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Industry Insider Reflects on the IAITAM 2011 Annual Conference

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Every year around this time, asset management vendors like ourselves take to the blogs to share their opinions and takeaways from the IAITAM Annual Conference & Exhibition. This year, however, I was interested in hearing the insights of an insider at the organization that actually hosted the event. Specifically, I wondered how the conference has evolved over time in terms of attendee profiles, vendor participation, and topics of interest.

I reached out to Jenny Shuchert, Content & Development Director of the International Association of IT Asset Managers (IAITAM), and she was kind enough to share her observations about this year’s conference, as well as those of years past. Enjoy!

Q: In what ways was the 2011 ACE different from 2010 in terms of the audience and/or content delivered to attendees?

A: ACE 2011 had the largest breadth of topics and speakers that we have had to date, and I was happy to hear people say that the hard part was choosing which session to attend. What sets ACE 2011 apart from other conferences—and to some extent from past ACE conferences—are the ongoing relationships that IAITAM has with practitioners and providers alike.

First, ITAM professionals are more knowledgeable and have a common vocabulary. They have a better understanding of how their experiences are similar to their peers and how valuable sharing those experiences can be. This sharing isn’t about group therapy but is instead a productive learning environment, with intelligent presentations leading to equally astute questions and responses from the audience. Speakers, as well as the audience, came away from presentations enriched. However, just so you don’t think we’ve lost our camaraderie, ITAM professionals spent lots of time talking to each other, including some emotional sharing such as rolling their eyes about battling executives who still don’t see the value in ITAM!

The second change I saw was the approach providers took to their presentations. I believe many have reassessed their audiences and really stepped up to delve into topics thoughtfully in their areas of expertise. I did not see any thinly disguised sales pitches which are standard at other conferences. These were thoughtful and filled with facts and advice at all levels (from basic to advanced levels). Not all speakers were in agreement, which actively engaged the audience. Attendees are better prepared to interpret dissenting ideas and find providers whose ideas seem to more closely match to their organization’s needs. I am a big proponent of professionals acquiring knowledge by visiting as many provider exhibits as possible and getting to know the philosophies and the offerings, whether they have an immediate project or not. Obviously, the providers are incorporating these elements into their presentations as well as their exhibit conversations.

Q: Were there certain themes and/or topics that attendees seemed particularly drawn to, and what conclusions might we draw?

A: We don’t have any numbers as yet, but personal observations included software licensing, specifically with regards to virtualization and changing licensing models. Also popular were process presentations with implementation stories and discussion of options such as destruction vs. data wiping, mobile tech management, and getting the most out of tools.

Q: Which were your favorite session(s), and why?

A: After a varied career in IT, I love this field and wish I could attend everything. I worked with the speakers prior to the conference on ITAK articles that each of them wrote, which gave me the opportunity to get to know them better. That made selecting sessions even harder.

However, the one presentation that was not specific to our field was the keynote—and it was great. Krish Dhanam, a well-known motivational speaker, gave a funny and interesting talk on Creating a Winning Momentum. I related to many of his remarks and was inspired by him.

Q: Was there anything in particular that surprised you about the conference or its attendees this year?

A: I would say that it was the number of attendees who have IT Asset Management positions, with appropriate titles and responsibilities. The profession has grown so much, and even though I like to think I helped with that growth, it was still a surprise to have to search through the crowd for a familiar face.

Also, I was pleased and surprised about the number of people thrilled to hear about the new master’s degree program that was announced. IAITAM is working with Taft University on the program, and the response was fantastic. Until this point, there has been little academic support specifically for ITAM, although technology, finance and business degrees all are a good foundation. Some of the best professionals I have seen in action are the ones that had long years with their organizations and lots of roles within technology as their backgrounds. This new educational opportunity is another avenue to gain an edge. We’ve already proved the effectiveness of ITAM education with our own courses and certifications and now they have a path onwards. Go Team!

Q: What was your single greatest takeaway?

A: I know that you didn’t mean the question literally, but there was this great pen/flashlight combo that I just had to have. A new deck of cards made it into my luggage as well.