Don’t worry if you’ve been missing the conference circuit. In 2021, conferences are alive and well, with some happening live and some happening virtually. If you’re a chief information officer (CIO) in particular, you have plenty of events to choose from.
Conferences, even ones with a technology focus, aren’t one-size-fits-all. We created this list with CIOs in mind, so that you can find the conferences that most benefit your work.
These events are the best places to learn about new technologies, new applications of new technologies, and new companies applying technologies in new ways. As a CIO, you have to stay abreast of the latest trends to keep up and excel. And conferences are a great way to do that.
But your time is scarce. So, we put together this list to help you prioritize and narrow down which conferences you’ll attend this year. The list covers the top conferences for CIOs around the world, both in-person and virtual.
In this first section, we’ve gathered 18 events that have dates you’ll want to make sure you get in your calendar. To help you plan out your year, we’ve put them in the order they’ll occur—from soonest to latest.
(Microsoft Ignite 2018 - Source)
When: March 2–4
What:Microsoft Ignite is the annual Microsoft conference for technologists—both leaders and practitioners. The goal is to help you extend your expertise. This year’s conference features CEO Satya Nadella and Corporate Vice President of Microsoft AI and Innovation Marketing Mitra Azizirad.
(IDC Directions 2019 - Source)
When: March 9 and March 16
What: The focus of this year’s conference, inspired by the challenges of 2021, is digital resilience. The goal is to help conference attendees develop infrastructure that can enable faster digital transformation. The conference offers 25 different tracks and features speakers such as President of IDC Worldwide Crawford Del Prete and global technology ethnographer Dr. Tricia Wang. It’s also worth noting that it is an invitation-only event (you apply for the invite), but once invited, this year’s virtual event “is being offered complimentary to all registrants.”
(600minutes Executive IT 2020 - Source)
When: March 10–11
What: 600Minutes, run by Management Events, is focused squarely on the changing role of the CIO. CIOs were once primarily in charge of the IT department, but in recent years, that zone of responsibility has grown to include the entire culture of innovation at your company. When people want to adapt nimbly, grow—they increasingly turn to you. Speakers include Ericsson CIO Mats Hultin and IBM Sweden CEO Vahid Zohali.
(EmTech Digital 2019 - Source)
When: March 23–25
What: Emtech Digital is MIT Technology Review’s annual event on artificial intelligence (AI). The conference describes AI as “the most world-changing innovation of our time,” but positions the technology as an innovation few companies have learned to harness. This year’s event, called The Age of Implementation, is all about—you guessed it—implementation. The goal of this year’s conference is to introduce you to experts in the field who are turning theory into practice and technology into results. Some of the speakers this year are Senior Research Scientist of Ethical AI at Google Madeleine Clare Elish and Senior Vice President and Director at IBM Research Darío Gil.
(MIT Sloan CIO Symposium 2019 - Source)
When: April 5 to May 28
What: The 2021 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium is one of the longest conferences (eight weeks!) on this list. The first week will introduce you to the program, the following six weeks will feature the conversations and panel discussions you’d expect from a conference, and the final week will cap the experience with what they call a “town hall-style meeting” for all participants. The theme for this year is “The Big Reset: Digital Enterprises Shift into High Gear,” and panels revolve around topics like “Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines” and “Re-imagining Leadership in the Next Normal…Are CIOs prepared?”
(SAPPHIRE NOW 2019 - Source)
When: June 2021
What: SAPPHIRE NOW, the annual SAP conference, is now online. Though SAP hasn’t announced much about SAPPHIRE NOW 2021, 2020 speakers included SAP CEO Christian Klein and SAP Chief Technology officer (CTO) Juergen Mueller, while 2019 featured a range of learnings that we’re still thinking about two years later, such as:
Employee and customer experience are equally important.
Robotic process automation (RPA) is maturing and awareness is increasing.
End-to-end process automations are key.
If previous years are any indication, SAP SAPPHIRE NOW is sure to be exciting.
(IBM Think 2019 - Source)
When: May 11-12
What: IBM Think is the annual IBM conference covering world-changing technologies from IT infrastructure to big data. This year’s focus is on hybrid cloud and AI. IBM promises that this conference will not only deliver news on big-name technologies, but also case studies that will show you how to implement said technologies. The conference will include a personalized curriculum, an academy with hands-on training, and forums filled with peers and experts. There are separate agenda times for Americas, APAC, and EMEA regions.
(Digital Enterprise Show 2019 - Source)
When: May 18-20
Where: Madrid, Spain
What: The Digital Enterprise Show bills itself as the bridge across the gap between technology and business. The focus of the conference is the focus of many CIOs: digital transformation. The conference includes an expo with more than 300 tech companies and a congress with 500 experts in digital business transformation. Technologies under discussion include AI, internet of things (IoT), augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR), 5G, and more.
(SaaStr 2020 - Source)
When: May 26–27
What: SaaStr Enterprise features hundreds of CIOs and thousands of CEOs. The focus is all about how you can scale in the enterprise today. SaaStr Enterprise features “no fluff” tactical sessions, roundtables, and small-group meetings, as well as thousands of online 1:1s. CIOs will be able to participate in valuable networking that connects people from across the C-suite. Last year, speakers included PagerDuty CEO Jennifer Tejada and Box CEO Aaron Levie.
(Dublin Tech Summit 2020 - Source)
When: June 17
What: Dublin Tech Summit promises to gather some of the most influential technology and business leaders of the world in one place. If you’re interested in scaling your company, future-proofing your business, and encouraging more diversity in the technology industry, then this is the conference for you. Previous years’ speakers included Zoom Global CIO Harry D. Moseley and Huawei chief strategy officer (CSO) Bryan Che.
(CIO 100 Virtual Symposium & Awards 2020 - Source)
When: August 17–19
What: IDG, the brand behind organizations like Computerworld, Infoworld, and Network World, is putting on a conference for CIOs this summer. IDG promises that you’ll be able to "Learn how senior-level executives are establishing business stability, creating operational efficiencies, innovating for business renewal, and more." This year’s speakers include Apptio Field CTO Phil Alfano and Jacobs Chief Digital and Information Officer Madhuri Andrews.
(AI & Big Data Expo 2019 - Source)
When: September 6–7
Where: London, United Kingdom
What: The AI & Big Data Expo exhibits cutting-edge technologies and related business strategies coming from the AI and big data industries. The conference will include 125 exhibitors and 100 speakers covering topics like business intelligence, deep learning, machine learning, AI algorithms, chatbots, and more. Speakers include executives from Unilever, Google Cloud, Citi Group, and GSK. Note that will also be a fully online version of this event running from March 17-18.
(UiPath FORWARD III - Source)
When: October 5-6
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada
What: Our annual conference has become the place to learn about robotic process automation (RPA), AI, and automation at large. UiPath Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Bobby Patrick teased FORWARD IV during his Reboot Work Festival keynote, which you can access online. Attendees will get to attend talks from visionary technology leaders, as well as get a sneak peek at new UiPath features and products. As in previous years, FORWARD IV promises a balance between revealing the future of work and showing attendees how to implement and scale technologies today. While we build the 2021 agenda, check out the key takeaways from FORWARD III.
(VMworld 2020 - Source)
When: October 5-7
What: VMworld is VMware’s annual conference covering new VMware products and a host of innovations and other technologies. Though details for the October conference are scarce as of now, past conferences have included speakers like VMware CTO Greg Lavender and Director of IT Engineering at the MD Anderson Cancer Center Emil Patel. Interest is especially high this year because former CEO Pat Gelsinger, the usual headliner, left VMware for Intel. No matter what, the direction VMware announces this year will be something to watch.
(IT Arena 2019 - Source)
When: October 8-10
Where: Lviv, Ukraine
What: IT arena is a conference especially suited for CIOs looking for networking opportunities. The event offers both structured and informal networking with changemakers from around the world.
IT Arena offers four tracks:
Startup, for tech entrepreneurs and emerging companies
Business for founders and CEOs
Product for product managers and IT analysts
Technology for CIOs and CTOs.
Last year’s speakers included Director of Research and Analytics for Formula 1 Matt Roberts, Director of UX at Google Dr. Elizabeth Churchill, and Senior Data Scientist at Tesla Parsa Hosseini.
(Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo 2020 - Source)
When: October 18–21
Where: Orlando, Florida
What: Billed as “The World’s Most Important Gathering of CIOs and IT Executives™,” Gartner’s annual conference for CIOs and IT leaders promises to be an interesting, useful event. Gartner, a leading analysis and research firm, famous for the Magic Quadrant, writes that "last year’s tracks built upon our latest research that addressed the challenges most critical to CIOs and IT executives.” Though Gartner hasn’t announced the 2021 lineup, previous years’ speakers included leadership expert Simon Sinek, economist and co-founder of H Robotics Dr. Pippa Malmgren, and professor of neuroscience Beau Lotto.
(AWS Re:Invent 2018 - Source)
When: November 29 - December 3
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada
What: Though AWS has yet to announce much in the way of details, AWS Re:Invent is always an event worth attending. AWS has long been the leader in cloud computing. In Q3 of 2020, AWS retained 32% of global cloud infrastructure spend–13% more than runner up Microsoft Azure at 19%. Where AWS goes, the rest of the cloud market tends to follow. Last year included keynotes from Andy Jassy (who’s now CEO of Amazon proper), VP of Solutions Architecture and Training & Certification Rudy Valdez, and AWS vice president of Worldwide Public Sector Partners and Programs Sandy Carter.
Not all conference organizers have announced their events yet, especially ones that typically happen in the fall and winter. These globally recognized conferences are worth keeping your eye on so you'll know if and when they do confirm a 2021 conference date.
(Google Cloud Next 2018 - Source)
What: Google Cloud Next, which Google held in July last year, is a conference to watch out for. Last year, Google provided tons of demonstrations, keynotes, bootcamps, and breakout sessions for CIOs, CEOs, and developers of all stripes. Google Cloud Next is a great place to learn how CIOs are using Google Cloud specifically, and cloud technology more broadly. 2020 speakers included Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian, VP of Product Management at Google Cloud Jennifer Lin, and VP of Engineering for Cloud Trust Google Cloud Suzanne Frey.
(Sapphire Ventures' CIO Summit 2018 - Source)
What: The Sapphire Ventures’ CIO Summit is another top destination for CIOs. 2020’s conference, held in September, focused on the digital transformation the year induced. Panels covered subjects like building IT resilience and elasticity—showcasing panelists like Global CTO of Aegon Mark Bloom and CIO of Citrix Systems Meerah Rajevel. Another focus was the evolving workplace—showcasing panelists like Auth0 CEO Eugenio Pace and Group Info Security Leader Yonesy Nunez. CIOs who attend will get a forum for “exchanging best practices and swapping stories from the trenches.”
(Amplitude Amplify 2019 - Source)
What: Amplitude, the company behind Amplify, bills the event as “the largest gathering of product and growth leaders in the world.” According to Amplitude, “Amplify attracts the truly passionate and you’ll be hard-pressed to find another event with as many people who care deeply about building and growing digital products.” If you’re leading the production of innovative digital products, Amplify is a worthy entrant on your list. In October 2020, the event included Chief Digital Officer of Cloud and Cognitive Applications at IBM Nilanjan Adhya, Director of Data Science at Shopify Phillip Rossi, and Director of Data Science at Patreon Maura Church.
Don’t miss these CIO conferences in 2021
There are plenty of opportunities for networking, knowledge gain, and career advancement in 2021. Plan out your conference attendance now so you don’t miss any of these great events.
If you can’t wait for these CIO conferences to sharpen your skills, check out our white paper, RPA and the Fulfillment of the CIO’s Mandate.