Top 20 digital transformation conferences

A quick guide to the digital transformation conferences you can't afford to miss.

Digital transformation is a big subject, so overwhelming in its complexity that conferences are finally emerging to help those who are still grappling with the topic and trying to find their footing. The good news is that your organization is not the first to feel the pain of disruption. 

Digital transformation hasn't yet attracted the same breadth and depth of conferences dedicated to other tech topics. But plenty of forums are centered around digital transformation and are well worth your time. We curated the best of the bunch and divided upcoming events into four categories:

  1. The most essential and relevant digital transformation events
  2. Other conferences worth attending
  3. Conferences that are more tangential to digital transformation but still relevant
  4. Broader tech trade shows that may be useful to digital transformation professionals

Many of these events are annual and may have taken place in just the past few months. Details, including specific dates, on shows occurring more than three to four months out are likely to be sketchy at this time, so you should keep an eye out for date or venue updates.

Must attend digital transformation conferences

These shows comprise the most noteworthy events in digital transformation, all drawing big names to both the speakers’ pool and the attendee list.

Forrester’s Digital Transformation Forums

Locations/Dates: Chicago, IL, May 8-9, 2018; Mumbai, May 30, 2017; London, June 14-15, 2018
Cost: Up to £1,525 (London)

Forrester was an early identifier of the digital transformation trend, and it continues to lead the way with a series of forums on the subject. Events are held two or more times a year, typically in the summer and in various locations around the globe (primarily Chicago and London).

Agendas vary by location, but the June 2017 event in London included more than 30 roundtables and sessions focused on evolving business models, team collaboration, tactical tools for digital transformation, and more.

Attendees at past events particularly praised the real-world stories from presenters who have experienced digital transformation and lived to tell the tale.

Bookmark #FORRDigital to keep tabs on the event (and get highlights from panels you can’t physically attend).

AGENDA

Location/Date: Miami, Florida, March 19-21, 2018
Cost: $495

Designed for (and strictly limited to) senior IT and line-of-business executives at the VP or director level and higher, IDC’s AGENDA conference is geared specifically toward leadership grappling with digital transformation topics—and trying to lead the charge. 

AGENDA covers three days and, in 2017, featured nearly 50 speakers and panelists, including big names like GE Power Chief Digital Officer Ganesh Bell and Citrix VP Tim Minahan. Panels are moderated by editors at CIO magazine and other IDG executives.

AGENDA keeps the focus on real-world transformation issues and challenges, and on finding business opportunities amidst all the theory.

On Twitter, check out #agenda18 for updates, or skim #agenda17 for insights gleaned from the previous show.

HPE Discover

Location/Date: Madrid, November 28-30, 2017
Cost: £150 to £1,795

HPE Discover attracts more than 10,000 IT executives and engineers looking to “accelerate their digital transformation journey.” The program features both HPE and outside experts. Key themes from 2016’s session included Hybrid IT architecture, analytics, security in the post-transformation environment, big data, and productivity. Workshops are “in-depth interactive sessions designed to understand your business priorities in order to build a framework for your specific business case.” Discover also features a unique advisor program, which gives execs a 25-minute, one-on-one session with a chief technologist and a strategist in the HPE community.

Can’t make it to Spain? The Discover team creates dozens of videos of its conferences, speeches, and sessions, all available for free and published in near real time.

On Twitter, see @HPE_Discover and #HPEDiscover

The Economist Digital Transformation Roundtable

Location/Date: Next event TBD
Cost: Free

The Economist periodically holds digital transformation roundtables geared for the C-suite. If you're inspired by big names talking about big ideas, these invitation-only events are for you. While the events are free, attendees must submit an application to score an invite. Just completed: “an evening of stimulating, interactive discussion and debate” (per the organizers) in Amsterdam featuring a discussion with Martin Rainer, general manager of DXC Technology.

The mingling of disruption and futurism is a key focus throughout The Economist’s digital transformation program, with past speakers ranging from Frank Salzgeber, head of the tech program at the European Space Agency, to Jon Matonis, director of the Bitcoin Foundation. According to The Economist, the discussions temper big thinking with practicality. As the organizers note, “The series carves out a space to think and debate how we all need to adapt to this exciting but also challenging digital world.”

Digital transformation events worth attending

The shows below all merit consideration, but may address narrower audiences, specific regions, or particular executive roles.

Enterprise Digital Summit

Location/Date: London, November 15-16, 2017; Paris, June 2018
Cost: £295 to £1,090

Day one comprises workshops, while day two features a series of keynote-style lectures from digital transformation leaders. There’s a strong European focus at Enterprise Digital, and topics tend to range fairly far and wide. (One prior London session included a half hour on the importance of happiness in the workplace.) On Twitter, follow #e20s and #EntDigi.

World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

Location/Date: Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, January 24-28, 2018
Cost: $30,000 (est.)

Few might think that “Davos,” the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, has anything to do with digital disruption, but the truth is that the event is all about transformations, be they political, demographic, or technological. Of late, the business content of the WEF’s signature event has been on the rise. Of course, one does not just register for the WEF online and show up to collect a lanyard in Davos. WEF membership is required and tightly controlled. It’s considerably easier to find some of the forum’s content on YouTube.

Digital Transformation Summit

Location/Date: Auckland, March 20, 2018 (tentative)
Cost: Pricing not yet announced

This small, New Zealand-based show packs more than 20 speakers and a dozen sessions into a single day. It covers vision development, operational efficiency, and finding talent in the age of disruption. The focus has a clear Australasian bent, but if your business extends into the Southern Hemisphere, it’s worth a look to help better understand the region’s unique challenges.

TechCrunch Disrupt

Location/Date: San Francisco, September 18-20, 2017; Berlin, December 4-5, 2017
Cost: $1,995 and up (San Francisco)

The “Startup Battlefield” of Disrupt is so legendary it was featured in the HBO spoof "Silicon Valley." And for good reason: Many truly disruptive companies get their start at Disrupt, and it’s easily worth a visit from any CEO looking to get a clearer view of who’s gaining on them. San Francisco is the big installment of Disrupt, but the New York version, which typically takes place in May, is also worth a look. Get updates at #tcdisrupt.

WSO2Con Europe

Location/Date: London, November 6-8, 2017
Cost: €305 to €610

WSO2Con operates under the mantra of “Agile Digital Transformation Through Open Source,” and it promises to help attendees innovate through an exploration of technologies that include agile methodology, API management, smart analytics, and the Internet of Things. A U.S. installment of this annual conference is typically planned in February but is not yet on the books for 2018.

Cross-discipline conferences

Truly understanding digital transformation means diving into a host of trending, related technologies, including big data, IoT, mobile, and more. Here’s a short list of conferences that can help get you up to speed. 

Acquia Engage

Location/Date: Boston, October 16-18, 2017
Cost: $950 to $1,450

A key conference covering the world of digital experience delivery, Engage features forum tracks like “Digital Experiences Are Made Not Born: Becoming Digitally Fit.” Speakers at this year’s event include Eric Black, CTO of NBC Sports, and Ron Myers, VP at AMD.

Velocity

Location/Date: Amsterdam, November 7-10, 2016; Beijing, December 1-2, 2016; San Jose, June 19-22, 2017
Cost: $600 to $2,545 (depending on location)

One of the key conference series in the software development space, Velocity is organized by O’Reilly Media. It’s a key launching pad to understand agile, DevOps, and other emerging best practices for coders.

Mobile World Congress

Location/Date: Barcelona, February 26 through March 1, 2018
Cost: Free to $800 and up

Ground zero for all things mobile, this supersized trade show and conference is a showcase for everything from new wireless technologies to the latest cell phone hardware to business strategies in the mobile space. Keep tabs at #MWC18.

IoT Evolution Expo

Location/Date: Orlando, January 22-25, 2018
Cost: Free to $2,995

IoT Evolution aims to measure the impact of the emerging Internet of Things on all manner of industries. From technical deep dives to IoT business opportunities, the event is a one-stop shop for insight into this complex and rapidly changing field. 

Strata + Hadoop World

Location/Date: New York, September 25-28, 2017; Singapore, December 4-7, 2017; San Jose, March 5-8, 2018; London, May 21-24, 2018
Cost: $895 to $2,395 (New York)

Like Velocity, this is an O’Reilly Media event held in various cities around the globe throughout the year. The focus: Leveraging big data and data science to transform business operations.

Chief Data Officer Summit

Locations/Dates: London, November 2-3, 2017; New York, December 11-12, 2017; Singapore, July 11-12, 2018
Cost: $600 to $2,395

At this show, senior data professionals look at the impact of data on the enterprise, as well as how to transform raw data into actionable information. It's a nice companion to the more tactical Strata + Hadoop show. Follow the full cycle of events at #CDOSummit.

Other conferences

These are broader technical conferences that may still hold value for those interested in the disruptive power of digital transformation.

CeBIT

Location/Date: Hanover, Germany, June 11-15, 2018
Cost: Free to €1,990

Often touted as the largest technology show in the world, CeBIT attendance now stands at over 300,000 visitors. Aside from its vast exhibition hall, the show features a conference track covering big data, cloud tech, IoT, security, and other topics.

Dreamforce

Location/Date: San Francisco, November 6-9, 2017
Cost: Free to $1,799

This annual event is sponsored by Salesforce.com and focuses on the broader infrastructure that surrounds its popular CRM tool. Disruption is a key theme, with speakers this year ranging from Melinda Gates to Marc Benioff to Tony Robbins.

Gartner Symposium/ITxpo

Location/Date: Orlando, FL, October 1-5, 2017
Cost: $4,200 to $5,750

Huge names (Satya Nadella, Chuck Robbins, Robert Gates) dominate past keynotes of this luxe event, which is billed as “The World's Most Important Gathering of CIOs and Senior IT Executives.” If you’re looking to rub elbows with heavy hitters, this is your show. Registration benefits include one-on-one meetings with Gartner analysts.

What did we miss?

While the above is a comprehensive and all-encompassing list, it can’t capture every worthwhile event. And so we put it to you: As a digital transformation pro (or aspirant), what additional shows should appear on the list? Please let us know on Twitter.