of Networking are designed to bring attendees up to speed quickly. The infrastructure, data analytics, cloud, and security tracks are also timely and beefy. Other helpful sessions include building an IT budget and retaining talent. It’s a good, strong overall conference with plenty of flexibility so that attendees can find exactly what they came for. 

Reasons to attend: An important staple in staying current on developments in six key IT areas, well-rounded educational sessions, and crash courses to bring you up to speed on emerging tech trends. 


MIT Sloan CIO Symposium

  • Twitter@MITCIO
  • Webhttp://www.mitcio.com/
  • Date: May 24, 2017
  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Cost: General registration prices have yet to be listed. However, academic cost is $295 and full-time MIT student cost is $99.

Over time, the CIO role has evolved from writing code and developing new tech, to managing legacy IT, to buying in-the-box tech, and now back in the saddle as innovators. This conference breaks out of the IT bubble and presents business, industry, and economic perspectives of interest to CIOs.

“There’s never been a better time to be a great CIO or a worse time to be an average one,” said George Westerman, co-chair of the MIT Sloan CIO Leadership Award.  This conference is for those CIOs aiming for greatness or at least a higher C-level seat.

Reasons to attend: Help for sea-sickness from all the sea changes in business today—not a cure, but definitely some relief. Also a great way to break free from brain rut and the IT bubble, gain strong big-picture perspectives, and network with other CIOs rather than just vendor folk.


HPE Discover 2017

This event focuses on the continual changes in IT and how to not only stay abreast of them but how to get ahead of the curve. In today’s hyper-competitive market, it’s not possible to maintain a competitive advantage for very long so new ones must be continually in development.

One of the hottest items likely to be under discussion this year at this event is the new Hybrid IT operating models designed to make IT more agile and more disruptive to their industries. Also under hot debate is who is the run organization these days and is that where it should be? Other hot topics continuing from last year’s event are computing and analytics at the edge, IoT as a business strategy, among others.


Gartner Catalyst Conference

This event is less futuristic and more a practical how-to approach on technical issues in the Land of Now. But that’s not to say this event delivers old news. Last year, Gartner analysts presented the big-picture overlay of connected systems and their expected areas of impact on businesses. The pragmatic schooling then proceeded on the rise of the on-demand digital business, the architecture and applications that make it tick, and how IT and technical professionals can use and manage it.

Reasons to attend: Practical problem-solving, IT opportunity identification, vendor short-list development, broad overviews and trend information in cloud computing, apps, mobility, data and analytics, and security.


HMG 2017 CIO Executive Leadership Summits

  • Twitter: @HMGStrategy
  • Web: http://hmgstrategy.com/events/upcoming-summits
  • Date: Several dates in different cities throughout the rest of the year
  • Location: Multiple cities, including Silicon Valley area, Boston, Denver, Atlanta, St Louis, San Diego, Seattle, Greenwich, Huntington Beach, and Philadelphia
  • Cost: No attendance fee for academicians or non-vendor employed C-level executives and senior-level IT pros in the private or public or non-profit sectors with organizations having $200 million or greater revenue or equivalent. If you don’t fit this criteria, you need to submit a registration request to see if you will be accepted and, if so, at what fee.

HMG's founder previously served as an IT consultant for the likes of Gartner, IBM, and Unilever, and also served as president and CEO of The Advisory Council. Hunter Muller now heads HMG Strategy and a network of 300,000-plus global CIO and senior IT professionals.

The company’s summits focus on career development as much as on technology and business prowess. These events cover many aspects of enterprise IT as well as transformational leadership development and innovation and growth strategies.

Reasons to attend: Career development, career advancement, learn new IT strategies and tactics to compete against transformed competitors.


Open Source Summit North America

This conference combines former conferences LinuxCon, ContainerCon, CloudOpen, and Open Community Conference. Given that open source is the fire under most of today’s hottest enterprise trends, it’s important to stay abreast of new tools, platforms, and processes.

Even if you aren’t interested in learning more about the open source enterprise explosion (but how could that be?!), networking with project maintainers and community leaders will help you identify great developers and other talent you might want to recruit.

Reasons to attend: Learn about open source in the hottest technologies from containers to cloud; identify top developers to hire; find projects useful to your company goals and ways to contribute to them.


Retail in the Age of Artificial Intelligence and Commerce Bots

This conference covers the gamut of commerce tech and strategies, from real-time data and artificial intelligence to card-linking and commerce bots. If you’re a CIO in retail, this is the conference for you. If you’re not in consumer-oriented commerce, you can still learn a lot about these technologies, as they apply to marketing, sales, and customer experience. Expect them to matter soon in new ways, such as in connected smart cities.

In case you don’t already know, CardLinx Association is an industry association, the members of which “collaborate to establish industry standards for mobile payments, in-store offers, card-linking, and many other technologies that comprise the Internet of Commerce Things (IoCT).”

Reasons to attend: Real-time data, streaming data, analytics, artificial intelligence, card-linking, commerce bots, in-store real-time marketing.


Forrester Privacy & Security 2017

Customers around the globe are just about fed up with corporate big data practices that invade privacy—yet they want the very conveniences, rewards, and price breaks that come from personalized marketing offers. This conference is all about how to manage privacy, security, and risk to build consumer trust and protect your organization.

Reason to attend: Security and privacy are no longer defensive measures but key differentiators, and your customers want to know that their data is safe and their privacy is protected. Learn the difference in covering your company’s backside and using the operational back-office strategically. 


451 Research’s Hosting + Cloud Transformation Summit

  • Twitter: @451Research
  • Web: https://www.451research-hcts.com/
  • Date: September 18-20, 2017
  • Location: Las Vegas, NV
  • Cost: The 2016 rate was $1,295 for clients and $2,295 for non-clients. The rates for 2017 have not been announced yet but are expected to be similar.

451 Research conducts this summit primarily for investors and executives in the hosting, cloud, data center, and Internet infrastructure sectors. However, it’s insightful for nearly any CIO who is looking to see where the cloud is going next. The answer can be surprising for those who think they’ve got cloud computing pegged.

For example, 451 Research recently advised the industry that enterprises would soon be dealing with a multi-cloud approach in search of best performance and cost for each job. Instead of trying to consolidate clouds, enterprises are actively shopping and using multiple clouds. The analysts currently predict a rise in cloud brokers as a result.

The 451 Research analysts produced a report specifically on how to do a quick comparative multi-cloud TCO analysis. Maybe your company is already managing multiple cloud vendors this way. If so, congratulations: You’re ahead of the hybrid infrastructure curve. But even so, it pays to peer around the bend to see how the industry is shaping up now and what’s coming up next too. This conference will help you do that.

Reasons to attend: Emerging cloud trends, vendor comparisons, and a heads-up on evolving disruptions and disruptors.


Strata + Hadoop World Conference

Strata + Hadoop World Conference New York is the big daddy of big data conferences. It began as a small gathering of data scientists struggling with a deluge of data that swamped all known tech and drowned out all hope of anything resembling institutional knowledge. Now this conference covers everything related to big data, including the growing tsunami from the Internet of Things and connected systems. In a sink-or-swim data deluge, this is where you go to learn how to swim, scuba dive, and do all the neat trick cliff dives.

Reason to attend: It’s a data-driven world, and this is the world where you learn about big data, including machine learning and AI to improve your analysis, along with advanced analytics when you're ready to up your game.


Gartner Symposium / ITxpo

This is Gartner’s biggest event for CIOs and technology executives. Last year’s agenda was all about strategy and tactical priorities. This year’s agenda is still under development, but the theme is tilting heavily toward making digital a core competency rather than just a set of tools in support of other organizational competencies. It’s underscoring just how deep digital transformation runs in every business these days. There’s also a focus on identifying disruptors early, because in an all-digital marketscape, fortunes are won and lost in the blink of an Internet connection.

Reasons to attend: Deeper dive than lip service on digital transformation, technical problem solving, and strong peer networking.


The Wall Street Journal D.Live Laguna

  • Twitter: @WSJD
  • Web: https://dlive.wsj.com/laguna/
  • Date: October 16-18, 2017
  • Location: Laguna Beach, CA
  • Cost: Invitation-only event. Request an invitation and price will be revealed.

This invitation-only tech event is attended by CEOs, founders, investors, and luminaries from around the world who huddle together to set the global tech agenda. 

Reasons to attend: Great way to break free from brain rut and IT bubble; strong big-picture perspectives; great networking with power brokers and decision-makers rather than just vendor folk.


SuperComputing SC 17

This international conference on supercomputing—or high-performance computing (HPC), if you prefer—is sponsored by the IEEE Computer Society among other organizations. Attendees include scientists, engineers, researchers, educators, programmers, system administrators, and developers. You can expect technical presentations, papers, tutorials, and other forms of information sharing on the latest breakthroughs and upcoming technologies designed for large-scale technical computing and data science.

Reasons to attend: While you were busy doing all the stuff that had to be done, big data grew up, or rather blew up, and now you need new technologies to stay data-driven rather than data-wrecked. This conference will show you how to use HPC right now and how to plan for its increased use over time. 


Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations Management & Data Center Conference

This event is part futuristic and partly a practical how-to approach to technical issues in the Land of Now. But that’s not to say this event delivers old news. Last year, Gartner analysts presented the big picture overlay of connected systems and their expected areas of impact on businesses. The pragmatic schooling then proceeded on the rise of the on-demand digital business, the architecture and applications that make it tick, and how IT and technical professionals can use and manage it.

Reasons to attend: Practical problem-solving, IT opportunity identification, vendor short-list development, broad overviews and trend information in IT infrastructure, operations management, and data centers.


HMG 2017 Financial Services CIO Executive Leadership Summit

There is a massive sea change underway in financial services powered by disruptive technologies ranging from blockchain, Bitcoin, and new currencies to big data and new analytics. CIOs in the financial services industry will likely find this conference useful for developing new skill sets and gaining leadership capabilities to steer their companies and careers forward.

This conference, conducted by HMG Strategy, boasts a network of 300,000-plus global CIO and senior IT professionals.

Reasons to attend: Career development, career advancement, learn new IT strategies and tactics to compete against transformed competitors.


TheNextWeb

This event is in its 13th year, geared toward decision-makers who want to understand emerging disruptors and disruptions. Yes, it’s a hoity-toity, hush-hush, "here are the next big things in, well, everything" event. It's about innovation on hyperdrive, upcoming chaos organized for your consumption now.

Most likely, some of the things presented will flash and then burn in the pan. But others will catch fire and burn you to ashes if you aren’t prepared early. In any case, it’s good to see what’s coming toward you from over the horizon.

Reasons to attend: Learn how to innovate by example, get your creativity sparked and tweaked, see disruptors coming so you can either invest or duck.


Conferences worth attending

While all of the events listed below are worth attending, most are highly targeted on one topic or another and thus have varying appeal to different people. If you need to shorten your conference travel list this year, I recommend you choose from the list below according to your specific topic interests or needs.

Wall Street Journal CIO Network Annual Meeting

This is a members-only event. This year, leading CIOs and CEOs will be working out how a new U.S. president may impact issues of importance to the tech industry, including privacy laws and security efforts in the public sector.

You need to call or email to join. Check out the online membership list to see who you know already.

Reason to attend: To hear perspectives from other CIOs about how the new administration may affect IT and business in general.


InnoTech 

The InnoTech conferences are held in various cities throughout the year, so you should be able to find one in a convenient locale. This conference had about 1,500 attendees last year, with a wide range of presentations on tech and strategy issues important to enterprise IT.

Reason to attend: Gain insight on tech and digital transformation at a local level.


Forbes CIO Summit

This conference focuses on helping CIOs find faster paths to innovation and build their own network of CIOs, CEOs, and venture capitalists.

Reasons to attend: Innovation ideas and great networking opportunities.


Collision

This is a big event with over 20,000 attendees, some 3,000 of whom are CEOs of both major companies and startups. It’s well worth the dollars to not only get updated on the latest in tech and strategy, but also learn what CEOs are thinking about. That’s intelligence that can help you move your own career ahead.

Reason to attend: Smart, intelligent takes on the latest in tech and tech strategies, and insights on what CEOs are thinking about and aiming for, which can help you understand your own CEO better.


Digital Transformation 2017

This conference is conducted by Forrester analysts and covers tech issues involved with digital transformation. It also includes more business-oriented content focused on topics such as revamping or replacing outdated business models.

Reason to attend: Learn how to make a convincing business case for digital transformation.


Internet of Things World

This event focuses exclusively on the Internet of Things. CIOs will find information on a plethora of IoT technologies and issues: how to manage immense volumes of streaming data; analytics at the edge; IoT’s impact on healthcare, security, city planning, agriculture, and energy; and much more.

Reasons to attend: IoT represents a sea change in both the human experience and how business is done. CIOs should attend to learn how their organizations can capitalize on this trend and mitigate IoT security problems and competitive threats. 


CIO 100

This annual conference offers educational sessions geared toward CIOs and senior IT leadership. Perhaps most noteworthy is its CIO 100 Award Ceremony and CIO Hall of Fame Induction, which honor CIOs who have deployed cutting-edge tactics and strategies and innovations. CIO 100 offers great networking opportunities and useful insights on how to move your organization forward.

Reasons to attend: Updates on the latest tech and tactics, real-life case studies in CIO leadership and innovation, and career networking.


Evanta Global CIO Executive Summit

This event fosters collaboration in the CIO community. Here, influential CIOs from around the world gather to share what they’ve learned of new technologies and their deployments, as well as what they’ve done in career development that proved useful. It’s a candid group of attendees who are determined to move their companies and themselves ahead and know the power of numbers—the more CIOs working together, the better, in their opinion.

Reasons to attend: Insights on tech and digital transformation in terms of actual use and projects, insights on the CIO profession and career opportunities.


Landmark CIO Summit: Transformation through Strategic Innovation

This is a private, invitation-only event known for its more intimate networking, mentoring, and learning environment. Yet the audience is about 500 technologists and growing every year. Speakers are from some of the largest global organizations.

Topics covered include big data, Internet of Things, cybersecurity, machine learning, natural language processing, cloud and mobility, modern application development and architectures, the software-defined data center, and more.

Reasons to attend: Primarily for the strong networking opportunities, but also because the speaker list varies from the usual IT conference fare, so you’re sure to learn something new.


Microsoft Ignite

This conference covers all things Microsoft for the enterprise, including quite a few open source products. 

Reasons to attend: Connect with Microsoft experts, and stay abreast of changes and innovations in Microsoft products so you can plan ahead.


Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

This is a large event produced by the Anita Borg Institute and the Association for Computing Machinery to promote women technologists and educate them on the latest tech trends. The GHC conference is known for presenting innovative research and providing insights from top technology speakers.

Reasons to attend: Learn about the latest tech breakthroughs, and how to diversify your workforce and recruit some serious IT talent. 


Forbes CIO Next

CIOs gather here to learn from other CIOs and discuss not only how the profession is changing but how it’s changing both technology and business. It’s not navel-gazing, though; it’s earnest discussions and explorations of what’s next for CIOs in terms of career paths and business influence.

Reason for attending: Job preservation through understanding what’s next for CIOs and what skills might be needed to improve or gain, along with networking that could be good for future career advancement.


Enterprise IoT World

This event focuses exclusively on the Internet of Things for the enterprise. CIOs will find information on a plethora of IoT issues and products, including how to manage the immense data streaming; analytics at the edge; and IoT’s impact in industrial and manufacturing, smart buildings and energy, supply chain, smart cities, and more.

Reason to attend: IoT represents a huge sea change in both the human experience and how business is done. Learn how organizations can best capitalize on this trend and protect themselves from IoT security problems and competitive abuses.


IoT Security Summit

This event is co-located with Blockchain 360 and Cloud Security Summit, so you might want to take advantage of all three. Features a stellar lineup of speakers, which includes some of the biggest brands in the private sector and the public sector. Here you’ll find on stage the likes of the CISO of the United Nations and the team lead on the Internet of Things for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Topics cover the gamut from preparing the workforce for IoT security challenges to using data and devices in specific security use cases. Loads of other hot security topics in IoT, too.

Reason to attend: Face it: IoT security is everyone’s next horrific nightmare. It’s best to confront and conquer it now. Here’s where you learn how to do that.


DevOps Enterprise Summit

As you probably guessed, this event is about all things DevOps, both principles and practices, as they are put into practice by leaders of large, complex organizations. The goal is to arm attendees with the tools and information they need to develop and deploy software at lightning speeds.

Reasons to attend: Smart, intelligent takes on the latest in DevOps tools and strategies; insights on how to ship faster to keep your huge organization competitive on sharp turns in the market.


CloudNativeCon + KubeCon

If you’re using Kubernetes containers (and who isn’t—even AWS is these days!), you’ll find this conference very useful. The Linux Foundation-hosted event gathers all Cloud Native Computing Foundation projects under one roof: Kubernetes, Prometheus, OpenTracing, Fluentd, Linkerd, gRPC, CoreDNS, containerd, rkt, and CNI. Here you’ll learn the latest from leading technologists in multiple open source cloud-native communities.

Reason to attend: Learn all things involved in cloud-native computing.


Worthy mentions

Oh my, did you think this was the loser category? Not at all. The “worthy mentions” label denotes either a specialty interest or interesting tracks within a broader conference that carry significant value for some CIOs but may not appeal to the general CIO population.

Gartner CIO Leadership Forum 

This conference is specifically designed to help CIOs develop and implement a vision for their organizations.

Reason to attend: Offers career development direction.


SXSW

This conference is all about sparking innovation by bringing together smart, creative people from seemingly unrelated professions and industries. Tracks of particular interest to CIOs include Tech Industry, Workplace, and Intelligent Future. For extra doses of inspiration, check out other tracks such as Entertainment. 

Reason to attend: There’s really nothing like SXSW for getting the creative juices flowing. This could be the inspiration you need to develop a new vision for IT and your organization.


CSO 50 Conference

This is a security conference that typically covers a wide range of enterprise security threats and risk mitigation strategies. 

Reason to attend: Provides a good overview of the current threat landscape.


Gartner Sourcing and Strategic Vendor Relationships Summit

This conference is designed to help buyers with sourcing, procurement, and vendor management. Take the IT Executive track for most value to CIOs. The summit covers best practices and new tactics in both traditional and new models in supporting and advancing digital business transformation.

Reason to attend: To get a better handle on costs, increasing ROI, and sourcing/vendor management. You might even be able to teach your CFO a thing or two after this.


IT Roadmap

This is an IDG Enterprise event that hits nine cities with separate, power-packed, one-day conferences. If you miss the Atlanta event, you can catch it in November in Fort Worth, Texas, or in December in Washington, D.C.

Topics include infrastructure across cloud and local resources, security, databases, data and analytics, Agile methods, and DevOps.

Reasons to attend: It’s a good overview of current technologies and a place to network with pros in or close to your geographical location.


API Strategy and Practice

This conference is jointly hosted by the Open API Initiative and The Linux Foundation. It is focused entirely on the API economy. Every challenge and every opportunity is explored. Whether you’re interested primarily in APIs to integrate massive stores of disparate data or to leverage everything the API economy has to offer, here is the place to find the info you need.

Reason to attend: This could be the inspiration you need to develop a new vision for IT and your organization—or at least you can finally bust all those data siloes. Hey, one can dream! 


TBM Conference

The TBM Council, dedicated to managing IT like a business, is a nonprofit organization with over 3,300 members, mostly CIOs. Other members include CTOs, CFOs, and leaders from other IT and finance roles. The conference focuses on new tools and techniques for CIOs to use within a technology business management (TBM) framework.

Reason to attend: You'll learn about useful tools and strategies to help turn IT into a profit center. 


Did we miss any great events for CIOs?

We tried to cover the best conferences and events for CIOs next year based on content quality and networking opportunities. If we missed a conference or event that you find useful for any reason, please share the info with us in the comments below.

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