Last week, I had the privilege to be conference chair for the Gartner Tech Growth and Innovation Conference. First, I want to thank everyone who participated. We exceeded our attendance goals and the interactions among attendees and analysts was outstanding.
Our intent for the conference was to offer technology and service providers an opportunity to step away from the immediate demands of their business and spend a few days focusing on the growth. We tried to provide a mix of insights, ideas, and fact based research to make plans to evolve business approaches both today and in the future.
Here are some of the highlights for me from some of the sessions I was able to attend:
- In our opening keynote, Daryl Plummer, a Gartner fellow and chief of research, advised providers to find ways to lead from the front, cautioning them that continuing to play what is effectively a support role (i.e. offering solutions that help people run their business only) is a low growth strategy. There is still good business there, but digital is driving innovation forward and many customers are creating their own technology solutions - particularly when it provides competitive advantage.
- John Lovelock, Gartner's chief forecaster, shared deep insights on spending in the technology sector. When looked at as a whole, it is not a bright picture, with overall growth at -0.5% (yes negative) forecasted for 2016. But digging deeper into those numbers show opportunities. It is many traditional markets that are driving those numbers down as buyers flock to digital alternatives. Looking for growth, get focused on “as-a-service” solutions and related business consulting services. In a traditional market, focus on efficient operations and invest in bringing digital alternatives to market.
- Our first guest keynote was Geoffrey Moore, talking about Zone to Win. His message was simple. If you are one of those companies that has been successful in the past, to break out, you have to have focus and relentless prioritisation - led by the CEO. Make one big breakthrough bet and over fund it relative to expected initial contribution (you can continue to incubate other ideas). You might even have to put short term earnings at risk - they are the second priority - to break free from the past.
- Les McKeown, our other guest keynote, definitely struck a chord with the audience as he relayed the leadership style mix that helps companies grow - and paralyses them over time. I saw countless people rushing to Les after the talk, saying “you just described what I am dealing with, help!”. His talk was delivered creatively with great humour (and his claim that with a little photoshop, I could be him and deliver the talk may have been half right - we do have a similar look).
- Finally, Leigh McMullen, a managing VP in our CIO research team, closed the event with a strong message that circled back to our start with Daryl. His message - it's all about technology, not the business. While seemingly contrarian, his comments make sense - technology is tightly intertwined in any successful business today. You must design your business with an awareness of technology capabilities, or you will fall behind. And, customers need help from the tech and service provider community to make it happen.
Personally, I can summarise my involvement as very rewarding:
- Introducing several of our keynote speakers and setup (or recap) the day's activities (including sharing the story of my colleague tricking me into eating a vegetable appetiser - when I hate vegetables. I won't share what happened next.)
- Conducting a session on an important topic for me – Trust Drives the Buying Process (an ongoing theme for our go-to-market research).
- A “oversold” workshop on positioning and storytelling was a lot of fun–and some good ideas to improve it in the future.
- An awesome panel on customer communities, advocacy marketing, and advisory boards. A few key facts: The community for Microstrategy has more traffic than any other Microstrategy Web property. Readytalk now regularly has too many references available to serve customers as a result of their advocacy marketing efforts. And Sitecore's move to add “as-a-service” options was accelerated by their customer advisory board. Thanks again to Chris Von Simson (Microstrategy), Bo Bandy (Readytalk) and Beth Torrie (Sitecore) for their great stories.
- A number of 1:1s with interesting people and companies
- And finally, an Ask-the-Analyst session where the audience and I explored the implications of Gartner's B2B Customer Life Cycle Model. Lots of great questions, ideas, and insights.
All in all it was a great week. We've got lots of ideas to continue to improve the value that the event delivers to attendees. But, for now, it's a wrap.
Article by Gartner research analyst, Hank Barnes