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CIO Summit Encourages Peer-to-Peer IT Discussions

Join this year's discussion in Dallas.

Photograph of CIO Summit attendees eating lunch.

Most tech conferences, symposia and workshops are created with developers in mind—and good for that. Developers need to be able to keep up with the latest trends and technologies to ensure business operations are focused on the now and looking toward the future.

Sometimes overlooked, however, are IT leaders, whether CIOs, IT directors, or even CFOs and CEOs. Although they may not be involved with the day-to-day of the IT department, they’re ultimately responsible for making sure IT efficiently supports strategic operational decisions.

A Place to Talk Strategy

That’s in large part why Alan Seiden, founder and CEO of Seiden Group, decided to launch the CIO Summit. As he explains, “I started the CIO Summit in April 2017 because I felt a lot of us who speak at conferences often reach developers, but they aren’t always in a position to make decisions about platform and strategy. The CIOs, IT directors and other leaders involved with IT also need information about what’s new on IBM i to look at the bigger-picture IT support structure.”

Scheduled for March 23-24 in Dallas, the CIO Summit focuses on helping IT leaders improve the business value of their IBM i investment. It coincides with the RPG & DB2 Summit, both in time frame and location. This allows CIO Summit “guests,” as Seiden calls attendees, to—if desired—attend a day of the RPG & DB2 Summit to gain more technical education about IBM i and the technologies that surround it. Modernization specialists Susan Gartner, Jon Paris and Paul Tuohy, of System i Developer, will answer questions from the CIOs at a roundtable session.

For some, though, the first day of the CIO Summit is a big enough draw, allowing CIOs and other IT leaders to learn from each other as they engage in facilitated discussions about the opportunities and challenges they face. Some past guests have even returned to share how they have implemented a strategy or leveraged ideas they gathered at previous CIO Summits.

Expert Speakers; Tailored Subjects

Additionally, Seiden invites IBM i experts to speak with the group. For example, Scott Forstie, senior technical staff member for IBM Db2* for i, shared insight into IBM’s database directions and the latest enhancements to Db2 for i at a recent CIO Summit. 

The topics are often based on pre-arrival guest surveys, and Seiden hosts a structured discussion about those themes based on ideas brought up during past events and from past guests. Common discussion points include the IBM i skills gap, cloud computing and open source.

Brent Chapman, vice president of finance, IT and administration, Birchwood Laboratories—and guest at the October 2019 event—cites the IBM i skills shortage as one of the topics that was of particular interest to him. “My largest area of concern is to make sure there are going to be people available to operate the IBM i platform. I see our software working fine for our business but feel the area of risk is available human talent. Many who have the skill set are retired or will be soon, based on my observations,” he says.

“I make sure everyone has a chance to speak and ask any questions or share any information they would like to. I want everyone to go home with answers to their questions.”
—Alan Seiden, founder and CEO, Seiden Group

Meaningful Dialogues

Seiden notes that guests such as Chapman are hearing of these issues and potential solutions from their peers and not from IBM or other vendor sources. This allows guests to create meaningful dialogues to address whatever situations they may be facing. 

Because of this, Seiden says, “Attendees know they aren’t alone and that there are solutions available to them. I find everyone goes back to their office feeling very encouraged, energized, and with a new set of friends with whom they can talk and share information in the future.”

 Indeed, another October guest, Dominick Pagnotta, CIO of Rochester Drug Cooperative, had concerns similar to Chapman’s, including managing the perception of the IBM i as a legacy system and how others are dealing with that perception. Other common concerns included staff retention; recruitment; training and repurposing of senior RPG programmers; and techniques for legacy business logic encapsulation for reuse and exposure to other systems via web APIs.

 “Talks weren’t based on PowerPoint presentations. The open discussion of a facilitated round table was very engaging and gave me the opportunity to meet other senior IT leaders to discuss our issues, challenges and success stories related to managing technology and staff,” Pagnotta says.

Plentiful Takeaways

Because Seiden keeps the summit small—typically between 12 to 15 people—guests have plenty of time to talk with and get to know one another. This allows them to not only discuss what’s on their minds with their peers, but also establish communities of sorts, with attendees sharing contact information and staying in touch with each other.

“It’s the times when the guests talk among themselves and share, that’s the part I love to see,” Seiden says. “I really enjoy watching them sharing, speaking and becoming friends, sharing information, exchanging business cards during the breaks. This is helped by the loose structure we encourage. I make sure everyone has a chance to speak and ask any questions or share any information they would like to. I want everyone to go home with answers to their questions.”

Chapman, for example, took “17 things” home with him, some of which he plans on implementing in his IT environment. Two of these take-homes include learning about IBM Db2 Mirror for i and how it can enhance his organization’s systems with continuous availability; and leaning toward modernization to attract younger talent and teach them RPG once they’re in house.

Pagnotta had similarly valuable takeaways, such as “positive confirmation in the direction I’m taking my organization and that others are in very similar situations,” he explains. For IT execs who may not be in the developers’ room anymore, this type of feedback can be invaluable.

“I find that developers have communities—whether conferences or meet-up groups—but the executives lack that,” Seiden says. “So giving them a chance to feel understood and offering them much needed support is very important to us. We want them to know we and their peers have their backs.” 

Interested in Attending?

The CIO Summit itself is free. (Seiden even throws in a lunch on his dime.) All guests have to pay for are transportation and lodging. Because space is limited, potential guests should quickly request an invitation—or nominate another IT leader—by contacting Cheryl at RSVP@seidengroup.com or visiting seidengroup.com/ibmi-cio-summit.

The dates for the upcoming Dallas CIO Summit are March 23-24, 2020.

Note also that, according to the Seiden Group website, “The CIO Summit is a community-building event for IT directors, CIOs, and CTOs from non-technology-vendor companies. As a result, applications for professionals who do not meet these criteria—including those from development tool and services vendors—will not qualify for attendance.”

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