Gartner Symposium: what happens in Barcelona, ...

22 January 2020

When the AE team flew to Barcelona to attend the Gartner Symposium, we could not help but feel a nerdy giddiness thinking of all the technological marvels, forecasts and hacks the yearly summit would likely have in store for us. Indeed, Gartner did not disappoint.

We’re only human, after all

As the Gartner Symposium unfolded under the approving gaze of the Sagrada Familia – Gaudí clearly had a thing for agile but firm architecture, too – we spent five days feasting our own eyes (and ears) on an inspiring mix of tech trends and business, cultural and organizational insights. The strongest focus this year, however, was not as much on business or technology as it was on our natural ability (or inclination) as humans to augment or enhance whatever crosses our path.

The great enabler

Technology is, without a doubt, the great enabler of humankind. Next to serving numerous industrial purposes, it helps us accomplish both physical and cognitive feats which not rarely exceed our wildest imagination. Just think of what smart prosthetics can do for disabled athletes, how AI can make learning sign language easier and how voice technology, turning mental activity into words, enables the speech-impaired to carve out amazing careers despite the limitations they were born with. AllRide deserves special mentioning here as well. A recent collaboration with one of our customers, the AllRide project is a beautiful example of technology-driven enhancements to our lives.By having smart bicycle lamps collect travel data, the AllRide app nudges children to take the safest and cleanest route to school.


Now imagine your smartphone becoming really, really smart in the future. Today it is merely an extension (not to mention a distraction at times) that primarily assists you in a reactive manner. It is not unlikely, however, that your phone will one day act as a device that detects your mental flow and automatically deviates all signals that threaten to distract your attention. By wearing smart glasses that observe and interpret your every eye movement, you will enable your phone to manage all other devices that want to interact with you, helping you to retain your focus. How great would that be, right? However… 

With great technology comes great responsibility

There is no denying that technology has a dark side, too. Tapping into personal data and developed or applied with bad intentions, it can trick us into buying things we don’t need or, worse even, believe things that are in fact far from the truth. Take Deepfake, for instance, the – quite eery – AI technology that can replace anyone’s face on screen with someone else’s. In the blink of an eye, Trump giving a speech becomes Obama giving that very same speech. 

Admittedly, most people immediately know that something’s not right when confronted with footage of Obama talking just like Trump, but, unfortunately, not all Deepfake videos are this obvious to detect. If we’re not careful, our children’s opinions will one day be ruled by people speaking in voices that are not theirs.


Ethics to the rescue

‘Honesty is the best policy’ best summarizes the reverse key message the Gartner Symposium wanted to convey this year. Technology may be an important, if not the most crucial enabler for mankind, but we must not lose track of ethics, privacy and security whenever we develop or deploy technology to enhance our daily lives. There is no doubt that the downside of technology will somehow penetrate our regulatory systems and governance, if it hasn’t already. Above all, though, let’s keep our eyes on the prize and not forget the great potential technology holds for the better good.

Culture and organization

On another note, technology and ethics weren’t the only talk of the event. Topics related to culture and organization were also given much (well-deserved) airtime. Read on to discover the two key takeaways that inspired us the most!  


When a company manages to establish their ideal mix of traditional and digital, that’s when ‘techquilibrium’ is achieved. Contrary to popular opinion in the past, digital is no longer considered the sole ingredient for success. All companies these days offer a value proposition that combines digital and traditional. For most, traditional” still makes up for the lion’s share of the proposition. Take the automotive industry, for example. Car manufacturers can add as many digital features and connected services as they want, but the core of their value proposition remains a chassis, an engine and two sets of wheels. By contrast, companies operating in (multi)media typically adhere to a mix that mostly consists of digital.  

The above examples are what Gartner calls an outside techquilibrium. To really flourish, however, companies must consider their value proposition mix on the inside as well, i.e. apply it to their internal operations. Car manufacturers may have an outside value proposition that is mostly traditional, but that doesn’t mean their internal operations can’t be highly digital and allow them to achieve extreme operational excellence through automation and digitally enabled production.



A second and equally interesting line of thought highlighted at the Gartner Symposium was the AND-opportunity framework. In these innovative times with ostensibly conflicting needs, we must somehow get one value or need to enable the other. Consider, for example the cut versus growth debate. In the AND-opportunity framework, the matter is neither ‘cut or grow’ nor ‘cut and grow’. It is ‘cut TO grow’. Other examples include ‘brake to accelerate’ and ‘create stability for better change’.

In our daily experiences as end consumers, the AND-opportunity concept can be applied to the way we think about privacy and comfort. Sharing personal data, both actively and passively, can create great added value socially speaking – just consider the many different social groups we’re all part of. From a privacy point of view, however, the added value is questionable.

Simply keeping all our data private is not really an option, as it will deprive us from having easy social contact, among other things. The solution, then, lies in an enabling combination of doing both. The ‘to all’ culture is smoothly giving way to a culture where people are still sharing personal data, but only in small, more intimate circles – hence the immense popularity of WhatsApp. In that sense, if you were to ask us what else happened in Barcelona, we are inclined to say: what happens in Barcelona…

To conclude, AE wishes you all a great 2020 with many more exciting trends and opportunities to explore. Let technology enhance us!


About the Gartner Symposium

Dedicated to enabling digital transformation, the Gartner Symposium continues to grow year after year. The recent Barcelona edition attracted a whopping 7,500 participants – almost ten percent of whom are Belgian.

Vincent Guelinckx

Written by Vincent Guelinckx

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