Mr Veitch finds exhibitions in the UK and Europe are a disappointment after the Comdex IT show in Vegas. Where should managers go to discover the big picture?
The other week I was at Comdex Fall in Las Vegas, my seventh visit to this eye-popping annual exhibition. It made me think of the desperate state of computer shows in the UK and the difficulty of finding useful information you can trust. Comdex is many things. Because it takes place in Las Vegas, it's exciting, colourful, brash. Because it's so huge - 220,000 visitors, 2400 vendors - it has broad coverage - though not comprehensive as it has a significant bias towards the PC sphere. It's also oddly serious. Despite the carpet of call-girl cards at the convention centre, the main business is looking at the products that will have an impact on enterprises during the next year.
Whatever Comdex is though, and whatever its legendary problems relating to transport, hassle and general distractions, it's a great show where, in the space of a couple of days, you can get the crow's nest view of what's going on in the business.
What a contrast to compare Comdex with the options here. Of all the shows I have attended in the UK, the only survivor consistently worth attending is Networks in Birmingham. The rest are a mixed bag, although the Windows NT show is shaping up nicely as an enterprise showcase - albeit one that is pretty much dedicated to a single operating system. Hannover's Cebit fair is enormous but a nightmare for accommodation and it is very difficult to discover what products will be available in the UK and when.
So where can you find the inform-ation you need as an IT manager?
Well, the trade press still rules the roost. The broadsheets, and even the red-top press, now have sections devoted to IT but it's not the stuff you want to read if you already know the basics. If you want the core inform-ation you need for the job, you can't beat the weeklies.
Monthly magazines are also useful if you need hard benchmarks, even if it's just to rag your current supplier. Though I admit a slight bias, if you're an IT manager or director you can't beat the magazine you're holding. However, not even the dead tree stuff can always cut it, and that's where the Internet steps in. It shouldn't surprise anybody that IT information publishers produce some of the most popular and useful sites on the Web. There are some problems though. It's difficult to read this on the move, and you lose the analysis. Who wants to read a 1000-word piece on a CRT?
For those of you lucky enough to command very large budgets, vendor and reseller visits will be important. The big problem here is that you only get one side of the story - strange that. Your peers are also crucial. Word-of-mouth remains a valid, if non-empirical, measure of how products, services and support stack up.
But what's really needed is some-thing a bit old-fashioned; an event that is not hard to get to which contains a wide-ranging collection of vendors and products. But who is going to bring a decent show to this country?