Gartner IT Symposium – Day 1 Zeroes in on Digital Transformation

 In Digital Experience

The headline message from this year’s Gartner IT Symposium is stark: Taking your business digital has never been more critical to the future of your – and any – organization. It matters across IT, of course, but thanks to the pandemic, it matters even more to cybersecurity leaders now than it ever has before. This event long been a marquee annual event where the global research firm’s analysts share their vision and outlook with stakeholders – and an important opportunity for technology leaders to more tightly connect the firm’s research with their strategic goals.

Like so many other events, this year’s is being delivered virtually due to the pandemic. And while the depth and breadth of content is far too extensive for any one person to take it all in, I’d like to provide a very specific participant’s-eye view, with a particular focus on cybersecurity.

Keynote takeaways

The opening keynote – Where Next: Technology Leadership in a World Disrupted – featured speakers from Germany (Mbula Schoen), Canada (Hung LeHong) and the US (Daryl Plummer).

The key word for the session was “where”. On one hand, the IT industry has moved towards making ‘where’ irrelevant, specifically by enabling distributed workforces, supported by hybrid platforms that integrate resources located in multiple physical facilities, and on thousands of mobile devices. On the other hand, a later presentation on healthcare pointed out that the pandemic has made “where” a much more critical question: where are the nurses? The PPE? The ICU beds? The vaccines?

Moving beyond these issues, the analysts took the position that there has been an unprecedented shift in work, and that we’ve never had this much opportunity for tech-enabled change. Delegates were urged not to get caught up in tactical thinking, and to remember that onsite-to-remote isn’t the point.

Instead, IT leaders are urged to reconsider their biases. For example we shouldn’t dismiss input from business technologists (employees outside IT who create technology or analytics capabilities) as so-called Shadow IT, but value their input and understanding of business need. We should also be assessing new opportunities, such as generative AI, which was highlighted as a top technology trend for 2022.

My key takeaways from the session included:

  • Global IT spending will recover strongly in 2021.
  • There is both an opportunity and a need to benefit from freedom from historical insight (conventional wisdom) and bias.
  • There is a requirement to address individual privacy – multiple speakers noted the potential for synthetic data to supplant privacy-encroaching observational data as the basis of decision support/AI.

Security & Risk Management

My next stop was the Top Trends in Security and Risk Management presentation  with Peter Firstbrook. Peter covered eight trends, including issues shaping IT usage behaviors (remote work) or management priorities (boards of directors focused on cybersecurity). He also focused on specific technologies that address cyber and risk management objectives, as well as the vendor management priorities associated with those products.

My Cybersecurity Center of Excellence colleague at Stratascale’s Innovation Labs, Joseph Karpenko, starts any deep dive into security technology with a risk analysis (“what are you trying to protect, and why?”). The top trends session did an excellent job of illuminating both the scope of the challenge and the myriad of approaches that large organizations can (and must) deploy to keep pace with evolving requirements.


My third session of the day was The Future of Cloud, with Milind Govekar. I admittedly came into this session with a bit of a bias, as my first book, The Death of Core Competency: A management guide to cloud computing, treated cloud as a management issue rather than an alternative compute platform.

While Milind explored a number of technical issues – such as how composable cloud-based systems will impact three of the six Rs of cloud migration – he takes a similar approach. He expanded on it with thought-provoking observations as to how cloud enables business technologists, delivering a direct link between application assembly – primarily via low/no code technologies – and the people that actually use them.


The Healthcare: Where Next – Strategic Opportunities and Implications presentation explored the composable concept that had been a theme throughout the event. While the concept of a composable business was launched as part of last year’s keynote, this presentation developed it further and positioned it within a new context. Known as composable thinking, this approach is made up of software, organizational, and ecosystem modularity. I was struck by two compelling ideas – synthetic data as an exchange medium for data sharing to improve healthcare outcomes without exposing private patient data, and a prism model used to assess AI execution.

Cybersecurity from a business perspective

For the final session of the day, I opted for Treat Cybersecurity as a Business Decision with Paul Proctor, and I was delighted that I did. Paul provided deep, well-considered guidance on changing internal cybersecurity dialogues. From investing in tools to investing in outcomes, from threats to protection, from budget to (real) cost, and ultimately, from security to business imperatives.

Underlying the presentation was Paul’s focus on outcome-driven metrics (ODM) as a means of bridging the gap between cybersecurity business decisions and measurable and defensible corporate appetite for risk. In an industry where metrics are often mentioned but rarely developed and applied, a structured list of 100+ business metrics that align business and technology perspectives is a tremendous contribution to the sophistication of IT and business operations.

While the first day of the event gave everyone who attended much to think about, watch this space for more perspectives as the symposium continues through the week. In the meantime, whether you attended or not, feel free to book a conversation with any of the members of our Security Center of Excellence to help you with some of the challenges and opportunities identified in these sessions.