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 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 9-10, 2017; Mumbai, May 30, 2017; London, June 8-9, 2017
Cost: $2,150 to $2,350 (Chicago)

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 several times a year, typically in the summer and in various locations around the globe.

Agendas vary by location, but the May 2016 event in Orlando included a combination of more general roundtables and breakout sessions that allowed business, technology, and security and privacy leaders to customize their experience. Numerous smaller, hands-on workshops were also built into the schedule.

Attendees 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 international installments you can’t physically attend).

AGENDA

Location/Date: Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, March 20-22, 2017
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 2016, featured some 60 speakers and panelists, including big names like Monsanto CIO James Swanson and JPL CTO Tom Soderstrom. Panels are moderated by editors at CIO magazine.

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

On Twitter, check out #agenda17 for updates, or skim #agenda16 for insights gleaned from the previous show.

HPE Discover

Location/Date: London, November 29 through December 1, 2016
Cost: £125 to £1,450

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 include hybrid architecture, 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 London? 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 intimate and exclusive gathering” (per the organizers) in Stockholm featuring a discussion with Jonny Holmström, director of the Swedish Centre for Digital Innovation.

The mingling of disruption and futurism is a key focus throughout The Economist’s digital transformation program, with 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.”

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 23-24, 2016; Paris, May 17-18, 2017
Cost: £590 to £1,390

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 London session includes a half hour on the importance of happiness in the workplace.) On Twitter, follow #e20s and #EntDigi.

CEO2CEO Digital Transformation Summit

Location/Date: New York, December 6, 2016
Cost: $1,895

“Transform or be transformed” is the mantra at this show. To reinforce their message that disruption is happening faster than we think, the organizers note that half of the members of the year 2000 class of the Fortune 500 are no longer on the list, and that 40 percent of today’s S&P 500 won’t exist in 2026. Speakers at the daylong, CEO-focused show include Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical, and David Kenny, GM of IBM’s Watson program. Breakout sessions let attendees drill down into topics of particular interest.

World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

Location/Date: Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, January 17-20, 2017
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 13, 2017
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: London, December 5-6, 2016
Cost: £325 to £800

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. Events in New York and San Francisco — perhaps more germane to domestic enterprises — will return in 2017. Get updates at #tcdisrupt.

Shift

Location/Date: San Francisco, date TBD (likely August 2017)
Cost: Free to $995

What do the chief development officer of Vice and the chief evangelist of Wal-Mart have in common? They both spoke at the most recent installment of Shift, a show dedicated to “harnessing, capitalizing on, and future-proofing your business by tackling digital disruption head on.” The last installment took place in August 2016, so stay tuned for details and speaker lineups for the 2017 show.

Global Digital Transformation Forum

Location/Date: Dallas, October 26, 2016; Atlanta, November 2, 2016; many more
Cost: Free

Business process management software company Bizagi hosts numerous one-day forums on digital transformation, not just in the United States, but also in Europe and Latin America. While the events are used to market Bizagi's products, they also include plenty of valuable content. New events are constantly being announced and take place sometimes several times a month. Designed for executives, these are relatively brief affairs that focus on disruption case stories and select research on digital transformation.

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, November 1-3, 2016
Cost: $1,250 to $1,450

A key conference covering the world of digital experience delivery, Engage features forum tracks like “From Ideation to Implementation of Personalized Experiences.” Speakers at this year’s event include writer Dan Lyons and Nasdaq CIO Brad Peterson.

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 27 through March 1, 2017
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 #MWC17.

IoT Evolution Expo

Location/Date: Fort Lauderdale, February 7-10, 2017
Cost: Free to $2,495

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: Singapore, December 5-8, 2016; San Jose, March 13-16, 2017; London, May 22-25, 2017
Cost: $1,245 to $2,545 (depending on location)

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 16-17, 2016; New York, December 7-8, 2016
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 next event at #CDOLondon16.

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, March 20-24, 2017
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, CA, October 4-7, 2016
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 Mark Cuban to Tony Robbins and Billie Jean King.

Gartner Symposium/ITxpo

Location/Date: Orlando, FL, October 16-20, 2016
Cost: $4,000 to $5,600

Huge names (Satya Nadella, Chuck Robbins, Robert Gates) dominate the 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.