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Sun 12 Jul 2009 04:00 AM

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Secret CIO

Secret CIO goes on tour.

Secret CIO

Seeing as we're almost into our quiet period (ie, the time of year when everyone goes on holiday) it's time for me to do some blue-sky thinking about where our enterprise needs to go next.

In the past, this would involve the use of a number of banned substances in concert with highly flammable ‘Black Cat' fireworks, but I'm much older and wiser now. Also, facial recognition software has come a long way and I can't quite pull off a disguises for airport camera.

As such, I've decided to try something different. First on the menu was checking out the latest IT trends. I booked myself into a conference to enrich myself and (in theory) network with my peers about sharing our experiences.

Right off the bat, things didn't go as expected. For a start, when I rocked up at the conference, the meet-n-greeters were exceedingly surprised to see an actual CIO attend. Seems that a number of my brethren agree to events and evenpay deposits. But when the big day turns up, they suddenly decide they've got "a bit of a headache" and round up the nearest deputy to attend instead.

Naturally, as this person is not a CIO, this means that my peers consisted of a motley assortment of project managers, support staff and even the occasional "applications manager" - whatever that is. So while I'm bored out of my mind watching presentation after presentation enthusing about how these products are going to save your firm's future, these guys are sitting ram-rod straight, eyes intently focused, trying to convey the impression of actually being interested in this nonsense.

Something about these events always seems to go wrong and usually, it's time management. The first couple of keynotes proceed like clockwork, but as soon as the vendor ones start, it's all downhill.

One of two eventualities inevitably occurs. Either people get massively caught up in the preamble and only get to the point in the last two minutes, or the presentation is so soporific and laden with point-n-slide action that nobody notices the start of the Q+A. Here's some free advice: your presentation is terminally boring when listeners stretch out afterwards.

In reality, most people seem to be here for the (admittedly, excellent) buffet. Afterwards, you can expect thinner numbers at the seminars - and heaven help you if the event is staged at a resort, because it's almost guaranteed that ‘busy' CIOs will make a beeline for the pool.

What about the content, you ask? Surely that's what you're here for, not a meta discussion of the merits and failures of the post-millennial conference world. Unfortunately, the event was a total wash. Very little actual insight was there to be had - just the same old marketing material.

The real meat from these events is in theory found in one-to-one meetings with vendor bosses or networking sessions. Unfortunately, accepted wisdom seems to be on holiday. At this vendor meet, the EMEA boss spent 95% of his time asking me how the market was, what I was doing about the crisis, and how he could better support me in "my time of need". Here's a hint: drop your prices. Strangely, that always seems to work.

Networking didn't go a whole lot better. People here will never admit that they're in any kind of immediate difficulty. If there is a story to tell, it's always happened to "somebody else".

So we end up talking in endless circles about what could quite possibly be happening to someone else's brother's father's company which may have at one point in time done some business in a region much like the Middle East which has the potential to in all likelihood, undergo turmoil in a sector that is tangentially - but crucially, not completely - suffering from a form of financial distress linked to a rumoured lack of cash-based liquidity.

I can safely say that I left the event with less knowledge about the region than when I arrived.

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