What I learned from attending Gartner Symposium

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I almost didn't attend Gartner Symposium this year. Coming off the heels of Hurricane Irma, my West Coast mind perceived Florida as a moor that needed TLC and FEMA support before tourists entered its borders. I was wrong. Driving from the Orlando International Airport to "The Happiest Place on Earth", I realized that even 100-plus mile-per-hour winds and rain couldn't keep people from learning what new trends will transform tech forever.

Gartner Symposium unites a global community of IT leaders with the tools and strategies to help them lead the next generation of IT and achieve business outcomes. More than 7,500 attendees gathered for the insights needed to ensure that IT initiatives are key contributors to and drivers of enterprises' success.

While I'm not an IT guy, I did find tremendous value in the extensive breakout sessions. There were a couple of recurring themes I'd like to share.


If there was one term that was used more than any other, it was likely artificial intelligence, or AI. AI, also known as machine learning, is the hot topic in the industry. And for good reason, as making our current technology smarter so that we can, ultimately, deliver on an end goal, is the nirvana of tech. Whether your roots are planted deep as a networking hardware vendor, or you're a trendy app company, the term AI is likely a topic of discussion around the mahogany boardroom table.

Symposium taught me that AI can be broken down into nearly 40 different technologies ranging from virtual reality to autonomous vehicles. And despite all the hype, we are really in its infancy. While the term AI was born 60 years ago in a workshop at Dartmouth University, we really hadn't been able to start to realize its potential until computers became pervasive in the late 90s, and AI didn't gain steam until after 2008 when mobile devices entered the pockets of the general population.

Hype isn't always a bad thing. It can spur innovation and drive early adoption which is often needed to get new technologies off the ground. The Gartner Hype Cycle for AI tracks the maturity of different technologies to help senior IT leaders understand the scope, state, value and risk of technologies in the AI marketplace.

Discussions at Symposium made it clear that technology won't render all job functions obsolete, instead AI will augment human intelligence. Gartner analysts believe that AI does not need to be created in a human form or present itself as a human to generate business value. Ultimately, AI will make us mere mortals superheroes by performing routine tasks – like identifying patterns and predicting outcomes – at lightning speeds.

May I have another, please?

I'm not talking about jalapeno poppers or buffalo wings either. I'm talking about those glowing squares with rounded edges on your smartphone screen. Thanks to global powerhouses like Apple and Google creating the app economy, software is now delivered in pocket-sized packages.

At Symposium, I learned that apps aren't just synonymous with Instagram or Skype. App technology is influencing how we interact with what we thought were humans. There was a great deal of discussion around chatbots, computer programs that conduct a conversation or send instant messages designed to convincingly simulate how a human would behave as a conversational partner, thereby passing the Turing test.

The benefits of chatbots, and the blueprints available to engineer them can apply to businesses. Contributing to the onset of the post-app era is the availability of open-source bot frameworks, which will lead to an explosion of readily available chatbots to build bots that are both customer- and employee-facing. These will ultimately power the creation and use of microapps to enable fast responses to actionable information, while minimizing disruption to existing processes.

While AI may not take the form of a human in the early years of machine learning, the next time you're chatting away with a helpful customer service rep on your favorite retail site at 2:00 AM, remember, it just may be a chatbot.

Pavel Radda is a senior director for communications and market intelligence strategy and execution at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.