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InformationWeek 500 Preview: The Growth Imperative

The annual InformationWeek 500 Conference will commence Sept. 12-15. As organizations explore new ways to grow, this year's gathering will provide the fodder and inspiration to propel IT into the center of that discussion. Come join us at the St. Regis Monarch Beach, Calif.
But innovation is just a drawing board artifact if it doesn't come with plans for how to make it come to life, and succeed, and so in the second part of this opening conference session, we'll get down to brass tacks with three dynamic business technology executives, who will reveal in rapid-fire vignettes how IT is engaging customers and generating new sources of revenue at their companies.

Bill Martin, CIO of Royal Caribbean, will discuss how the innovative cruise vacation company is using real-time analytics to improve the guest experience and the bottom line. Martin will also show how wireless and other technology innovations enhance the guest experience on the world's largest cruise ship. Shawn Keim, director of development for Wet Seal, will show how the retailer of clothing for teen-age girls is combining mobility and social networking to drive sales. Dave Bent, senior VP of eBusiness services and CIO of United Stationers, will discuss the company's IT-led transformation from a wholesale distributor of business products to a provider of electronic commerce, marketing, merchandising, logistics, and other revenue-generating services to its suppliers and reseller customers.

Probing our presenters throughout the entire session will be our curmudgeonly Commentary Desk, featuring Seth Ravin, CEO of Rimini Street, an alternative provider of enterprise software support services; Jason Maynard, technology analyst with Wells Fargo Securities; and Ray Wang, partner with Altimeter Group.

The second day also begins with an explosion. Nicholas Carr often stirs up the technology industry's collective psyche by posing questions that frighten us. He has questioned the role of IT ("Does IT Matter?"--2004), he has posited that "the cloud" is the ultimate culmination of the commoditization of technology ("The Big Switch"--2008), and he has asked whether the technologies that are driving the modern Internet are, collectively, dumbing us down ("Is Google Making Us Stupid," The Atlantic--August 2008). Carr's latest fright tome, "The Shallows," picks up where he left off, but in doing so he weaves a fabric of research and science that tells us, once and for all, that the technology of the Internet is changing the way we think -- not just what we think, but the actual process of thinking; and perhaps not for the better. It's a fascinating discussion that's sure to get your dander up.

Once again, we segue into a taste of the practical, with "Cloud Computing In The Real World," where we'll learn how pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly is living the promise of cloud computing today -- not just in tucked-away pilot projects, but increasingly for key enterprise capabilities to develop insights, cut costs, and get products to market faster.

Last year's popular CIOs In The Hot Seat session also makes its return -- this is where a few brave IT souls get up on stage, American Idol style, and try to wow our "board of directors" with a very real-world project presentation. We'll also provide workshops on cloud, social networking, unified communications, and government priorities.

We end our second full day of content with another noted author and thinker, Peter Hinssen. This Belgian IT entrepreneur, author of the bestseller "Business/IT Fusion," will showcase examples from his latest book, "The New Normal in IT," to explain how companies can thrive in a world without digital limits. Hinssen discusses how to change the way people in your organization think about IT in order to meet the changing demands of customers and business partners. He explains how this approach to the "new normal" helps companies establish an IT infrastructure and organizational culture that adheres to an innovation and growth mandate.

Finally, on Tuesday night, we will end the conference with a flourish: our annual InformationWeek 500 awards at a gala dinner. InformationWeek's editor in chief, Rob Preston, and I will co-host this celebration, and, if last year is any barometer, yours truly will perform his annual standup routine ...

InformationWeek looks forward to seeing you there.