There was a certain buzz on the floor of the SIA show - a different kind of buzz. It wasn't that the exhibit was swamped like it was during the boom days of the late '90s, nor was it that deals were being done on the show floor.
The show seemed to resemble those of years' past: Water was still by far the best giveaway, the SunGard party remained the biggest party of the week and the Davidsohn Group hasn't given up on using female models to get people's attention. For the most part, the show was like any other SIA Technology Management show.
However, there were slightly different undercurrents. People were talking to each other in a different way. There was a sense of eagerness and even optimism on the show floor. Everyone asked the same hopeful questions - "What do you think? Is business picking up? Are CIOs spending again?" And the answer, with crossed fingers, seemed to finally be "yes."
Most exhibitors were tipped off by the fact that this year's trade show wasn't the job fair it has been for the past three years and questions were actually being asked about vendors' products, not their giveaways. Interested, qualified technology buyers were sitting through demos, looking for innovative new products and asking about new trends - as if they really cared and planned to jump on the latest bandwagon.
I saw many high-level business and technology executives walking the floor this year, even some members of our reader advisory board. This is something I hadn't seen in several years.
And to top it off, TowerGroup analysts Bob Iati and Rob Hegarty did their presentation - not on compliance, priorities or doing more with less - but on innovation.
Of course, the theme of the conference was compliance, which is still top of mind for many business and technology executives. But most of my conversations on the floor went beyond compliance and toward innovation - from algorithmic trading trends to direct market-data links with exchanges to new-age workstations.
Could it be true? Are CIOs actually thinking beyond today and looking toward innovating for tomorrow? I think the answer is finally yes.