Gartner Symposium 2019: View from the airport

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About 1 100 technology professionals attended this year’s Gartner Symposium at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
About 1 100 technology professionals attended this year’s Gartner Symposium at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

Now that the dust is settling after the annual Gartner Symposium in Cape Town, and all the analysts fly away to other conferences, what did we learn?

First, the global economic slowdown is sending jitters through markets, with reduced growth and earnings and trade volumes. Meanwhile, CEOs polled by the company said that technology enablement and operations changes were the top two ways to improve productivity and efficiency.

Remarkable for a country skirting a depression, Gartner forecasts that local IT spending will grow by 3.9% this year to R303.46 billion. This is a 3.9% increase on 2018, which means it’s the fourth-fastest market worldwide.

About 1 100 technology professionals attended this year’s conference at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, down from last year’s 1 200. This is the first conference on Gartner’s global line-up, and is held before the flagship event in Orlando, which draws over 10 000 people.

Digital business

Boards and CEOs, it said, have seemingly only woken to the threats and opportunities offered by digital business. Boards now have expectations around digital disruption, due to the entrance in their markets of technology giants, such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon and Facebook, to name just four.

Between them, these companies own most of humanity’s data and are making their presence felt in many regions. It’s expected that businesses in all markets, sooner or later, are going to have to start paying attention to these “digital giants”.

Blockchain, too, made a big return in Cape Town, which can be seen as a measure of the market interest in the technology. It also published a book: The Business Value of Blockchain, in an attempt to guide readers how to create value.

In financial services, it said the lack of interoperability standards will prevent wide-scale adoption for at least the three years, and that the market is also fragmented into a number of competing solutions.

IT + business

The relationship between business and IT was also discussed, with new research showing that business units are now, in fact, hiring more technology people than the IT department. These business units are typically building a product to be used externally, whereas if it was an internal facing product would use people from within the IT department.

It also noted that non-IT executives were working on becoming more tech-savvy, and CIOs are continuing their education in business. Still, it’s thought that CIOs need to now deliver ROI on prior digital initiatives.

Increasingly, it was important for a business model to derive value from both traditional business and technology, and boards, with an average age of over 60, are looking to CIOs to provide guidance on achieving this balance.

Gartner also restated its long-held view that IT is a group executive decision. If the IT function was underfunded, or seen as a bottom line expense, this would be a problem for boards which consider digital disruption to be a priority.

The firm repeated the saying that sometimes democracies get the government it deserves, and so, too, enterprises get the IT they deserve.

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