CeBIT Ready to Cut IT’s Gordian Knot

UPDATED: CeBIT America rolls into New York City this week, with an army of tech experts geared up to help decision-makers untie or just cut any Gordian knots of decision-making for the enterprise.

Featuring a range of tracks, including the Future of Open Source, everything you ever wanted to know about Windows 2003 and Beyond, Securing the Enterprise, Computing Architectures and Leveraging the Services Economy, the three-day conference is geared for the enterprise customer and seller. Also in attendance — those who are constantly changing the technology world through innovation.

The show is the North American equivalent of the giant CeBIT trade show that draws hundreds of thousands to Hanover, Germany each year. Bill Cell of CeBIT America said the focus and goals are the same with the New York show as with other global versions: It brings together buyers and sellers of Information and Communications Technologies to share industry perspectives, network, and conduct business.

“It’s to provide what a senior level manager is looking for,” Cell said. Plus, the conference is about providing a more rounded view of the industry for enterprise IT execs that toil in one sector such as wireless but may need to get up to date about another sector, such as open source development, for critical buying decisions.

Organizers said between 10,000 and 12,000 attendees have pre-registered for the event. Mark Dineen, managing director of the conference, said the goal is to deliver the highest possible value to buyers and marketers of enterprise technology.

Although Tom Siebel, the former CEO of the Siebel, was slated to deliver the keynote Tuesday, as of Monday, CeBIT-America’s Website said David Schmaier, executive vice president of Siebel, would deliver the keynote address. In early May, Siebel stepped down from his role as chief executive. The company has come under criticism recently for being slow to adapt to the trend of offering software in an on-demand capacity. Siebel is still chairman, but his departure as CEO cleared the way for a former IBM senior executive and vice president, Michael J. Lawrie, to take the reins.

Other keynoters slated to speak include Kathryn Walker, executive vice president of network services for Sprint Corporation. She is expected to discuss 3G development as well as Sprint’s plans for upgrading its wireless data and voice networks for enterprise customers when she takes the keynote stage Wednesday.

Anthony Scott, the CTO for General Motors, is scheduled to discuss major enterprise issues when he delivers a keynote address Wednesday afternoon.

Bell said the organizers are borrowing some techniques from the German version of CeBIT, such as providing more networking opportunities among sectors, such as pharmaceutical or financial services and vendors to those verticals. Recruiting for interest groups, such as the Wall Street Technology Association, is also a new and improved feature at this year’s show.

The idea is that a set of managers from a corporation can show up at the conference and, within a few days, be up to speed on the options in order to fulfill their specific IT needs or mission.

That Tony Scott, the CTO of GM is giving a keynote speech, helps explain the focus of the conference, Bell said. “We’re talking about a company that spends about $3 billion to $4 billion a year on technology alone.”

But the concerns now go beyond the matter of upgrading desktop PCs, he added. The company is looking at using technology to help drive its bottom line, or get suppliers on the same page, and same networks, as car dealers. Not to mention the role of technology in driving innovation in the next generation of cars.

Industry wide, IT spending on software and hardware continues to be one of the leading drivers of sales growth. A recent report from the Semiconductor Industry Association showed an increase of 11.5 percent on chip spending in the first quarter, the fourth successive quarter of strong growth and the third straight quarter of double-digit growth. Research and consulting firm TowerGroup is pointing to a $71.5 billion year for IT spending in the financial securities industry and a new report out by Forrester Research suggests small- to medium-sized businesses will increase IT spending by 6.6 percent over 2003.

Still, even as the economy improves, Cell added, people are still cautious about spending, even as budgets start to ramp up. “They’re going to ramp it up slowly and carefully.”

And CeBIT wants to help cut some through some of the confusion about what to buy.

Updates prior version to reflect GM’s Tony Scott keynote is scheduled for Wednesday.

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