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Feb 08, 2023

How to ask for better from your team

In many ways, we're a different company than when we started. Part of it is how much we've scaled. A bigger part is how we must constantly reinvent ourselves to stay ahead of the industry. For example, we started as a services company and transformed into a SaaS product. That transformation created more value for our customers and employees.But constant reinvention requires constant reflection on how we can be better. That's not easy. We all love routine. It's a blanket and a good book during a winter storm. The issue is you could stay under that blanket for a long time and, before you know it, customers are churning and competition is eating your lunch.So, how do you encourage "better?" ASICS Senior Technical Product Manager Mindy Montgomery said in the ”People Changing Enterprises” podcast that it can start with a simple question to the team: "Do we think the way we've been doing things is the best way?" She's found that most of the time, the answer is no and people end up volunteering for change. The question unlocks ideas that lead to "better."That's a great strategy. Here are some others I use in my day-to-day.Leaders: Start with yourselfBefore you ask for better from your team, turn that question inward. A trusted advisor once told me leaders have to fire and rehire themselves every six months to determine whether or not they're still the right person for the task at hand. Soon after that, I got an executive coach. I wanted to question if I was still the right CEO at this stage of scale and, if not, understand what gaps I needed to fill. My coach helped me work on conflict resolution and not letting personal attachments limit my ability to make the best business decisions.Leaders are fortunate in having built-in calendars that force "do better" check-ins — board meetings, end-of-quarters and fiscal years and the like. Be open about what you uncover about yourself during those times of analysis to encourage others to do the same. It helps create a culture of continuous improvement and being open to change.Create a culture that values changeI start this form of change-focused culture building by admitting I'm not all-knowing; it's about the collective knowledge and experiences of the team. They're working day in and day out with customers or in concert with partners, digging deep into industry challenges and building the products and features to solve those challenges. This all means that, in many instances, they're closer to what "better" looks like than me.We also build change into our values. For example, we "do the right thing even when no one is watching." In this case, doing the right thing means people across our organization (not just leadership) are empowered to identify and implement new systems or take the idea to someone who can. Mindy added two points about creating a culture of change I want to highlight here:Promote experimentation more than you fear failure. "Outside of a very few cases, our day-to-day decisions aren't going to close down a company like ASICS," she said. In other words, stop fearing a potential failure that may never happen. Instead, work toward better, mitigate potential issues and squeeze any learnings out of failure as you do.Make sure people have access to change "levers." Mindy spoke of data as a lever; use it to rally others and propose a better way. She also discussed people who have mastered "organizational buy-in" as levers. Not everyone has the influence to make widespread change within an organization, but they probably have access to someone who does. One final point: culture is created by a group of people interacting regularly. Don't forget that it's also made up of individuals. Everybody is different, so consider how you can incentivize experimentation in personal ways.Be North-Star drivenChange without a vision can be aimless — chaotic even. Communicate the vision clearly and repeatedly. It can be a target number you're looking to hit for the quarter or year — 100 new clients, $100 million revenue — or it can be a big, hairy, audacious goal, like using technology to pursue equity and break down barriers.Also, make sure everyone understands their specific role in achieving that goal. It all ladders up, and there are more opportunities to celebrate the wins along the way. We created Contentstack to challenge the status quo; legacy CMS technology wasn't cutting it for enterprises anymore. However, we can't rest on the laurels of invention. Organizations stay relevant when they get better — in line with customer needs and where the market is going — and embrace change.

Feb 03, 2023

Levi's Zach Crittendon supports big ambitions with flexible tech

One thing jeans and technology have in common? You can outgrow them. As digital became increasingly critical to Levi Strauss and Co.’s strategy, it was clear that the single, monolithic platform that had been powering the website wasn’t going to be able to keep up with the company’s omnichannel ambitions. “That was a great way to get started,” said Zach Crittendon, software architect at Levi Strauss & Co., about their legacy all-in-one platform. “It has a lot of best practices built into it and was sufficient to get us live on the internet, but it was not going to scale with us in all of the things that we needed to do as a company.” Crittendon recently spoke with us about developing scalable solutions, designing tools that empower creative teams and the advice he has for other leaders making the transition to a composable architecture. Minimize risk with phases Moving from an all-in-one platform to a composable approach, where different systems handle different responsibilities, can be a complex challenge — especially as most companies aim to make this transition in a way that quickly proves value and poses minimal risk. “A huge part of the transition is finding the business case that fits it,” Crittendon said. “One that will give you a real world evaluation of what you’ve built, what its strengths and weaknesses are, but in a way that doesn’t jeopardize your main line of business.” For Levi’s, this meant taking a phased approach. In phase one, the team added a headless CMS to create a new homepage while the rest of the website stayed in the legacy platform. Phase two was to completely replace the legacy platform for the Eastern European website, which was a simpler use case because a third party handled a large part of the order management process. In phase three, the team completely moved to a composable architecture. These phases allowed the team to gradually add complexity and step off the monolith one capability at a time instead of a big-bang replatform effort. “You can have those learnings and if there are any issues you have the time to work through and identify and resolve those before you bet the business on it,” Crittendon said.Build with growth in mind “The most important thing with composable is having a very clear idea of where you’re going," Crittendon said. “Make sure that you have a good idea of what a strong, powerful, flexible, composable architecture looks like in the future.”Keeping the long-term vision in mind helped the Levi’s team to develop and implement capabilities that would be able to grow with the business. For example, instead of creating a one-off template, the homepage was built in a modular way with the intention that the APIs, content types, content schema and the content itself could later be reused and repurposed for different use cases. “We ensured that the initial architecture was structured in such a way that we could expand the number of locations that this modular system could be used within our site and that the set of modules themselves could be expanded,” Crittendon said.Having a foundation of reusable, flexible modules allows the team to repurpose content, integrate data, combine experience elements and deliver to different channels with very little technical investment. For instance, in a two-day hackathon they were able to develop shoppable videos that display inventory-aware products and local prices.“It’s very simple to reuse all of these pieces that we’ve built and just reconfigure them to suit the requirements that we have at the moment,” Crittendon said.Enable creative teams The long-term vision that guides how capabilities are designed and implemented should be developed with both technology and creative teams at the table. At Levi’s, the long-held desire from the marketing team to be able to blend brand-driven content with conversation-driven experience was a major factor in the design of the new architecture. “Going composable has made it faster and easier for us to create essentially whatever experiences our product and user experience teams are able to dream up,” Crittendon said. “The way we’ve integrated our commerce and product information management APIs with our CMS APIs, we’re able to make it very easy for our business users to create these experiences that combine the commerce and the content in one place,” he explained.   Crittendon and his team have approached this from two directions. First, by making it easy to put “content in commerce” and letting business users put text, images and videos directly in category pages and product grids. Second, by enabling “commerce in content” experiences like the ability to tag editorial photos with related products and use real-time data from the commerce platform to only show products that are available. “We’re not trapped in the template of a product display page but can instead deliver a very rich, custom, bespoke brand experience and have the commerce part of that experience just a click away,” Crittendon said. “That’s something that our team had been dreaming of for years before we moved to this composable architecture.” Focus on usability “Half the project is the experience that we’re delivering to the external customers, the other half of the project is how we’re doing that in a way that is easy to use and easy to learn and understand for the business users,” Crittendon said. “As a technology person my job, as I see it, is to understand what it is that they’re trying to convey and what the differences and similarities are across campaigns, locales and languages,” Crittendon said, explaining that a critical part of designing a solution for a global, multi-brand organization like Levi’s is making sure there is significant flexibility. So while architecture components are designed to be reused as much as possible, it’s easy to adjust if a country or brand needs to do something slightly different. This approach has made it possible for Levi’s, in just a few years, to go from a website with basic e-commerce functionality to having over 100 business users actively contributing to an omnichannel experience with thousands of pages live across 60 countries and nine languages. “Being able to create the tools that allow that to be managed at scale by a really wide group of users is something that I’m really proud of” Crittendon said. “Business users are able to create really rich experiences without any ongoing, day-to-day involvement from quality assurance, engineering, or performance.”Learn more about going composable here.

Feb 02, 2023

Why composable architecture is the future of digital experience

Digital experiences are rapidly evolving, causing more and more enterprises to consider the move to a composable digital experience platform. Should your business be one of them?If you haven’t started your journey to a composable architecture, read on to learn:Why experts say composable is the way of the futurePotential benefits of a composable DXPHow to get started and why being “fully composable” mattersWhat is a composable DXP?The composable digital experience platform (DXP) is the most recent concept to emerge in the evolution of the digital experience from its beginnings, when enterprise content was limited to a static website viewed on a desktop where customers could find information about a brick-and-mortar business.With no need to frequently update or publish to multiple channels, a monolithic architecture was the answer to publishing enterprise content. Businesses would purchase a predetermined set of tools designed by one vendor.Then came the smartphone, which led to today’s e-commerce landscape where consumers are not only shopping online but doing so on a plethora of devices and channels. Monolithic platforms, which require developers to code any changes to content, are unable to keep up.The composable DXP is the latest solution for businesses aiming to meet and serve their customers across multiple channels and devices. A composable DXP uses a headless CMS as the foundation for a content hub where microservices are delivered via independent APIs, allowing content to be quickly and easily deployed across channels.Why a composable DXP is the way of the futureAs digital commerce evolves, customers not only expect to be able to interact with your website; they expect a seamless, personalized experience. Monolithic systems, which require IT teams to code every change and update, don’t have the ability to rapidly respond to customer preferences and publish fresh content across multiple channels. According to Gartner Research, businesses can no longer meet their objectives with monolithic platforms. In its 2020 report “Adopt a Composable DXP Strategy to Future-Proof Your Tech Stack,” Gartner predicted that by 2023, organizations that adopt a composable approach will outpace competition by 80% in implementing new features.Potential benefits of a composable DXPA composable DXP offers many benefits for enterprise marketing and IT teams, which can positively impact the success of the overall business. These include:Flexibility, scalability and faster developmentComposable architecture provides organizations the flexibility to choose and combine a unique mix of best-in-breed tools and microservices and to easily change this mix as business needs evolve. The modularity of composable architecture supports the seamless integration of these independent best-in-breed solutions. This means they can be added, removed and recombined quickly without downtime. The ability to deploy services independently to multiple websites and channels from one central hub enables enterprises to scale faster and more easily as needed.Speed and agilityBecause the tools and microservices in composable architecture are modular – meaning they work as independent components or APIs – each can be updated incrementally as needed without impacting other tools, services or channels. Organizations become more agile as marketing and IT teams are empowered to act faster to keep pace with changing customer expectations by providing richer, more up-to-date content experiences.Ease of useWithout coding or technical expertise, marketing teams can modify user interfaces and content experiences without having to open tickets and wait on developers to fulfill requests. Workflow governance for multiple sites and channels is managed from one central hub with customizable user controls ensuring the right persons have approved content prior to rollout.Rapid innovationMonolithic platforms are complex and require hundreds of hours of development time and resources to upgrade and maintain with heavy reliance on tech teams. A composable platform is easier for IT to upgrade as technology evolves because new apps and functionality can be launched independently. Major website overhauls become a thing of the past. Freed from mundane marketing requests and maintenance, IT can focus on innovation and delivering better customer experiences.Increased ROIA composable DXP reduces both development time and time to publish, resulting in reduced costs and an increased profit.Real-time feedbackWebsite analytics, social media, customer relationship management and other sources of data collected via the tools and microservices in the DXP can provide a more complete picture of your customers in real-time. This enables the personalization and up-to-date, relevant content experiences that customers expect.Omnichannel content deploymentIn a composable DXP built with a headless CMS, creation of content and the channels where it’s published are mutually independent. This allows marketers to maintain a responsive presence across multiple channels and devices from one central hub by seamlessly and rapidly optimizing and pushing out marketing campaigns to reach customers where they are.Getting started on the journey to a composable architectureIf your current digital experience solution is holding you back from experiencing the benefits above, it may be time to think about switching to a composable DXP. But where do you begin? Start by listing everything that isn’t working in your current platform. Consider the parts of your current system that are working well to meet the needs of your business, and whether those needs are likely to change in the near future. This will help clarify which apps and microservices you should include in your future solution as well as how to approach implementing it. Transitioning to composable doesn’t necessarily mean throwing out your entire current system and starting with something completely new. Based on your assessment of what’s currently working and not working, you may want to adopt a gradual approach by first implementing composable applications in crucial areas where it could make the most impact and where your monolithic platform is slowing you down.Finding the right composable DXPOnce you’ve decided on the best approach, it’s time to research solutions. If you decide on a gradual approach, make sure the vendor you choose has the ability to take you all the way to your goal of going fully composable. Many vendors currently market their platforms as being “composable” even though they aren’t fully composable. Instead they are selling platforms built on monolithic architecture that offer some composable functionality such as the ability to plug in some APIs or integrate with certain microservices. A fully composable DXP, on the other hand, is built on a composable architecture rather than on monolithic. At its foundation is a headless CMS that separates the back-end coding from the end points such as your website interface. Instead of being one centrally controlled system, it’s a variety of solutions that are independently controlled but work cohesively from one central hub.Does being ‘fully composable’ really matter?If you’re wondering if it really makes a difference whether a DXP is fully composable or not, it actually matters a great deal. A DXP built on monolithic architecture will not deliver all the great benefits of a fully composable platform that we’ve covered in this blog. In fact, it will have many limitations that a fully composable platform won’t have. One of the most notable differences is with monolithic architecture, the vendor controls the type of technology that you can and cannot use. This means your organization will not always have the flexibility to choose and leverage the best available apps and microservices for success as your business grows. This is especially important moving into the future as technology continues to evolve and new options become available. A fully composable DXP provides the flexibility to choose the best solutions now and later so your organization can always leverage the most up-to-date technology tools it requires for success. Fully composable puts you in control of creating a unique DXP, one that will evolve over time to continuously align with business needs, without being limited by a vendor.Learn moreFor a more detailed look at how you can get started on your journey to a composable architecture, see our guide, “How to switch from a monolithic to a composable architecture in 7 steps.” Schedule a free demo to see how Contentstack’s composable digital experience platform can help future-proof your enterprise. 

Jan 27, 2023

Make internal collaborators your change champions

Controversial opinion: Our product alone won’t solve all our customers’ problems. How many times have you been in an organization where a tech product is purchased and then sits gathering dust? Some reports show that more than one-third of enterprise product purchases go unused.Change involves more than a purchase. It involved internal buy-in and mindset and behavior shifts. And all of that requires empathy for your collaborators. While you should evaluate a tool based on whether or not it meets the needs of your end consumers, I’d like to offer an equally important perspective. Ask yourself: Does the tool not only meet but supersede the expectations of all the people using it internally? In a recent episode of “People Changing Enterprises,” Levi Strauss & Co.’s Software Architect Zach Crittendon talked about the company’s transition to composable technology. He currently has over 100 internal collaborators in the Contentstack platform. His job is both to put the tech in place and make sure that marketers never have to call him for help.That last part is an example of true change.Make your internal collaborators your biggest technology — and change — champions with these tips:Focus on how the tool solves their challengesSet aside the deck that shows why you purchased the product from an end-customer perspective. Instead, focus on the benefits to your collaborators. It could be ease of use or time saved vs. what they’re currently using. Will it automate mundane processes machines can handle better? For example, if you have 10 regional websites, show how marketers won’t have to make the same edits 10 different times. If you’re moving to a headless system, show how quickly you can translate creative to multiple channels.Stick to the top three to five benefits that line up with your collaborator’s biggest pain points and communicate that to your internal stakeholders — at a meeting, through a video or in another creative way. You’ll probably have to communicate the benefits more than once to move toward buy-in, but benefits before training, always. The first time your collaborators hear about the tool shouldn’t be when they receive an invite for the training session.Talent sets organizations apart; tools are there to minimize error, enhance the talent and unlock their potential. As Zach acknowledged, Levi’s outstanding digital customer experiences come from the “creative geniuses that we have within our company, whether that's our copywriters, our creative designers or our marketing teams.” Examine resistance to changeSteve Schlafman writes about conscious change. He says: “When we set out to change anything — ourselves, our families, our communities, our organizations — we often focus on a vision, a goal, and a plan, but we fail to account for the often invisible and internal inhibitor of change: resistance.”Resistance is a natural human reaction when people are asked to shift away from familiar ways of doing things. However, when we examine the reasons for the resistance, we can better address any concerns or issues that may be causing it. I’ve experienced resistance in hundreds of shapes and sizes, both as an employee and a founder. There was the time early in my career they layered someone above me and I felt diminished. When my new boss showed me how she would catapult my development, that fear turned to trust. Recently, we brought in new HR software to support our next stage of scale. Imagine the pressure and resistance when dealing with employee benefits and payroll.When they were initially examining Levi's internal content management business process, they found that one of the biggest delays was in using full Photoshop PDF mockups during the review process. They built a robust preview capability as a result.Guess what Zach was met with when he said they wouldn’t have to use PDFs anymore? A “look of horror.” The creatives resisted because they saw it as one of the most important things they did — showing their work in its optimal state. So, Zach made the transition optional. The creatives kept doing previews manually for a few months but slowly realized that the change benefited everyone since the work could be experienced in its actual environment.If you, as the driver of change, did a good job of understanding what your internal collaborators are doing and why, then the change will eventually happen — even if it’s at the pace of those most affected by it. Envision life on the ‘other side’I don’t mean to get bleak, but I love those thought experiments where you ask people to write their obituaries. It forces the question: What’s the legacy I want to leave or the accomplishments I want to be known for?It also helps you set aside any current pain points and imagine a better state. Here’s the thing: a better state is likely possible if you can imagine it. It takes people on both sides of the equation to achieve that better state — those with the vision and know-how and those willing to take a leap of faith and chip away at the obstacles. Enterprise change doesn't happen in a vacuum. It needs a groundswell, and activating your internal collaborators is the only way to achieve that groundswell. Show that you empathize with their unique position, paint the picture of that better state, and then embark on that journey together.

Jan 19, 2023

4 ways your teams can benefit from a composable DXP

Whether you’re a company leader, developer or a creative director, chances are that you understand the importance of having good content on your website and other communication channels that your organization leverages. If you’re like most mid-sized to large companies, you have a complex mix of content that’s used for diverse purposes: marketing and promotions, internal communications and investor relations, delivering personalized customer experiences, engaging potential customers and more.Traditionally, having relevant omnichannel content has been disjointed, time-consuming, difficult to manage, slow and inefficient. Compounding these issues is the accompanying frustration from developers who are leaned on to edit code when any little thing needs to change, and from marketers who can’t get updates made fast enough.Fortunately, there’s a much easier and streamlined way to manage and publish content these days with digital experience platforms (DXPs) built with composable architecture and headless content management systems (CMSes). An increasing number of organizations are transitioning to this type of system for benefits including agility, speed and scalability. Last year, Gartner predicted that more than half of mainstream organizations would invest in composable applications by 2023.Before delving into the benefits of composable, let’s first take a look at what a DXP built on a composable architecture actually is.What is composable architecture?Composable architecture is a way of separating the front-end (what you see on the display) and the back-end code (development) of a website, making development faster and easier. This separation means the front and back end can be developed independently of each other, making deployments simpler and more efficient.A composable architecture typically has a headless CMS at its core. This type of CMS provides an application programming interface or API that the front-end code can call to fetch data from the back end. What kind of tools or APIs are used in a composable DXP?In addition to the headless CMS, which is the central hub of the composable DXP, this type of platform will include a wide variety of microservice-based APIs based on what your organization needs. The beauty is that you can pick and choose the best options in each of these areas below in addition to others without being locked to a specific vendor:E-commerceAsset managementCustomer managementOmnichannel managementMarketing automation and analyticsContent workflowsCustomer engagementAI toolsIn a nutshell, composability means you have the freedom and flexibility to create a unique DXP that’s tailored specifically to your organization’s needs by choosing the right microservices. You might think of these microservices as being an arsenal of tools that can help you elevate your organization above the competition.If the idea of switching from a traditional, monolithic platform to a composable DXP seems daunting at first, keep in mind that the transition doesn’t have to take place all at once. Instead, it can take place one piece (or API) at the time as you add different products and services to the headless CMS. Compatibility enables this kind of targeted transition because each component or API works independently of every other component. As you might imagine, this has many advantages. One of the biggest is that a failure in one component doesn’t bring down the whole system.A composable DXP provides many significant benefits for your organization’s executive, creative and technology teams. Here are four key features of composable DXP and how each team benefits.Very little to no coding neededWith a composable DXP, most changes don’t require the technical knowledge of a developer. Here’s how this benefits teams at every level of your organization.Executive teamsWhen marketing and technology teams can focus on what they do best, there should be less friction between the two. This reduces frustration levels and makes for happier employees, helping you retain your best workers.Creative teams Composability will empower marketing teams to create, change and publish content without having to have any technical expertise. Content is easy to access in one central location. Marketing teams will no longer have to create tickets and wait for developers to get around to their requests. Instead they’ll create campaigns and push a variety of content types to multiple platforms and channels with greater speed and efficiency.Technology teamsThe time developers typically spend making everyday fixes and working with code to launch new campaigns will be freed up so that they can focus more time on creating user-friendly digital experiences for customers.ScalabilityDo you plan on adding e-commerce down the road? Want to add a mobile channel? Want your website to have chat functionality? It’s very easy to add new apps and services to your websites and other channels with a composable DXP. Executive teamsThe business can more easily expand its product and service offerings without having to worry about downtime for websites and other channels. You can focus on growing the business with confidence that your content management system has the agility to keep up. Creative teamsAs new marketing automation and tools become available, it will be simple to add these to your API mix.Technology teamsIt will be easier for IT to scale apps because services can be deployed independently. Tech can focus on one type of digital service, while others continue to work as normal. There’s no need for rushed overnight deployments or site downtime to release new functionality.SpeedComposability improves speed in several different ways, including speed of publishing content, speed of implementing campaigns and speed of reaching business goals.Executive teamsBusiness goals can be fulfilled faster, whether you aspire to expand into a new region or roll out new products and services. What better way to stay a step ahead of the competition?Creative teamsMarketing leaders will be empowered to launch campaigns and publish content much faster. Again, there’s no waiting on IT to make changes. They can also push content to multiple sites without having to totally recreate content from scratch. Composability makes it easier to create a content block for one site, and then quickly push that content to other sites and channels.Technology teamsSlow implementations become a thing of the past, as IT teams focus their efforts on targeted API functionality, rather than being bogged down with tickets for minor edits and updates.Improved customer experiencesWhen relying on a composable DXP, delivering content that’s personalized and relevant becomes the status quo instead of the exception, boosting customer satisfaction. Executive teamsThe business can expect to reap the rewards of improved customer experiences. A current Forrester Total Economic Impact (TEI) study demonstrates an ROI of 295% with a composable architecture.Creative teamsMarketers will no longer be hindered by the rigidity of a monolithic CMS. Instead, they will have unlimited access to all the tools they need for success with the freedom to expand their toolkit any time they choose.Technology teams With less time spent on repetitive requests, the IT staff can put its expertise to work in key areas which will have the biggest impact on customer satisfaction.FAQsAs a recap and to answer additional questions you may have, here are a few frequently asked questions about composable DXPs.Am I tied to one vendor that determines what solutions I can use?No, a composable DXP gives you the freedom to choose the best solutions, regardless of vendor.How do I know all the components that I want in my composable DXP will work together?Composable providers understand the importance of their solutions being able to integrate with other APIs and have worked to address this issue. Composable providers ensure their solutions can seamlessly enable multiple APIs to work together by making them easy to plug in with software developer kits (SDKs) or one-click connections.What if I want to keep tools on my current websites that are working?With a composable DXP, an organization can choose the best options and even keep using some of the existing solutions that are already working. You are no longer locked into using just the services and apps that your vendor or platform supports.What is the first step in transitioning to a composable DXP?Begin by thinking about the apps and services you would want to have in your DXP if the options were limitless and then write them down. Be sure to get input from executive, creative and IT teams before searching for products and scheduling demos.Learn moreLearn more about composable DXPs in our guide, “What is a DXP? Understanding digital experience platforms.”Schedule a free demo to see how Contentstack’s composable digital experience platform can benefit executive, creative and technology teams at your organization.

Jan 18, 2023

De-risking your transition to composable

Everyone has a different journey to composable. Some companies adopt it quickly; some take several months. Some are eager; some are skeptical. But nearly all are concerned about risk during the transition. That’s not surprising — any good business leader considers all the risks at hand when making a big move. Levi Strauss & Co certainly did, and they weren’t shy about discussing it on our “People Changing Enterprises” podcast. I was a fan of the openness from Zach Crittendon, a software architect, as he broke down Levi’s approach to transitioning from their monolith environment to a composable architecture.Since risk is on everyone’s minds, I wanted to share my perspective on how to minimize risk when making the move to composable.Get everyone on boardChoosing to make the switch from monolith to composable doesn’t happen overnight. It also can’t be accomplished alone. You need a team. If critical stakeholders like finance and procurement are not on board at the start, it can cause problems and increase risk in the future. Finance might question the higher upfront costs because the business is adopting several best-of-breed tools with built-in benefits like scalability and extensibility. Procurement is going to look at the different vendors to manage and balk.Demonstrate the business case for why this move is important:To finance: “The market is ever-changing and we need to pivot quickly when required. Our current environment doesn’t allow us to do that. Composable is much less risk, time and cost than our current environment in the long run.”To procurement: “I know you want to consolidate vendors, but our current tools aren’t working for the business. There’s no solution in the composable world where we just buy everything as one.” (If Contentstack is your composable partner, I would recommend telling them about Care Without Compromise™, the industry’s only cross-vendor support program).It’s a slow process, but worth it. There’s much less uncertainty and chance that risk might be incurred in the future from internal conflicts.Make a plan and take it in phasesOnce you have everyone on board, your next move to decrease risk is to make a plan. I recommend pacing the transition in phases so it’s not so overwhelming or too fast.I like how Zach said it: “I think the choice of the word ‘composable’ is really meaningful in the sense that it’s like a musical composition. It’s a series of notes and chords that come together into bars and movements. Eventually, you have an entire piece.”The terms “come together” and “eventually” are important in Zach’s quote. Levi’s didn’t adopt composable all at once. In fact, they started with just four modules. Eventually, they were able to create cool content experiences that they had been dreaming about for a long time — but it wasn’t what they started with. They started with a plan and phase one.However, remember this: Plans change.I love this quote from President Eisenhower surfaced by a previous “People Changing Enterprises" guest: “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”I wouldn’t say having a roadmap for your transition to composable is useless, but I would advise you to be open to change as circumstances evolve. It’s the act of planning for the future that will de-risk your transition most, rather than the plan itself. Balance the present and the futureConsider the balance between the capabilities you need now and what you’ll need down the road.One of the benefits of composable architecture is the flexibility it provides. If you build something into your initial stack that you want to remove later, it is much easier than in a monolithic environment. Conversely, if you leave something out that you discover a need for, you can easily integrate that into your stack. Balancing the present and the future also means you have a long-term vision of what you want to do but start with a very clear and provable business case. For Levi’s, their first phase in the composable transition was proving Contentstack would excel with one use case: the homepage. While the homepage ran through the headless CMS, the rest of the website remained on the monolith. It was like a small trial run: Once they proved the business case for composable, they moved on to phase two. They replaced their old environment and created a simple version of the website in a smaller market (for them, it was Eastern Europe). The third, and last, phase was taking the lessons learned from phases one and two to fully replace the entire website.Trust your instinctsThe term digital transformation – along with all the moving parts and plans it brings – can be intimidating. So, here’s my biggest advice in this process: as a business leader at the head of the charge, trust your gut. I got this advice from Dheeraj Pandey, founder and CEO of Nutanix and someone I respect, who said that gut feeling comes from experience. You may not have walked through a digital transformation project before, or it might have looked very different in the past. But experience forms the foundation of your gut instinct.If something seems like a risk, consider it. Check with your colleagues and trust their gut instinct, too. Remember this transition to composable is a less risky approach than staying with your old tools and technologies. Any good tech leader knows you’ll never fully de-risk your transition to composable. But with a thorough approach, an understanding of where you want to go, and an experienced partner to offer expertise, you can pave a path to less risk and more flexibility for the future.

Jan 17, 2023

Contentstack demonstrated 295% ROI in Forrester study

Today’s consumer expects a seamless and personalized digital experience when interacting with brands. As we’ve discussed before, a monolithic (or “legacy”) CMS lacks the flexibility enterprises need to keep up with changing consumer demands. “A lot of the technologies that were initially driving digital experiences [were designed with] one single experience in mind,” said Jeff Baher, head of Global Product Marketing and Growth at Contentstack. However, Baher said, with the rise of mobile internet, social media and smart devices, “there’s just an entirely different set of requirements for being able to reach customers and create digital experiences.” The digital experience has expanded, and the customer journey can now unfold across multiple channels. Increasingly, enterprises are adopting composable architecture to build digital experiences for their customers, and a headless CMS is the beating heart of it all. But can the benefits of implementing a headless CMS be measured? We recently commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct a study measuring the Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) of the Contentstack headless CMS platform, and the results speak for themselves.MethodologyThe Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) methodology was developed by Forrester to help companies quantify the value of IT initiatives, such as moving to a headless CMS. TEI gives leaders more concrete data they can use to make the right decisions for their organization.In order to effectively measure the benefits of the Contentstack headless CMS, researchers at Forrester identified four organizations currently using the Contentstack headless CMS. To ensure accuracy, the organizations were selected from different industries (food and beverage, travel, fitness and apparel), with revenues ranging from $25 million to $2.1 billion.Researchers interviewed decision-makers at each organization to obtain data on benefits, costs, flexibility and potential risks, then used this information to build a composite organization. Then, they applied TEI to build a financial model and quantify the business benefits of moving to a headless CMS.How Contentstack’s CMS platform benefits enterprisesThe Contentstack headless CMS platform offers significant financial benefits for enterprises. The study found that the composite organization’s ROI was 295%, thanks to a combination of cost savings and increased revenues.  Cost savingsOne of the challenges of legacy infrastructure is what Baher calls a “push-and-pull” between an organization’s IT and business sides. Since the legacy CMS is so code-heavy, even minor tweaks to the digital experience can require significant updates to back-end code. “You have to put in an IT ticket for really basic things, and then the IT queue [is full of] tasks like ‘fix five typos,’ and that’s maddening,” Baher said. The Contentstack headless CMS platform makes it easier for the business side to make tweaks to the digital experience without a lot of IT assistance. This reduces the amount of time IT and developers spend on minor tasks — and that time adds up. One interview subject noted that with Contentstack’s CMS, “we can stand things up as quick as our control processes will allow.” The study found that using Contentstack’s headless CMS saved the composite organization $507,000 in productivity costs over three years. In addition, the headless CMS reduced content-related development time for the composite organization by 80%. The headless CMS also minimizes the number of manual and repetitive tasks business users normally have to perform to publish content in a legacy CMS. Simplifying the content publishing process helped reduce overhead and improve time to market for the composite organization. Overall, the organization’s time to publish was reduced by 90%, leading to savings of $2 million over three years.  Increased revenuesThe study found that the Contentstack headless CMS was key to an estimated 4% revenue increase for the composite organization, worth $3 million in profit over three years. A few factors could explain this estimated increase. Cutting back on development time for minor tasks allows the composite organization to dedicate more IT resources to specialized projects. Reducing time to publish also means the composite organization can publish more content to enhance the digital experience. More frequent content updates means a higher SEO ranking, which drives more traffic to the site. And when potential customers arrive, the improved digital experience can positively impact purchasing decisions: Studies have shown that 42% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience. The big pictureDelivering a high-quality customer experience has always been crucial for brands, but it is more important today than ever before. It is easier than ever for consumers to do business with a brand — and it is also easier than ever for consumers to take their business elsewhere when a brand fails to deliver the experience they expect.In order to meet the demands of today’s consumer, organizations must deliver a digital experience that is fast and seamlessly unfolds across multiple devices and channels. The customer journey needs to be personalized and perpetual: Brands must maintain a post-sale presence in order to encourage repeat business. Today’s consumer expects a more mobile, cloud-based digital experience. Most monolithic content management systems provide a preset suite of functions that can, in theory, meet those demands. But sometimes those built-in functions don’t quite work the way business users need them to — and sometimes they don’t exist at all. In those cases, organizations have to find third-party solutions, which can be hard to integrate into legacy systems. And, as Baher notes, maintaining those workarounds can be time-consuming and difficult. “Connecting is done through web hooks, which are these manual stitching points between parts of your stack or your suite. They’re manual, they take time, they’re error-prone, they’re security issues because you’re connecting third-party software to parts of your stack,” Baher said. Managing all these factors usually falls on a single member of the IT team — and teams often struggle to keep things running smoothly if that key member leaves the organization.The Contentstack headless CMS platform allows business users to be more hands-on when it comes to content. Contentstack Marketplace — an extensive ecosystem of features, services, apps, integrations, and accelerators — lets teams take a modular approach to digital experience composition by picking and choosing the right building blocks for their needs. These components can then be integrated quickly and easily  via the Contentstack Automation Hub, which Baher describes as a “no-code, low-code environment that simplifies the complex and automates the routine.”“You can very quickly create triggers and actions across  the composable stack, which saves time and removes the opportunity for a lot of errors,” Baher said.A headless CMS is the first step toward creating a fully composable digital experience platform (DXP), and Contentstack is the perfect foundation for  robust and adaptable digital experience composition. The headless CMS, Marketplace, and Automation Hub combine to deliver fast, seamless integration so business users can publish content or make tweaks to the digital experience without significant involvement from the IT side. TEI is an important measure of the overall economic benefit of moving to composable architecture, as well as the unique and specific benefits of using the Contentstack Headless CMS Platform to do it. But going composable is about more than just dollars and cents — it’s also about future-proofing your business so that no matter how customer needs and demands evolve in the future, your organization can evolve along with them.Learn moreSchedule a free demo to see how Contentstack can help your organization deliver a customer experience that leads to higher revenues, lower overhead and has the agility today’s brands need.

Jan 05, 2023

Composable vs. monolithic: Which is right for you?

Businesses are trying to create better customer experiences, so composable digital experience platforms (DXPs) are becoming more popular. But what are they? How do they compare to monolithic platforms? And how do you choose the right one for your business? In this blog post, we will answer these questions and more.What is a digital experience platform (DXP)?Digital experience platforms (DXP) are purpose-built technology solutions for creating, managing, delivering and optimizing consistent digital experiences across different customer touchpoints. These tools offer businesses a valuable way to communicate with their users through content and obtain customer feedback through data collection.Companies can utilize DXPs to create content tailored to websites, email campaigns, mobile apps, social media channels, e-commerce sites, IoT devices, digital signage systems and more. Beyond simply broadcasting content on each platform, DXPs also allow marketers to automate marketing activities and develop a unified digital experience that can take users toward their desired goals or objectives.DXPs help companies understand what customers want and need. They can do this by looking at how customers act online on websites, social media, and other online places. Businesses can then use this information to reach out in new ways or to improve their relationships with existing customers. Ultimately, using a DXP helps organizations make more sales or conversions by providing a better user experience across multiple channels.What is composable architecture?Composable architecture is an innovative way of organizing and managing software development that separates front-end and back-end code. This technique enables teams to create, modify and launch content without relying on developers for coding. This method of organization helps speed up development and make it more efficient. Composable architecture makes developing software easier while encouraging teamwork between different departments. For example, if you use a composable content management system, the marketing team can make changes and publish their work without waiting for developers to finish coding. This way, teams can post new content more quickly. Additionally, developers can focus on creating unique experiences and features instead of being bogged down with marketing tasks or fixes.What is a monolithic DXP?A monolithic DXP solution is an all-in-one platform that provides a suite of tools for managing content. These platforms are designed to enable users to store, manage and publish content quickly and easily. They typically offer features such as content editing options, user permissions and roles and media asset management.Monolithic content management solution platforms can be rigid in terms of how they operate and may not be able to keep up with the ever-changing needs of a business. Additionally, they tend to take longer to customize than composable DXP systems.What is a composable DXP?The composable DXP concept is still relatively new and has become increasingly popular recently. A composable DXP is a platform that allows digital teams to assemble individual services or microservices into an experience that meets their specific needs. This innovative type of DXP is essentially an assembly of best-of-breed solutions to deliver content and digital experiences to customers in a much more agile, flexible and efficient way than a single monolithic platform.As opposed to the traditional monolithic approach taken with DXPs, this microservices approach enables companies to cost-effectively customize their DXP according to their business needs. Furthermore, allowing for a greater level of scalability and interoperability allows faster time-to-market for new features or services, as well as improved customer satisfaction.The composable approach gives organizations better control over their digital experiences and helps them stay ahead of their competition by enabling them to focus on innovation instead of maintenance. A composable solution makes it easier for businesses to move quickly while keeping up with the ever-changing technology landscape.What to consider when comparing a composable and monolithic DXPsCan the platform integrate with solutions your team currently uses?Monolithic suites are large programs often made up of products obtained through acquisitions and then given a makeover in terms of branding and user experience to fit into the overarching process. Such products lack the open-source code needed to integrate them seamlessly with other solutions, which can limit their utility as part of a more comprehensive DXP solution. This technique makes it simple for internal integration, but external integration can be difficult or even impossible.On the other hand, with a composable DXP, external integration is better facilitated due to its ability to connect with existing best-of-breed solutions more readily. As such, organizations have more control over how their digital experiences are created and tailored for their specific audiences. Furthermore, each individual component can be monitored separately from the rest of the system, allowing for greater visibility into performance and ease of scalability when needed. Ultimately, a composable DXP offers organizations greater flexibility and agility compared to monolithic platforms by providing enhanced external integrations and visibility into performance metrics on an individual basis.How much time will it take to deploy the platform?Deploying a new monolithic suite can require significant time and effort — sometimes months — and demands constant monitoring for unexpected changes or challenges during set-up.Moreover, it's necessary to ensure that all employees acquire the required skills to work effectively in this new environment. Besides the technical implications of such large-scale transition projects, there are also social and psychological implications that business leaders should take into consideration. Companies must be aware that transition periods affect team dynamics and thus must create an atmosphere of collaboration that encourages employee engagement and satisfaction throughout the process.On the other hand, a composable DXP approach allows companies to start quickly, taking advantage of the existing knowledge their staff already has. This strategy eliminates the need for extensive training since they can be up and running with a condensed feature set using workflows they're already familiar with.How will we keep the platform up-to-date?Companies can easily keep their composable DXPs up-to-date as the various vendors focus solely on perfecting their solutions. Additionally, organizations can frequently enhance open-source products with improved customizations and updates that won't depend on the vendor.For monolithic suites, a single vendor provides updates and new features; however, some of these “nice-to-have” additions may take an extended amount of time to be implemented to the platform  — if at all. Even minor bugs can be left without resolution until suite-wide updates are rolled out. Companies should be aware that they may not always get timely fixes for any issues they encounter while using DXPs with a single-source provider.How secure are these platforms?A composable architecture allows security updates and patching solutions to be implemented quickly for each component without hindering other systems. This expedited process allows for swift response times in case a breach or vulnerability is discovered. However, if a security flaw is found in one component of an entire suite, it can likely extend to the whole system, thereby rendering the entire suite susceptible to exploitation. Consequently, organizations must take extra care when monitoring their suites for security flaws to ensure that all corners of their system are protected from malicious actors.On the other hand, monolithic solutions can be patched as a single software package. Still, patches may need to happen when the system is not being used, causing extended exposure to vulnerabilities.ConclusionComposable DXPs offer more flexibility and agility compared to monolithic platforms. This means they can scale better, have new features and services faster and improve customer satisfaction. They also provide shorter deployment times, easier updates and enable responsive security updates. However, while they may be more flexible than a single-vendor platform, companies must still carefully monitor their systems for any potential security flaws or vulnerabilities that could put their entire suite at risk. Ultimately, businesses can make informed decisions about which type of system best meets their needs by understanding the differences between these two approaches to digital experience delivery and the pros and cons of each.Learn moreLearn more about composable architecture in our guide, “The ultimate marketer’s guide to composable DXPs.”Schedule a free demo to see how Contentstack’s composable DXP can help your organization deliver the digital experiences your customers crave.

Dec 29, 2022

How React works in a composable architecture

React is a JavaScript library widely frequented by web developers who plan on building composable elements for dynamic interfaces. By default, it is a declarative and flexible framework for altering web and app data without having to refresh the DOM every time. A React CMS splits the roles of designers and developers, placing them into a front-end or back-end role respectively. React is a collection of designated components used to maintain a structured front end, for performing actions like validating forms, controlling states, arranging layouts and passing in data. Described as a headless infrastructure, the three main ingredients of a React CMS are React, REST API and GraphQL. These libraries allow you to scale content across many channels and devices by eliminating codebase dependencies that would be prevalent in a traditional CMS environment.  When should you use a React CMS?A React CMS is ideal for editing the elements that users interact with, from buttons to dropdowns on your website. And for organizing larger projects, complex code logic is grouped by matching patterns to help you track the state of apps. It will update your source code in the DOM to reflect changes in app requirements so the content gets delivered without any compatibility issues. This is achieved by tracking the modified versions of your components to back up your data before the system restarts. If you prefer something more substantial than drag-and-drop customization, then you should consider getting a React CMS to access native API configurations and code blocks that are fully decoupled from the presentation layer. This will save you time on having to manually update plugins or extensions, so you can divert resources to creating and deploying the app through its API-based integrations. Moreover, a React CMS has been shown to improve performance by allocating less memory to track component changes. To get around loading delays, it will use the virtual DOM to render only the assets that are found at the URL. Instead of receiving just the themes and templates, you have complete control over the content layout for fetching chunks of data from API calls to populate your web pages with the desired elements. How a React CMS works with APIs to distribute contentWhen React is combined with a CMS, it lets you preview the output of workflows before you publish them onto a page. A React CMS is able to transmit on-demand data between the client and server or even during compilation time, to dictate how objects are rendered on a webpage. Using a composable model, you can call the API to request information from root directories or databases on the server, dividing your website functionality into closed environments that will not interfere with each other. From a technical standpoint, React CMSes make it possible to edit visual elements through your site’s HTML, by tying it back to the schema of GraphQL as you fill in the fields or toggle the settings. It’s also great for patching bugs in your JS bundles that might otherwise lead to delayed page interactions or even downtime on the server. Rather than create a project from scratch, the composable architecture makes it easy to reuse content over multiple channels. In addition, you can search for third-party integrations on the market to help you build streamlined apps that contribute to the overall React ecosystem. As such, swapping out components is the way to go when your team is pressed for time on the next feature release. By employing API-first methods, you won’t have to monitor CMS servers or databases in messy clusters, unlike what happens in traditional CMS solutions. What are the benefits and features of a React CMS?A React CMS ensures the continuous operation of components on the app, giving you composable options to import modules that perform what you need on the client. Once you understand the fundamental components, it becomes easier to develop and maintain web apps by leveraging just the required functionality to deliver consistent user interactions. To manage your databases, it utilizes GraphQL to recover queries from the app data in a structured format. As a substitute for REST, GraphQL caches and updates databases with new entries, thereby combining them with Apollo or Axios packages to execute your API requests. Another aspect is the custom editing experience, which generates dynamic content in an organized manner, so you can avoid a conflict of interest when loading HTML and JSON files in succession. If you’re looking for a specific feature to implement, such as a login page or shopping cart to enhance the user experience, you can learn about them in detail through the support documentation. The goal is to stabilize your app’s performance during page loads to improve the accessibility of various media types. To see the CMS in action, you can simply declare the permission and hierarchy of API objects using the default arguments. But before you map out the visuals, it’s best to have a clearly defined scope of the app by taking measures to scale it in conjunction with your network or server capacity. Choosing a React CMS to decouple your web servicesFor enterprise workflows, React APIs are a must-have that can shorten the time to market by automatically cleaning content backlogs and preparing for site migrations. Since there are lots of options for React CMSes, you’ll have to narrow down which libraries are capable of handling your app’s payload. If you want a composable CMS focused on developers, get one that offers a large collection of third-party frameworks or extensions in order to cover all bases of your React app. For example, you may need conditional fields to verify user accounts or support for SQL to join multiple tables containing product details. Another advantage is being able to override protocol errors or software failures that are detrimental to performance indicators before they end up on the latest build. This ensures development is productive and has room to grow into cross-platform capabilities. The cost of implementation is well worth it for specialized use cases that cover static site generators, mobile apps and web services. In return, this puts custom assets, webhooks and test scenarios at your fingertips, so you can keep adding integrations with other tools without worrying about the impact on existing code.With headless CMS functionality, you can frame API responses and multiple SaaS solutions around predictable outcomes to close the gap between React and your site content. Learn moreIf you would like to learn more about the benefits of a composable architecture, see our article “Why a composable CMS is right for you.” Schedule a free demo to experience the benefits of a composable CMS with Contentstack’s headless CMS-based digital experience platform.  

Dec 22, 2022

How to launch fresh ideas in an old-school industry

When a business is driven by highly personal customer service, like booking bucket list trips to the world’s best golf courses, it’s a challenge to introduce digital innovation while retaining the special touch that sets the company apart. Jon Richards, head of digital at Golfbreaks, has built an in-house Digital Center of Excellence to do just that. Jon recently spoke with us about how to unlock the power of in-house expertise, empower teams across the business, and the advice he has for other leaders that are moving companies into the future. Get comfortable with discomfortShaking up the status quo often means confronting strong opinions and ruffling some feathers within the organization, especially in companies that have had many years of success. ‘When I was challenging what we were doing and how we were doing things, I found it really uncomfortable to begin with,” Jon said. “The more I did it, the more I came round to the thinking that I’m here to make this team work the best they can and deliver the best products they can. So if I need to ask some difficult questions, and have some uncomfortable conversations, so be it.“Don’t be afraid. Put yourself in uncomfortable situations, and then they soon become comfortable,” he advised. Unify new and proven strategiesTaking a critical look at how a business operates will uncover areas for improvement as well as show that there are very good reasons for certain legacy ways of working. Part of an effective transformation is blending new, data-driven tactics with the established people-driven processes that are central to the business.A major competitive advantage of Golfbreaks is the personal, thoughtful service from sales and customer service agents. Key to this is empowering agents to make decisions on an individual basis, such as noticing a client’s flight was delayed and calling the hotel to arrange a free round of drinks. This human touch makes a big difference in a traveler’s experience and creates a lot of loyal customers. At the same time, digital can provide convenience to customers at a scale not possible with 1:1 agent interactions. During the pandemic lockdowns, Golfbreaks was able to quickly spin up a self-service application that customers could use to process refunds online. This freed up the sales team to devote more time to working with clients to rebook trips when travel opened back up and, overall, retain 80% of the business in that period. Data can also be used to quickly validate new strategies and shed light on the business impact of human behavior. For example, Golfbreaks introduced a feature that allowed customers to use the website to set up a date and time for a call-back and sent a reminder to sales agents 15 minutes before the scheduled time. The data showed that if agents called too early, right when they got the reminder, it negatively impacted conversions by 30%. By passing that statistic along to the sales team, and disabling the 15 minute notification, the business got a quick and significant win.Leverage legacy knowledge Discussion around digital transformation tends to focus on how to help people learn and develop new skills, but just as important is figuring out how to better harness the knowledge that’s already there. Golfbreaks has dozens of employees that have been with the company for over 10 years and know their customers, their suppliers and the market inside and out. This gold mine of expertise is what enabled a major part of the company’s transformation strategy: moving away from external agencies and building up an in-house Digital Center of Excellence.“For an agency, it’s really difficult to come in and understand the complexities of the business and the systems and in 12 to 18 months deliver a really compelling digital experience,” Jon said. “We have huge internal knowledge that we weren’t really utilizing for these digital projects.”  Making the most of in-house expertise means adopting a more collaborative way of working. A Digital Center of Excellence can put processes in place that encourage people to share insights.At Golfbreaks, this included bringing stakeholders from marketing, sales, account management, product teams and customer service into the scoping phase of the new website, as well as getting regular input from different departments to help prioritize investment, improve new features and minimize the risk of spending time on projects that experts know wouldn’t work well in the market. A monthly stakeholder meeting is used to communicate progress, get teams thinking about digital in new ways and collect feedback. “Everyone is very clear on what the business is trying to achieve and there’s a lot of great collaboration,” Jon said. “At any level of the organization, people can have a voice and put forward their ideas.” Invest in the next generation Along with tapping into the expertise already in the company, great ideas can come from bringing in a fresh pair of eyes that can look at the business from new angles. “One thing that's been really important to the business, for many years, is investing in young people,” Jon said. “We work with universities across the UK to support student work placement programs.” These programs are a great way to find talent and Golfbreaks has employed many placement students after they graduate, some of whom are now at a director level in the company. They’re also an invaluable source of insight to guide the future of the company. While golf has traditionally catered to an older demographic, the rise of Topgolf and driving ranges, as well as the fact that golf courses were one of the only sports facilities open during pandemic lockdowns, has led to an influx of younger players. “We see them as being our customers of the future,” Jon said about the students in the program. “It’s important to get an understanding of how they’re using technology and what their expectations are of brands when we’re looking to build our products.” Empower teams to think big Finding great ideas is one part of the transformation equation. Another is having a team with the skills and creativity to bring them to life; a team that doesn’t see digital as one-off projects but looks at the needs and ideas coming from all departments and is able to drive a cohesive digital strategy across the business. “Come to us with the problem, not the solution,” is what Jon and the team at the helm of the Digital Center of Excellence tell the organization. “Tell us what you are trying to achieve, and we will tell you the best way to reach those goals and that outcome.” Building a team that can perform at this level is not only about recruiting the type of people who want to problem solve, but also giving them the time and resources to do so. For instance, every two weeks the Golfbreaks digital team is given an an R&D day to work on new ideas, new projects or learn new skills. Investing in teams leads to teams that are invested in the work they do, empowered to make decisions and able to move fast. Over the last four years, the Center of Excellence team at Golfbreaks has successfully brought all digital projects in-house, completely rebuilt the tech stack, launched a new website and handled the many changes brought on by the pandemic.   “Everyone in the team was really committed and passionate about building the right platform for Golfbreaks. It was great to see everyone just pulling in the same direction,” says Jon. “That’s been one of the key successes in my career so far.” 

Dec 15, 2022

Young people can be your greatest asset

As a young engineer, I was full of excitement to solve problems and make things better for everyone. As my career progressed, I took on more responsibility and began to realize the limitations people and companies have around innovation. (I would still say, however, that I’ve kept my curious, entrepreneurial spirit.)I couldn’t help but think of that young engineer — full of ideas and excitement — as I listened to Jon Richards, head of digital at Golfbreaks, talk about the importance of young talent on our ”People Changing Enterprises” podcast. Golfbreaks is a specialized golf travel company that organizes golf vacations for people all over the world. As a sport that primarily focuses on an older demographic, it was interesting to hear Jon talk about how young people revitalized it during COVID. It also led Jon to talk more about the value young people bring to the company. Contentstack — including myself — takes a similar perspective on the unique advantages that a younger generation brings to the table. I’m passionate about championing our young people, and believe they hold the key to our experimentation and innovation. Here's why.Young people have less experienceYou heard me right, I said less experience. While it’s important to have more experienced people on our teams, less is also a benefit. Less experience equals fewer rules, and breakthroughs rarely happen when people play by the rules. When more experienced talent tries something new and it doesn’t work, we tend to throw in the towel. We also can unconsciously brush off good ideas without realizing that the context we’re thinking in has completely changed. The world is not the same as it was 10 years ago. We’ve leveled up tech, business processes and skills. When we think, “That’s not the way things work,” a young person thinks, “Well, why can’t I do it this way?”A more lenient perspective on rules allows younger people to build more innovative products. I might think of a new idea for a problem and build it completely from scratch. A younger developer might think of a new idea and hodgepodge existing tools until it gets them where they want. They put a new meaning to the idea of working smarter, not harder.Leon Kass, an award-winning teacher at the University of Chicago, said he likes working with 20-year olds because “the big questions of life are electric in their minds.” Challenging the status quo is something young people are already doing naturally, so why not put that to work?They’re great at solving problemsSometimes I find that as much as I want to make an impact, it can be easy to get comfortable. I wasn’t always like that. Once, I left a new job within a year. The pay was great, but I was bored out of my mind and moved on well before “the rules” say you should.There’s something like that in all young people. They want to do new things, learn, and advance forward. That tenacity for momentum and innovation means they’re one of your biggest problem-solving assets. On the podcast, Jon and Jasmin discussed how young people have an ability to “learn fast, fail fast and learn fast” again. If solving a problem one way doesn’t work, they pivot and try something else. Quite literally, they won’t stop until they get to the root of the issue and solve it.That’s why we hold events like hackathons. It’s basically a high-speed race from a problem to a solution in a fun, competitive format. We’ve done two so far for our product team in India. It’s fun, but also helps us solve customer issues and create items from their wish lists quickly.Here’s a snapshot of the winning team that integrated Contentstack with Google Voice:But keep an eye on that drive; it can be a double-edged sword. A common growth area I’ve spotted in some of our younger team members is that they are quick to move on and less keen on quality control. That’s why we often pair junior and senior engineers right away to work on projects that will go to production. Determination and quality, working together.All young people need to succeed is an opportunityWe train our interns and staff at Contentstack. But some companies like to put them in front of a computer for half a year to attend online modules; we don’t do that. Instead, they also help us on new projects. I like to create a team of smart interns and bring in a senior leader to oversee them. Then, we give them two to three months to solve a problem.Once, we even solved a critical piece of Contentstack like this. We were trying to fix a system bug with some of our tools, which was a major task with huge repercussions if we didn’t get it right. We didn’t have many resources at the time, so we corralled our best interns to solve the issue. It worked and the bug was fixed. (Our more experienced developers triple-checked their work to be sure).Jon said this on the podcast about giving young people opportunities:"It's really important for [Golfbreaks] to recognize young people and give them the opportunity to learn at a company that encourages them. Young people will make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, but fostering that environment for them to come in and continue their education in a real world workplace sets them in really good stead for the rest of their career. And also, it allows us to identify really good talent for when they graduate.”We have a team of 18 interns starting on our India team in January, and I get excited thinking about what we’ll accomplish. While there are many things we can teach our young professionals, there are also many things we can learn from them. For all my senior people reading this, here’s my advice: Open yourself to learning how the next generation sees the world. You have no idea of the possibilities you will uncover.

Dec 12, 2022

A look back at 2022 and advancing composable

With 2022 almost in the books, I would like to reflect on the past year of our product growth and the journey that we have taken with our customers.  This year did not give us much time to celebrate battling back a global pandemic before testing our global economy yet again. Two once-in-a-generation disruptions have shown that being agile and staying in touch with customers is required to stay competitive.We recognized this back in 2011 when our parent company, Raw Engineering, pioneered headless CMS to better serve their clients. Contentstack and the whole composable movement was born out of a failure of old monolithic technologies to give teams the tools to meet the moment. Fast forward to today and that movement is now mainstream, the debate finally decided: Composable is the best enterprise architecture choice. Teams of all sizes across all industries are going composable. If you don’t believe me, just watch legacy CMSes trip over themselves to rebrand as “headless” and finally embrace the cloud.However, enterprises choosing composable is just a first step on the journey.  Where do you start? How do you integrate? How quickly can you get to the value? Answering these questions drove our product roadmap this year. We challenged ourselves to go beyond the bounds of a traditional headless CMS to create a complete composability platform. Getting composable right is hard, but we help everyone do hard better.Here are some of the ways we did that in our product journey 2022:Contentstack MarketplaceThe first step when it comes to composable is getting all your softwares to communicate. The Contentstack Marketplace includes integrations for dozens of technologies without the need for code. We also released an application framework that allows your developers to write their own applications on top of our platform. I have loved seeing how customers have taken these tools and built incredible capabilities for their content creators.  The Contentstack Marketplace takes the pain out of composable and gives you the flexibility to extend Contentstack to meet your changing needs.Automation HubNow that everything is integrated, you need to build business logic into your stack. As the number of your technologies grows, this can become a real challenge and requires time-consuming and brittle integration code. Automation Hub is a low-code integration and automation product that solves this problem. It allows you to build complex, multi-step workflows that automatically execute across Contentstack and all your other technologies. This saves a massive amount of time and removes the risk of costly errors.Automation Hub automates your business logic, making it feel like all of your tools were purposely built to work together.Mission ControlModern digital teams now have to manage more channels to meet their customers where they are. It can be easy to completely lose track of what is being done, where and how all of your systems interact. We released Mission Control Analytics to give a birds-eye view of all of this activity. It helps you understand traffic patterns, which SDKs (Software Development Kits) your teams are using and identify potential implementation issues by monitoring API problems across your stack.Mission Control lets you monitor all your projects and all your channels in a single view.Contentstack on AzureThis year we went multi-cloud with the addition of Azure hosting. This made us the first multi-cloud SaaS content management platform in the market. We put in a huge amount of work to ensure 100% parity between Azure and AWS deployments. This gives our customers a choice of which architecture they want to use.We are excited to be joining the Azure marketplace next year!Azure hosting lets you choose the cloud that is right for you, then we make sure you never have to think about infrastructure again.Flawless Black Friday and Cyber MondayNothing gets us more excited and focused than the holiday season. Some of our customers do over a third of their yearly business in November and December. We receive tens of billions of API calls, each essential for keeping digital experiences available and ready to win new business. Stability and availability are our most sacred obligations and I am happy to say that we maintained 100% uptime for our fifth straight Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I could not be more proud of the team that put in long hours to ensure we delivered yet again.These capabilities are just a few of the 138 enhancements we were able to deliver this year. I want to give huge thanks for the tireless work of our product, engineering, and design teams for never settling for “good enough” and continuing to lead the industry in defining composable.  Black Friday and Cyber Monday are unlike any other events, and we're happy to have delivered for our customers for a fifth straight year.I also want to thank our customers for their faith in us. I am fortunate to have a front row seat to all the customer innovation on our platform. As a product creator, there is nothing more gratifying than seeing customers use the tools you have given in ways that you did not even imagine. They are meeting the moment to deliver great customer experiences, and doing hard better.We learn as much from our customers as they do from us, and some amazing new products are coming next year. I wish I could say more, but we’ll just have to wait until ContentCon 2023 in May. See you next year!