Cloud Computing Conference Leadership from a Master IT Journalist, Content and Editorial Director

 The just concluded Cloud Leadership Forum (June 20-21, 2011) brought together CIOs, IT managers, vendors, and analysts to discuss the current status, future directions and important caveats of Cloud Computing.  This very successful IDG event was organized and chaired by IDC Chief Analyst Frank Gens and IDG Enterprise Sr VP John Gallant.  Both did an excellent job of running the conference, which provided very useful information to the many attendees. 

A IDC/IDG survey revealed that information technology executives believe that cloud computing will have significant impact on IT organizations and IT vendors, as well as the enterprises they support. Here are just a few data points:

  • More than 70 percent of those surveyed said they believed that by 2014, a third of all IT organizations will be providers of cloud services to customers or business partners. 
  • Almost 80 percent of respondents felt that cloud service brokers and service aggregators will provide integration, management, security and other services across public cloud offerings by 2015.
  • More than 80 percent of the respondents said that one-third of Fortune 1000 enterprises will deploy at least one business-critical system in the cloud. More than half of the IT executives surveyed believe that mobile-optimized cloud services will be a primary interface with customers by 2014.
  • In 2010, more than 40% of storage purchased was for cloud use (cloud computing and ISP internal use).  This percentage is expected to increase this year and next, especially in light of Netflix’s move from in house to cloud resident data centers.

The key messages and lessons learned from the 2011 Cloud Leadership Forum will be detailed in a separate article. In this piece, we’d like to provide a lesson in leadership for IT publications (print and on-line) as well as organizers of technology conferences and similar events.  We think there are important “take aways” and messages here for IEEE ComSoc executives, including the President, VP of Publications, On Line Content Board and CIO.

John Gallant has been organizing and chairing IT conferences for a very long time.  He is an expert at moderating panel sessions and conducting “fireside chats” with industry experts.  Those sessions reveal important points, critical issues, and “what to look out for” items that would otherwise not be readily obvious to the audience. John is also a long time survivor in the world of IT journalism-  a claim that not many can make.

In the 1980s and early 1990s the three most popular Network and Communication “for profit” publications+ were Data Communications, Communications Week, and Network World.  Only the latter has survived and is celebrating it’s 25th birthday this month!  In addition to Network World, IDG Enterprise also publishes the venerable ComputerWorld, CIO, CSO print publications (which are also available on line).  They also produce three on-line only pubs: ITWorld, InfoWorld, and the new CFOWorld).  How did IDG succeed in the IT publishing business, while so many other like publications failed?  We think the reason was the foresight, agility and leadership from John Gallant.

As a graduate of Boston College, with a dual major in Economics and Political Science, John found that law school was not for him.  So he obtained a Masters Degree in Journalism from Boston University and became a reporter for ComputerWorld (CW)  in 1983, covering mainframe software.   At CW, John soon met up with Bruce Hoard who had created a  quarterly  supplement to Computerworld called “On Communications.”    Mr. Hoard was the Editor in Chief of On Communications and  the early Network World (NW). Mr. Gallant came aboard as that transition to a weekly publication was happening. He soon took over as Chief Editor and later became Publisher of the magazine, which is still going strong 25 years later! 

How did NW survive, while so many other similar network and communications publications bit the dust?  The short answer is foresight, agility, and execution.

John led a team at NW that determined early on NOT to focus on pure networking technologies.  They had the opinion that network infrastructure was secondary to the goals and objectives of the enterprise and IT managers (their primary audience).  The NW editorial team also thought that a magazine that only dealt with enterprise network infrastructure and architecture would NOT attract sufficient advertising.  Cisco was dominating the enterprise network space and there were few other companies that would likely advertise in NW.  John wrote in a follow up email, “We didn’t think that network infrastructure should be the only focus, albeit it has always been a very important one.”

With a broadened coverage scope, the NW editorial focus shifted to two important industry dynamics:

1.  What does the Network change for the IT organization?

2.  What new applications and services change the Network?

These two broad categories encompased issues like security, manageability, electronic data interchange, Unified Communications and (later) the mobile enterprise work force.  It reflected the growing concerns of the NW readers (mostly IT end users) and helped attract advertisers.

The NW staff also looked beyond printed content.  They were very early to recognize the move to on-line publishing and produced a web edition in 1995- coincident with the introduction of Netscape’s Internet browser.  The NW brain trust started holding events – initially paid seminars, but later “town hall” meetings which were free of charge to “qualified” IT professionals.  These have evolved into multiple topic “IT Roadmap” events that are held in selected cities each year.  These events helped NW establish a personal connection with their audience and readership.  The synergism between the print, on-line publication, and regional events attracted sponsors and became a very lucrative business for NW (and IDG) in the early 1990s.

During the deep recession of 2008, IDG merged their IT print and on-line publications, which were previously run as self contained, independent business entitities.  IDG Enterprise was created to oversee content and editorial direction for those publications and John was promoted to Chief Content Officer for that new organization.  In this role, Mr. Gallant leads the editorial teams of CIO, CSO, Computerworld, InfoWorld, ITworld, Network World and CFOworld to set content strategy and ensure that the brands continue to serve their respective audiences with the best products and services in the industry.

John also helps drive IDG Enterprise’s strategic efforts around social media and social media marketing.  All of their on-line publications have links to various social media sites so that people can recommend the publications to their Facebook (and other social media) friends.  John carefully describes his role in this context, ” I’m responsible for editorial social media strategy, but not social media marketing which is a very different function.”

What are the current hot topics in IT journalism?  John ticked off the following:

1. Cloud Computing:  Tradeoffs, public vs private vs hybrid, impediments to adoption, strategic advantages, etc.

2. Consumerization of IT:  How to deal with end users consuming any application on any device at any time and at any location

3. Desktop Virtualization:  Being able to deliver the same image to any device that the end user is responsible for

4. Mobile Computing: How to create new capabilities that will positively impact a business.  Dealing with muliple mobile OS’s, plethora of devices/gadgets with different screen sizes, wireless networks with varying capabilities, mobile data offload (to WiFi hot spots), roaming and charging for data plans.

And what’s the future of IT publications with the demise of so many print publications depending on advertising revenue?  John says that the Internet is a tremendous disintermediary of value.  IT executives still like to read print publications, but advertisers don’t see value there.  Recognizing this fact of life, IDG Enterprise has made a very aggressive push to on line video, user interaction (such as polling), and other tools to engage their readership.  They are tied in to social media to recommend content and build communities.  For example, there are over 40K members of IDG’s “CIO Forum” on LinkedIn.

Mr. Gallant states, “As for the future, I would like to clarify that there are a number of advertisers who do value print. For others, the trackability of online (its measureability) is of greater value. I don’t want to make it sound as though all advertisers have dismissed print, as they have not. But it’s clear that a lot of the sponsor focus has shifted to online, which is something that all media companies have and are dealing with. Our online-centric approach has helped us navigate this transition.”

Takeaways and Potential Action Items for IEEE ComSoc:

Are there any implications or messages for IEEE ComSoc with respect to IDG’s successful evolution as a print/on-line media and conference company? Even though the ComSoc audience is mostly academia, technology development and marketing people, could similarIDG initiatives also work for IEEE ComSoc on line publications, especially the two ComSoc web sites (this Community site as well as  What can ComSoc do to get their readership more involved?  Specifically, are there any on-line “bells and whistles” that could be added to IEEE Communications and IEEE Network on-line magazines?  Should ComSoc provide regional conferences that provide more tangible value to attendees?  Plenty here to think about.  Please let us know your opinions and suggestions.

+  Note that IEEE ComSoc journals and magazines,  like IEEE Communications,  are non profit publications.