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VOL. 122 | NO. 184 | Friday, September 28, 2007

SIMposium Expected to Draw Hundreds of Top IT Professionals

By Eric Smith

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'TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS': The Chicago-based Society for Information Management will bring its largest event of the year, SIMposium, to The Peabody Hotel Oct. 7-10. -- Photo Courtesy Of The Society For Information Management

As the birthplace of rock 'n' roll and home of the blues, Memphis is world-renowned for producing innovative musicians such as Elvis Presley, Isaac Hayes and Al Green.

For a few days next month, the city will play host to a different kind of innovator - the nation's leading information technology (IT) professionals.

The Chicago-based Society for Information Management (SIM), which boasts more than 3,300 members, will bring its largest event of the year, SIMposium, to Memphis Oct. 7-10.

This is the first time in the organization's 39-year history its signature event has been held in Memphis. That's largely because of the recent success of its local chapter, said John Oglesby, director of IT strategy for Memphis-based ACH Food Cos. and the immediate past president for the Memphis SIM chapter.

"SIMposium is usually held in very large cities: Boston, Chicago, Dallas, New York," he said. "The SIMposium national board said they really liked what the Memphis chapter of SIM was doing and asked if we'd be interested in hosting SIMposium.

"Memphis is a pretty progressive chapter. We were growing quite a bit when other chapters were challenged. For two years in a row we were the fastest-growing chapter in the country."

When opportunity knocks

But Oglesby admitted that the chapter - relatively small by SIM's national standards - wasn't sure about hosting such a big event. After careful consideration, and realizing the chance to showcase Memphis to the country, it accepted SIM's invitation.

"We eventually said yes, and here we are two years later," Oglesby said.

The 2007 SIMposium, titled "Technology: Taking Care of Business," will draw more than 650 of the nation's leading IT executives to The Peabody Hotel for a full slate of workshops, keynote addresses and networking opportunities. Registration details are available at www.simnet.org.

Hosted by the Society for Information Management
Oct. 7–10
The Peabody Hotel

"What SIMposium brings is exposure beyond the local level," Oglesby said. "You have people at larger companies across the country who have a much broader perspective than you would get locally. The networking aspect of getting to meet and talk to people is probably No. 1."

In addition to sharing best practices about IT, conference attendees will hear SIM's results of its annual member survey about the top concerns in information management.

"Almost always No. 1 is business and IT alignment, which basically says IT is doing what the business needs and not some frivolously technology thing," Oglesby said. "This year it's No. 2. It's replaced with concerns around IT staffing and how do we attract and retain staff members."

Oglesby said outsourcing is a huge concern in the industry, exacerbated by the drop in enrollment for IT programs at colleges and universities across the country. The rest of the top 10 concerns will be unveiled at the conference.

(For more on efforts to attract more students to the IT field, see Thursday's Daily News story about CollegeCareerCorps at www.memphisdailynews.com.)

A world without borders

Other highlights include a bevy of top IT executives delivering keynote addresses on wide-ranging issues, with Memphis companies well-represented.

Rob Carter, executive vice president and chief information officer (CIO) for FedEx Corp., will present "Access - The Connected World," a look at how "the unprecedented expansion of access - to goods, services, ideas and opportunities - is the primary driver behind profound change for nations, businesses, and individuals around the world."

Tim Stanley, senior vice president of innovation, gaming and technology and CIO for Harrah's Entertainment Inc., will present "Three of a Kind: Innovation, IT and International at Harrah's," which will focus on "how Harrah's has become one of the world's largest gaming companies through a combination of acquisitions and by leveraging its IT-enabled customer relationship management capabilities."

And Ken Brame, CIO at AutoZone Corp., will present "Transformation of Software Development at AutoZone," a look at how "one large retail company made the transition from 'the-way-we-have-always-done-it' method of software development to one that utilizes best practices, improved quality and allows more projects to be completed on time and on budget."

Oglesby is especially pleased that the host city will have a significant presence at the podium.

"We're proud that each day we have a local CIO as the main speaker," he said. "We thought that was important for the community."

National stage

The community could benefit from SIMposium as much as the IT professionals attending.

Oglesby said the local SIM chapter has worked closely with the Memphis Regional Chamber and the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau to make sure the city was prepared for the huge influx of visitors, who will have plenty of chances for sightseeing.

Mostly, though, SIMposium gives Memphis-based companies an opportunity to show the country why the city would be a good choice for any business looking to expand.

"We feel like this was the biggest opportunity the city of Memphis would get to show nationally that we are a place you should have a technology operation," Oglesby said. "We're talking about 600-plus of the top IT people in the country coming to Memphis. We wanted to showcase what we do in IT, and we wanted to showcase what we are as a community."

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