I’m at the first day of the Gartner ITxpo 2014 conference, which Gartner bills as “The world’s most important gathering of CIOs and senior IT executives.” This week I am going to blog some of the show highlights from the keynotes and session tracks. There is a lot to see and do and it will be impossible to see it all, but I will try to capture as many of the highlights as possible.

Today’s keynote was headlined by Gartner analysts Daryl Plummer, Peter Sondergaard and Richard Hunter. They set the theme for the show as a whole by focusing on the rise of the ‘Digital Business’. What is a digital business? A digital business is formulated by the following forces: Social, cloud, mobile and information. As an example, many of the Internet of Things (IoT) ideas we see are an outcome of digital business initiatives as new business designs emerge.

Gartner expressed that businesses today need to build in digital business capabilities in order to survive. So how does the business of today move becoming a digital business? That is definitely a theme of the conference and much will be said on this topic in the individual sessions throughout the week, but this keynote offered some guidance. One examples is that businesses must follow a ‘Digital First’ design philosophy. That is not so different than the way we as individuals all act these days, as our lives have become very much digital first. A digital first business will build for today’s digital human. So businesses need to get closer to these digital humans, and design for the digital moment. They need to run lean, act more like a digital startup, emphasize information and data, get closer to the users of their products and follow them to crowd source innovation.

That may sound easier said than done, and that is something that Gartner acknowledged. That many businesses may find it hard to move to a digital business, especially if it means investing in areas that may offer lower or limited returns initially and how you staff for this may be very different than how you staff today. But this brought up another theme that I’m sure we will hear more of throughout the show, and that is the concept of ‘Bimodal IT’. You have one mode of IT that resembles more of a traditional IT structure, that is ‘Rock Solid’ to quote Daryl Plummer. You then have a second mode which is more fluid, a mode that can more easily deal with and respond quickly to technology disruptions. This fluidity helps businesses operationalize digital business moments. According to Gartner, nearly half of CIOs say that today they do have some sort of bimodal IT operation. And this may even understate the impact given how many business units are contracting IT type services from outside of IT, often times working with agile Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies to fill a specific business unit need and doing so often without IT’s blessing. Focusing more on fluidity likely involves accepting and not ignoring risk, as the speed and complexity of the digital business mean accepting unintended consequences and Gartner mentioned that businesses will need to learn how to manage risk as a competency.

The keynote session concluded talking more about how to design for the digital business. Maximizing design success means balancing between the digital machinist view (where automation of tasks is seen as a virtue) and the digital humanist view (where technology is an enabler to people to do what they want to do). Neither view is correct on its own, and those who have the best success will figure out the right blend of both.  They will also put their digital business in the hands of their users, create and respect their users’ personal space and then get out of the way. By listening and learning from them the digital business will have the best chance to see how they can evolve their business best in order to meet the needs of the digital human.

So  there you have it: the digital business, digital human, digital first, digital moment, digital startups, digital machinist, digital humanism…. In essence a good summary of the day 1 keynote is digital everything.  I’m sure the specific technology sessions will expand and provide more depth on these concepts even more. I see a lot of what Gartner is outlining in Citrix’s own vision for Mobile Workspaces, as we look to reinvent traditional workplaces around people, very much a digital first and digital humanist approach. Tomorrow the keynotes switch gears and we will hear from Satya Nadella (CEO, Microsoft) as well as Steve Wozniak (Co-Founder, Apple), so stay tuned to this blog for more.

Oh, and one more thing. If you are at the show be sure to stop by the Citrix booth and learn more about what Citrix is up to.

Chris Witeck is a Principal Technology Strategist with Citrix Labs. Citrix Labs is an applied research organization within Citrix. To get updates on what the Citrix Labs team is following as well as projects the Labs team is working on, you can subscribe to the Citrix Labs LinkedIn group