January 17, 2018
The Best IT Conference No One Goes To
I recently attended the Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS) on the island of Hawaii. Yes, I said an IT conference on Hawaii the first week of January. Far from the wintry climes of my native Michigan and lake effect snow.
The topics are amazingly diverse:
- How medical device interaction effects patient understanding and outcomes
- NSA panels on how security will fundamentally impact computing as we know it
- IT practice research from Europe on patterns for IT leading in digital transformation
- IoT economic models from Nordic countries
- Algorithm development for fake news identification in social media
- Best practices for IoT secure architectures (courtesy of the US Air Force Research Lab and Syracuse University)
- How social media promotes envy
- Agile and lean case studies
- Design Thinking research from the Netherlands
- And so much more.
I attended 40 paper presentations, two seminars and a couple of keynote sessions.
And, in many cases, I was the only person in the room, “from industry” as the academic community likes to say.
Why do I go?
Because in most of the IT conference and consultant community there are presentations about something that worked in a set of customers or an individual circumstance. And the presenter generalizes, makes normative comments, and describes a best practice. But the broad applicability, novelty, organizational dynamics, do not get addressed. Examples of success are held up for replication without answering the question about “why?”. Why did it work or fail? How does this support or conflict with established theory? Was it the methodology or the project/people that made it succeed or fail — the research community goes after these questions and they are discussed at HICSS. The ethics of Big Data analysis of human movements (as well as the math to show suspicious behavior) — I have not found industry conferences where there are serious and substantive discussions about these things.
In one case I was the only person in the audience. And it turned into a dialogue between me and the presenters where I was given a graduate level introduction to the topic. But no matter what size the audience was, every session I went to helps inform where I go as an individual and the strategy of where OST goes as a company.
Some of the topics we will be working on this year at OST where HICSS knowledge has contributed:
- IoT organizational maturity models
- Taking the best practices in Agile and SAFe into complex multi-stream design and development projects
- Helping IT leaders engage in digital transformation
- Working through the economic, organizational and security blockers in moving to the cloud
- Maturing our design practice with some of the best strategic thinking on the planet
My family jokes that I wouldn’t be as quick to go to this conference if it was in the Midwest. I actually would because the content of HICSS (now completed its 51st year) has been consistently strong. But I do agree with them that I probably wouldn’t stay an extra few days if it wasn’t in Hawaii. Next year, Maui… Aloha!