Mobile World Congress (MWC) which took place in Barcelona once again broke new records in terms of attendees, reaching 108,000. Yet, discussions with end-user businesses indicate that mobility is often no longer treated as a standalone focus area by CIOs and CTOs. Mobility has become part of the broader digital transformation initiative. This has implications for mobile strategies. It also affects the decision where a business leader turns to in order to find inspirations for her digital transformation initiative.

Of course, mobility remains a critically important building block for all digital transformation initiatives. But mobility is part of a wider technology-driven business transformation. In my view, the biggest themes at MWC in 2017 that are relevant for digital transformation relate to IoT, AI, platforms, collaboration, and connectivity. I discuss what these themes mean for the CIO in a separate blog.

Importantly, all of these themes are interwoven. Hence, the CIO needs to build her digital transformation strategy on a comprehensive approach – with mobility is right at the heart. Still, there remains a risk that the CIO gets sucked into pursuing a compartmentalized technology strategy that lacks a comprehensive view of the real business objectives. It is essential that the CIO avoids a ‘bolt-on approach’ to these technology investments because of the technology interdependencies.

This does not mean that all investments must be committed and spent at the same time. It means that the technology strategy must be based on open APIs, open source hard and software, as well as open interfaces. This ensures that enterprises will be able to gradually build out and continuously update their own technology environment, while keeping it open to third-party suppliers, ecosystem partners, and B2B, as well as B2B2C customers.

Digital transformation is much more than a technology upgrade. Business and technology leaders from end-user firms need to learn from peers and are looking for interesting use cases. The challenge for them is that the vast majority of MWC attendees and exhibitors were once again from the vendor side. The question thus arises whether end-user business leaders benefit from attending MWC to find insights for creating new business models and drive new revenue streams. In my opinion, MWC has for several years missed the opportunity to effectively reach out to end-user businesses and remains a vendor event. It offers little true strategic insights or examples for technology use cases.

I believe it is more valuable for end-user business and technology managers to attend specific industry events that cater to their industry like the Geneva International Motor Show, E-World for utilities, or Hannover Messe for manufacturing. In addition, the events by industry platform providers like GE's Minds and Machines, Bosch's Connected World, or Siemens' Shaping Digitalization provide compelling use case examples. And for general technology strategy brainstorming, I would consider visiting WebSummit.