Last year, I left Sitecore after more than 8 years. When I joined, they were a 200-person company at the forefront of WCM technology (they weren’t even on any analyst reports!). I grew along with the company from a Sales Engineer, all the way to being the Director of Product Strategy and it was an amazing journey which brought me to work with some of the best clients and partners in the field. It was also a great transition for me from being a practitioner at SAP BusinessObjects, where I was managing a fairly large site with an integrated best-of-breed marketing technology stack – and it made it clear to me that I love being on the vendor side where I can help not just a single organization with content management goals and challenges, but do so at scale.
In those 8 years, the WCM market has changed considerably, but as it evolved from the legacy “decoupled” systems of the likes of Interwoven and Vignette, to the dynamic delivery of the likes of Sitecore, Episerver and Acquia, it’s now undergoing another substantial shift to headless and SaaS delivery. We’re seeing this trend regularly surface across marketing technology (as noted in reports from Forrester and Gartner).
It’s not hard to see why; the time for content infrastructure systems has finally started to come of age – I recall in my early days of WCM on the vendor side, it was an uphill struggle when trying to explain the benefits of content reuse to clients in a time when it added another layer of complexity when compared to simply dragging-and-dropping visual components on a page. However, in this age where web is merely a single channel for content among social, mobile applications, voice assistants, point-of-sale terminals and other avenues of content consumption, the benefits of a content and API first method now are far clearer to businesses that need to address customer experience across the entire range of interactions with that customer. Also, it’s now clear that merely having a “brochureware” website with some whitepapers is no longer meeting customer needs as they do more research and consideration in purchasing, therefore Content Strategy becomes more important to deliver the right resources (while, paradoxically, also trying to reduce noise). In short, both the channel challenges and content demands have become far more complex.
Similarly, just as customers expect more from businesses, businesses themselves expect more from their WCM vendors – SaaS delivery, great APIs, developer tooling and authoring experience, and being able to build agile, repeatable, platforms for channel delivery is key to addressing those needs. As a competitor, I watched Contentful build an amazing product and organization in a very short period of time and from a product strategy perspective, I often found myself saying “Wow, that’s exactly what I would have built if I got to start from scratch”. The core architectural and UX principles as well as the performance metrics speak for themselves.
As a nerdy aside – maybe it’s related to my ongoing love of building with Lego, but I love Content Modeling and recall with horror the early days in TeamSite where you had to manage a giant XML file and actually code in the front-end any linked item relationships, and Contentful is probably the best tool I have seen so far to manage this critical task as a business user.
Some Content Modeling resources:
- A great overview and list of resources is at the Web Project Guide by Corey Vilhauer and Deane Barker.
- Designing Connected Content: Plan and Model Digital Products for Today and Tomorrow, by Carrie Hane and Mike Atherton
- Real World Content Modeling: A Field Guide to CMS Features and Architecture, by Deane Barker
Even well-implemented “minor aspects” of UI and accessibility (with major usability implications – like “deep editing” content in referenced items) were evidence to me that they had many of the underlying organizational and product management elements running smoothly. One external view of this is the Contentful design blog and their open-source Forma 36 UI framework as a result. The entire experience in the tool (and using the API) is just plain well done, and anyone can register for a free account to see for themselves (which is the way it should be for teams doing product evaluations). As part of my research process, I did, and got certified to boot.
As I was looking to find the ideal place for the next step of my career journey, as is probably clear, I was impressed by everything that I saw from an external perspective. But as I was meeting the team in Berlin, I was particularly struck by the deep consideration by the founders and product team to build a company culture that is focused on addressing the needs and challenges of their customers (in fact, my next post will probably be focused on the impressions of my first week in Berlin visiting the team).
I see my move to Contentful as joining the next company that is in a great position to have the foundational elements to have a major impact and grow substantially in the market, and I’m looking forward to growing alongside the rest of the organization. My role will be working across marketing, product management and partner teams to start to expand the practitioner and platform view to what has, until recently, been a very developer-experience focused solution – fortunately for me, my work might be even easier as many of the partners I’ve worked with are already seeing the benefits of the Contentful approach to meet larger organizational needs.
On a personal note, I also get to keep blogging and staying on top of what the market is demanding, which has been a great source of enjoyment while I’ve been off. Since I have been busy getting back to work, there was a bit of a lull in content, but there should be some good stuff coming in the new year, I promise!