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Nishant Patel

Posts by Nishant Patel

Nov 17, 2022

How to do more with less — and turn it into your greatest strength

At some point in our careers, we’ve all heard this phrase: “We’re going to have to do more with less.”We don’t have enough people. We didn’t allocate enough budget. That deadline is coming up pretty quickly.It’s a response that can make our stomachs sink and our palms sweat. But on the other hand, more is not always better. More does not always guarantee a successful outcome. It’s what you do with the “less” that matters — something that became even more important during the pandemic for our customers, Icelandair.While Icelandair services several markets, their team is still quite small. When the pandemic hit, their content team – Hallur Þór Halldórsson (digital product manager), Edvardas Paskevicius (content manager), and Óskar Völundarson (UX copywriter) – had to figure out how to create and update more content with fewer resources in a way that would make a measurable impact. Airlines were, after all, one of the hardest-hit industries in 2020.As we head into a time of further uncertainty and possible recession, studying how this team used the resources they had to see them through the pandemic is something we can all learn from. Outline your constraintsIdentifying your constraints is important. These tend to be absolute. You cannot get rid of them; you just have to find a way to live with them. But what if you could find a way to use them to your advantage?I’d recommend adding “A Beautiful Constraint” to your reading list. One thing the book underscores throughout: If used correctly, your constraints can lead to bolder, more innovative solutions.When the pandemic hit, our Contentstack team in India and I were in the last stages of a complete user interface redesign. This was a major release for us and suddenly we had to send our team home to finish remotely, despite not even having the equipment in place to continue. Our constraints to overcome were the product release date — we could not push the release back — and the remote work environment. We could not change these, so we had to figure out a way to work around them.Icelandair’s constraints were that they were a very small content team in a pandemic that constantly changed the path ahead of them. But rather than let that defeat them, they looked to technology to help them move faster and become more innovative.Understanding the constraints you have to work within will help you overcome them. It’s only once you know the rules of the game that you can figure out how to hack them.Set your goalsNow let’s shift. What are your goals?Think long-term. Your goal shouldn’t be to survive the recession. Stretch your horizons a little — what do you want your product to look like in three years? What problems do you want to have solved by then? What kind of process efficiencies do you want to create?Using the same Contentstack example, of course we wanted to release the new user interface in our new, remote environment. But the point of the release was to make content creation, publishing and experience development easier. Once we did that, our customers could execute their visions more easily. The more we could help enterprises do that, the bigger we could grow and prove ourselves to be the category leader, which was our goal.Icelandair needed to create and update content for 11 languages, but in a way that was quick and sustainable. Airlines were really struggling, so they needed to be able to pivot their strategy to whatever was necessary for that moment.Of course, there will always be more immediate goals to accomplish. My suggestion: Ruthless prioritization. Make a list of your short-term goals. From there, figure out which will deliver the greatest impact. Once you achieve it, measure the result and then adjust your list based on where to go next. Ruthlessly prioritizing, measuring and revisiting goals and priorities was what helped Contentstack during the pandemic.Your goals will help you pinpoint the “more” you want to achieve. Now you can look at the in-between part.Get scrappyIt’s time to figure out what you have at your disposal to overcome your constraints and deliver on your goals. Ask yourself a series of questions like:How much budget am I working with?How many team members can work on this?What are their skills?What technology tools do I have to reach my goals?This is also a good time to get scrappy and show some creativity. For example, let’s say I’m trying to deliver a product feature that our customers are asking for and I can’t put it off any longer. But, at the same time, my team is moving the needle on other, equally important projects and we’re in a hiring freeze. What can I do? I have to figure out the best ways to use what I have. I could get a group of development interns together. I could spend some of my time supervising them and get the project into a good enough place that I can get my full-time employees on the project to finish it.Icelandair already had a Contentstack headless CMS in place, so they decided that was where they could get scrappy. They looked at all the components, content types and workflow capabilities available to them through the CMS. They used these capabilities to enable their content teams to become more independent, so developer time could be spent creating new business capabilities, like self-service FAQs, instead of helping to publish regular content updates.  Doing more with less can be stressful, especially in a period of uncertainty, but with the right strategy and the right tools, you can make it pay off. I like how the Icelandair content team said it at the end of the “People Changing Enterprises” episode:“Our biggest asset is and will always be that we’re a small company, which gives us the ability to move fast. At the same time, we’re working in a really big market and need to keep up with the competition, so we have to do a lot of things very fast with a small team. So we’ve been using technology that enables us to do that.”Understand your constraints. Know where you’re trying to go. Get creative with the resources you have. No matter what the market looks like, this framework will get you to where you want to be. 

Oct 19, 2022

Choosing which mini digital transformation is right for you

If you think about it, the concept of “mini” is very popular today. Mini donuts, mini candies, MINI Coopers…Even “mini transformations.”On the newest People Changing Enterprises episode, Danielle Diliberti talked about taking on a mini transformation right before the pandemic as CTO at The St. James.The St. James is an upscale health and wellness brand for athletes, including gyms. If you know the health and wellness space, you know most of the industry still runs on desktop-based, legacy systems. At this time, The St. James was like every other company in their space.They yanked out the old, clunky desktops and on-premise servers, replacing them with cloud-based, interoperable technology.Everyone thought she was crazy — they had only been in business for a year. Then, the pandemic hit, and that move allowed them to continue serving their customers and growing the business by spinning up new digital offerings that would have been impossible with their old technology.Which got me thinking about mini transformations compared to the bigger beast we call “digital transformation.” What is a mini digital transformation?Digital transformation can be daunting — it seems expensive, slow, and challenging. But its bite-sized counterpart is more digestible and can bring quick gains when it comes to internal buy-in and customer satisfaction.Danielle Diliberti and The St. James team replaced any technology that wasn’t cloud-native and API-first. It could be accomplished on a fairly short timescale and quickly improve their customers’ experience.That’s not to say that a bigger digital transformation doesn’t have its time and place — it definitely does. Just listen to what Bob Howland and the team did at Dawn Foods. Their transformation involved a complete switch from legacy systems to composable architecture. They moved from pen-and-paper methods to launching a product catalog from scratch, optimizing people processes, and evaluating strategic opportunities for their customers. Within six months, Dawn Foods published six major releases and transitioned over 50% of their customers to online buyers. That’s big.The St. James’s transformation gave them the speed and agility to meet their customers’ needs like they never had before. It was smaller, but it was a win that eventually led to other wins.If you’ve decided the “mini” route is right for you, here are a few guidelines that may help you choose a direction. The right one will…Clearly deliver a great outcomeRisk is always present where change is required. However, your mini transformation should have a high probability of success. If it doesn’t deliver what you promised, securing buy-in for future projects will be that much harder.Moving from legacy to cloud-based systems was something Danielle knew would be a win. By that time, cloud technologies were not new and partners had a portfolio of experience in mitigating risk in that area. She knew that if she told stakeholders they were going to see ROI from moving to the cloud, she could deliver.Even better, moving to the cloud increased the St. James's ability to better serve its customers. Customers no longer had to come into the facility or call for appointments at the spa or their restaurant; they just had to go online.Create value for the wider businessSomething else to consider: the mini transformation must impact internal stakeholders outside your team. Ask yourself: if we complete this project, will other departments also succeed? Will that success help overcome any resistance to change?I was talking to a prospect the other day at a massive organization. At any time, about one hundred developers are working on their 1.6 million pages of content. A mini transformation on that stack would be noticed in a big way. For example, moving their landing pages to an API-first, cloud-based solution would shorten the time to publish for marketers and developers. Speed is an invaluable advantage, especially when it comes to 1.6 million assets.When we develop Proof of Concept (POC) projects for customers, we often have one or two champions that are fully committed to the transformation. You always have the doubters; it’s human nature. But when they see the results, they’re sold on the value. After they replaced their old systems, the team at St. James catapulted business productivity. They were now able to create content and launch new initiatives much quicker than ever before. Serve as a stepping stone to the next miniOne last thing to think about when choosing a project is whether it will serve as a stepping stone to another mini. If the answer is yes, map out the best next step beforehand and the desired end objective. Think about what each mini should accomplish and how that helps achieve the end goal.The more mini transformations you complete, the more confidence and knowledge you gain to solve the next problem. Look at areas where the organization is obviously struggling: think bottlenecks that affect customers. Search for alternative options and see if you can get rid of the bottleneck. After Danielle’s team replaced their desktop-based tech and went cloud-native, they were ready to adopt other microservices focusing on personalized content experiences. This made the business more efficient and customer-centric. For the first time, they could make digital coaching available online and recommend workouts based on the customer’s previous preferences.Danielle said in the podcast, “You can’t fix everything at once. You have to think about the order of operations and what audiences you can serve, and build on that.” That’s the beauty of the mini transformation. It can be accomplished quickly, internal stakeholders and customers can reap benefits sooner, and it provides a solid foundation to jump to the next project. And then the question becomes: What can you accomplish next?

Sep 21, 2022

Why your company’s future depends on modernization

In the early stages of my career, I joined a “cutting-edge” software company as an architect in the IT department. I don’t want to spoil the story, but the company was not, in fact, cutting-edge. While the company purchased all sorts of tools it considered modern, its leaders didn’t stop to consider what successful implementation might look like, or how to educate and empower their people to use it well. Instead, we just accumulated new tech. I left the company less than a year after joining.I was reminded of this experience while listening to Chief Digital Officer of Dawn Foods Bob Howland share his story in a recent episode of the People Changing Enterprises podcast. He led the transformation of the 100-year-old bakery supplies company.I love his perspective: Don't modernize for the sake of modernization. Don't do it because there are shiny new tools. Do it because your organization’s future depends on it.If I could go back to that company and tell them why driving digital transformation is important, this is what I would say.You no longer have to compromise all three: speed, quality and costIn the podcast, Bob referred to speed, quality and cost as the triangle that all companies chase. I like to refer to that quest as the “Pursuit of Happiness.” Think of the elements as sliders on a mixing board. You are constantly adjusting the mix in response to your priorities at the moment and you can usually get a perfect sound with two of the three elements. The third hopefully is not far behind. A general rule of thumb is that all can improve, given the right circumstances.When we were a young startup, we bought certain functionalities of our technology rather than building them, for the sake of speed — for example, our rich-text editor. As we grew, we doubled down on enhancing every aspect of our product to our standards. That’s when we rebuilt our rich-text editor to be one of the most advanced available in any CMS today.But when you’re a legacy company with outdated processes and technology, speed, quality and cost tend to be:Unaligned with company prioritiesLagging far behind what they could beAs a result, the company suffers from unrealized potential and unnecessary complexity that limits them in some way. The quality of what you’re offering might be good, but the right technology could enhance it. While you might be able to operate with a level of speed that is good enough, there is a possibility to be quicker and more agile. Bob said it like this in the podcast: “Someone would say we're doing fine, and they would be right. And here comes this person that thinks about the world differently, and says, ‘We can still be that company, but we can be better.’ And when I say better, I mean better revenue, trajectory, lower costs and improved customer experience. That's how I define better.”Your employees will feel empoweredBefore their transformation, Dawn Foods’ sales team could better be referred to as order takers. The only way a customer could place an order was by writing it on a piece of paper and physically giving it to the rep when they were visiting their store. So when the company pitched the idea of an online ordering system to shift the team’s priorities to strategic growth opportunities for the customer, they were hungry for it. Modernizing your technology stack is not just to achieve speed, cost, and quality for the business — it’s for your people, too.One of my jobs as a CTO is not only to create the tech roadmap for the future, it’s to empower the people the vision is for. Whether that’s implementing a new tool, iterating on an old process or making space for innovation.For example, when my engineering team does “sprints” — meaning, working on development projects for two weeks at a time — we always allocate time for innovation. Twenty percent of an engineering sprint is dedicated to bug fixes and feature requests from customer success; eighty percent is given to their creative endeavors.One benefit of digital transformation is that your employees can shift their focus and skills to meaningful tasks that can have impact. Your customers will be happy, and your employees will be satisfied and motivated. You can deliver what customers need when they need itFor a customer, there’s nothing more frustrating than needing a feature to solve a problem and knowing that it might happen in the next year if it happens at all. One of the goals of digital transformation should be that you are able to respond to customers’ needs much faster. You become an agile organization, like Dawn Foods. In just 22 weeks, they delivered a world-class catalog to get their customers excited about their products and streamline their experience. They couldn’t do that without moving to composable architecture and upgrading their technology stack. At Contentstack, our head of global customer success and I sit down every two weeks and discuss what our customers have requested. We prioritize by making a “top 10 wish list” and we leverage our tech stack to deliver what they need. This is how we prioritize continuous transformation.And this is what I know: Transformation is a constant, iterative improvement. It doesn’t have a designated stop or start period. There is no before and after. You nurture the relationships, set up the systems and processes and onboard the right tools. When you do that, your business and its stakeholders will thrive.For 100 years, Dawn Foods was hugely successful. But when Bob came to them and showed them what they could be, the entire board agreed it was their only option to keep that success going for another hundred years. Any enterprise can benefit from modernization — especially if it has been around for a very long time.

May 24, 2022

Introducing Automation Hub for Speed, Flexibility and Scalability

In the last decade, we’ve seen three things separate thriving enterprises from the rest of the pack:SpeedFlexibilityScalability for the futureThey’re the reason why the adoption of composable architecture (or stacks) has soared to an early majority state in the last couple of years. Dawn Foods is a prime example. When they integrated their CMS with their product catalog, one-click order platform and online payment portal, online orders increased by 50%. They also successfully launched six major products within six months of implementation. The composable approach gave them the flexibility and scalability needed to grow the business. Analysts are convinced. Gartner® predicted that “by 2023, organizations that adopt an intelligent, composable approach will outpace their competition by 80% when it comes to the speed of new feature implementation.” Many enterprises recognize that composable architectures with best-of-breed technologies are the way forward. But moving away from monolithic legacy systems to a world of choice isn’t exactly easy. The average marketing organization has deployed 91 different tools across its stack, and the process of integrating them introduces a host of technical and operational challenges. You might have the best stack in the world, but if all the technologies don't communicate and interact with each other, what are you left with? Fragmentation—and a lot of time and frustration spent dealing with it. That’s why we’re launching our industry-first Automation Hub and Connect Without Compromise™ program: to simplify the process of creating composable experiences for organizations. There are three ways this program makes integration fast, easy and seamless. Launching Today: Automation Hub to Overcome Integration Hell While leveraging best-of-breed technologies is the only way to stay competitive, enterprises often find themselves bogged down in what we call “integration hell.” Imagine opening one application to make a change, only to have to open another application to update the data there too, and then another to close the gap there… and APIs only help so much. The solution typically involves writing complex code that is often slow, brittle and requires constant maintenance—not much of a solution. But what if you could enable all these applications to perform tasks automatically with low code – even no code – all within a centralized location? That’s the goal of Automation Hub. Users are no longer forced to weave in and out of applications and manually perform several sub-tasks to accomplish the overall activity. Instead, they can build the flow visually inside Automation Hub, and those sub-tasks complete automatically. As organizations continue to adopt technologies, Automation Hub saves time across the board by automating and streamlining the hundreds of activities that happen across stacks several times every month. It also improves governance by knowing what each step is and how it executes every time — and that’s where the real value lies. Integrate the Tried-and-true Functionality Your Organization Needs with Marketplace Another component of Connect without Compromise™ is Marketplace, a one-stop library of applications to incorporate the functionality you need into your stack. Choose from a wide selection of partner-developed, customer-developed and Contentstack-native applications and quickly integrate them with just a few clicks. The Developer Hub inside Marketplace gives developers a tool to package apps, iterate new versions and set up authentication and security measures. The Venus Component Library ensures the application looks and feels native to your stack and supplies reusable front-end components to speed development along. And if you’re looking to understand what integrations you’re using and where they’re incorporated, Marketplace provides an audit log. Even if you’re unsure what the next step in your composable journey is, the entire library is available to browse. See what other partner or customer organizations have integrated into their stacks and adopt what your organization needs. Building your stack on our extensible app framework ensures that as your organization grows, the tools you need to carry out operations will scale with it. Easy Access to Expertise with Blueprints What if you have never worked with a headless provider or need extra help with implementation? This is where Blueprints comes in. Blueprints is our library of best practices, expert guides and use cases for creating composable experiences. See what others have done before, learn how they accomplished it and what to avoid. Whether or not you’ve worked with composable architecture before, we’ve made it easier for anyone to create as if you have. Connect Without Compromise™ eliminates obstacles so businesses can embrace composable architectures with confidence. Speed, flexibility and scalability for the future are not only within reach, but easier to achieve than ever before. With our foundation, framework and support, businesses will be able to get their composable experiences up and running and create at the speed of their imagination. Now that we’ve made it so much easier, the question is: what will you create Automation Hub BETA will be available in late Summer 2022.

May 11, 2016

Traditional CMS Cannot Keep up with the Digital Pace

Traditional CMS can simply no longer keep up with the pace that digital experiences demand and consumers of content expect. A few years back, I co-founded Contentstack based on my observation that the pace of digital technology, particularly in content management, was transforming and accelerating. So much of that world was anchored to just two content interfaces; websites and mobile apps. I was convinced that a new generation of content management tools would be required to survive. It was clear that the rapid evolution of information consumption, both source and destination, created a perfect storm for most companies trying to become or stay relevant in the midst of all of this change. From a technology perspective, this pace of change makes it exceptionally hard to attach infrastructure too firmly in any one system, or systems that limit future choices. The Mobile Problem Not that long ago, a web browser was the primary target for digital content distribution and consumption. With the introduction of iPhone, mobile quickly established itself as the new, dominant content channel. Incredible amounts of energy have since been expended and high levels of frustration experienced as mobility challenged the status quo in a powerful way, forcing organizations to reboot their thinking about information and its creation, curation, and presentation. Apps were the early solution, but almost as quickly as that anchor seemed secure, we’re already realizing that we’re headed for a post-app world. This was summed up perfectly in a recent Medium piece: “How is it that in 2015 we need to decide how to communicate and then search for the person? Or try to remember what platform they are on before opening an app.” This is hardly specific to social apps. The same problem exists when looking for a flight or trying to find a consumer good. The problem of having content locked into a platform becomes more apparent with every new presentation layer we add to our world – from the smartwatch, to the heads up display, to the kiosk, to the jumbotron. As with all technology, ultimately this problem will be solved in a way that makes our lives easier and reverses the platform-centric model. Such change will once again scramble the IT infrastructures we’ve grown dependent on and choices from a short time ago will once again seem shortsighted. The one thing we do know is that content can’t be tied to its delivery, whether that’s a browser, an app, or whatever else comes next. The reality is that the possibilities for content delivery are endless in a digital world, and we need to prepare for that. Making Everything Modular The alternatives are already a hot topic of conversation. The first and perhaps the Holy Grail of technology is to make everything modular. Monolithic systems have always been expedient to build but end up in the fast lane to redundancy. Modular building of software and systems has been a goal for a long time, but the recent surge in popularity of APIs offers, for maybe the first time, the chance to reach that goal. We created an entire digital business platform at Contentstack on this premise and with the goal of solving the problem of how to build high-performance systems for delivering content that’s agnostic to platform. We need to forget about anchors and provide the ability for content to be sourced anywhere, destined for anyplace. It’s time to think past the traditional CMS as your content source and beyond the website or mobility as your goal.

Jul 15, 2014

Mobile-First CMS | API-First Content Management System (CMS)

Today, we are excited to introduce Contentstack, the mobile-first enterprise CMS. Contentstack is built on top of a mobile-first CMS platform, which means mobile support comes built-in, instead of bolted on. Since content isn’t just distributed via static web pages anymore, Contentstack wasn’t just built with mobile in mind, it was built with an eye to the future. Web apps, mobile sites, and mobile apps are all becoming equally important content channels and it’s a growing challenge for enterprises to manage content and keep it consistent across all of them. Anthony Zambataro, Senior Director, Brand and Creative Marketing at RMS comments on multi-channel content management, using Contentstack, “There are hundreds of CMS products, but for us, it comes down to what’s the fastest and easiest for us to use. Both of these are strong features of Contentstack and that’s why we love the product so much. It’s what sets them apart from all other CMS providers and allows us to seamlessly manage content across both the web and mobile.” With Contentstack, the same content published to a website can be directly consumed and displayed by a mobile app. Contentstack accomplishes this by storing and sharing content using the JSON format, which is lightweight and ideal for mobile consumption. As a result, content can be delivered via any device – smartphone, tablet, phablet, even wearables such as Google Glass – with its presentation optimized for each client. By contrast, legacy CMS products typically turn content into code that is tied to presentation via a traditional web browser and optimized only for PC-like devices.Why the Backend Matters If a web app needs to be delivered via another channel – for example as a native mobile application – the portable data structure provided by Contentstack makes this fast and efficient to accomplish. Not only can content itself be managed centrally and shared, the same applies to content structure and any application logic. By providing a powerful and flexible database, it becomes easy to build mobile apps based on the data structure of your web app, and vice versa. A common use case would be a company trying to engage prospects or acquire new customers via interactive web applications. With Contentstack, our customers can quickly turn such a web application into a robust mobile app. The result enables a new audience to use the same content and application logic in record time. Synchronizing content, logic, look and feel across these channels becomes a breeze with Contentstack. Finally, Contentstack can leverage RESTful APIs to integrate easily with best-of-breed third-party tools and services, such as marketing and campaign management systems, or portal software. These same APIs also enable content aggregation and social integration.