The Gartner Summit was a Good Primer on IAM

I usually don’t expect too many replies to postcards (real world or blog) that I write, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the discussion my post about the Gartner summit generated. The lively discussions regarding the part roles play in compliance were definitely expected. What I was not expecting were the few emails I received from people asking me if I didn’t like the Gartner conference.

Not sure how I managed to get that perception out there. In my post I made no judgments about the conference; I merely made a specific comment regarding its format and content and touched on a few topics that generated a lot of discussion at the blackjack tables (which was probably good because if I was paying attention to the game, I probably would have lost money). I thought playing blackjack was meant to be fun, not talking through throwaway issues I randomly brought up, that is why playing online at the most enjoyable Japanese casino, or a similar casino, is a lot more preferable… no people.

The perception of a conference can only be judged by what you, the attendee, are looking to get out of it. My (personal) interest in these conferences is that of someone trying to gain a deeper understanding of the space, especially its future. From my standpoint, the Gartner Summit concentrated on delivering a good primer in identity management – IAM 101, if you will. So if you were looking for a conference that would help you understand what IAM is, Gartner was the place to be. If you wanted to delve into the weeds and understand, say, the impact the net neutrality debate would have on identity and privacy, you probably weren’t going to find any sessions covering that. That was the essence of my comment.

Given that this was Gartner’s first conference, I actually think that they did a good thing by going back to basics. More than anything else, the request I get from prospects I am brought into talk with is for an IdM reference architecture. The kind of customer that understands IAM is actually quite rare, and there is a lot of misinformation out there. There are a lot of companies starting projects that are looking for a map to help them navigate the morass we call Identity and Access Management. And a number of them were at this conference. Analysts like Burton and Gartner do a pretty good job of providing just such a sitemap through their research. Gartner brought that same approach to the conference. They did a pretty good job of creating sessions that explained the basics of IAM.

While the conference may not have been as technologically enlightening for us (so-called) identity experts, it hit the mark in terms of its target audience – the customer who wants to understand the solutions available today that can help them solve their needs. Which is, in turn, valuable to me, a member of the IdM vendor and (self-professed) identity geek community, because it helps keep me grounded in reality. It reminds me of the questions people I am creating solutions for are asking and what they actually care about. It was telling that the sessions with the highest turnout were the ones that explored the basic tenets of IAM – role management, provisioning, authentication (and, judging from the talk around the resort, authorization will be joining in soon).

It will be interesting to see how Gartner establishes the identity (pun intended) of this conference among the Catalyst’s, DIDW’s, RSA’s and IIW’s of the IdM world. And I expect they will find a place to accommodate some of the more esoteric and cutting-edge discussions that I personally am interested in.

I’m still making sense of all the discussions I got into regarding roles and compliance. As soon as I wrap my head around it, I will bring you into it. Stay tuned.