The summit experience

The IDC CIO summit provided an effective networking platform but it could have done with a well-defined agenda.

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By  Sathya Ashok Published  March 19, 2008

The recent Middle East CIO summit conducted by IDC in Dubai brought together some of the well-established and well-reputed IT managers from across the region. The analyst firm managed to achieve a mix of IT managers from across the region that would be the envy of most regional event organisers. In a region which, most agree, witnesses too many IT events and get-togethers, that is quite a feat.

In fact, IDC seemed to have got everything right - except the agenda. Over the one and a half day event there were around fifteen IDC presentations, minor speeches or summing-up sessions, around twelve vendor-related presentations and only around seven IT managers addressing the audience. Two among them were technology heads in vendor companies.

The experience and status of each of the CIOs present at the event demanded a set of presentations and panel discussions that would bring forth the burning IT issues of the region, place them in a global context as necessary, and address them in a practical and serious manner.

What the audience mostly got to hear, however, was a rehash of subjects and trends that have been discussed at all events - in the Middle East and globally - over the last two years. Many felt that the content of the conference hardly provided anything new and a lot of it sounded like vendor pitches for products and solutions.

Some visiting CIOs felt that they need not have left their places of work and spent two days away from important projects and demanding timelines for the agenda that the summit delivered.

A good portion of the CIOs who left the conference to hang out in the lobby of the hotel instead, were disappointed with what the summit had turned up so far. I spoke with a CIO, scheduled to be a panellist in the afternoon of the first day, who said he might have to leave because of the fact that the event was running almost an hour late. He also said that the summit was trying to cover too many subjects and in the region, where everybody is already tired of events, that might not go over very well with the audience.

Don't get me wrong - I am not trying to deride the CIO summit here. I do believe that IDC's CIO summit can set new precedents for the market in bringing regional CIOs together more often to share experiences and best practices. The summit did turn out to be a huge networking success as was evidenced by the different CIOs meeting and swapping stories.

But I also believe strongly that the CIOs at the summit, who represented enterprises across the Middle East, deserved a lot more than what the event provided them with. The region might still remain a relatively small market for most vendors, but the average CIO in the region has a very clear idea of his own importance, of where his enterprise is going and what he needs out of vendors, products and solutions, services - and events. And if he does not get it the first time over, he might not be coming back a second time.

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