DevOps

Do you have a dedicated devops person on your team? Maybe you have a shared team of devops engineers? Do you hire for devops role and build centers of excellence (CoE) around it? These engineers are responsible for environment provisioning and builds, they create and maintain your CI/CD pipelines, they chose a specialization in Chef or PowerShell DSC or Gradle? If you are Rackspace or a Rackspace-wannabe, then you’re probably on the right track. And if you are not then I don’t think you are doing it right.

A dedicated DevOps role is basically ops co-located with devs. It’s a lot better than old school functional structure with ops and devs isolated but it’s not yet the DevOps nirvana.

Let’s make a step back for a second. What are we trying to achieve? Use the modern infrastructure-as-code toolset? Be more agile in the operational aspects? Deliver continuously? Or maybe we also want shared responsibility? Devs thinking about Ops concerns (migration, monitoring, scalability, automation, instrumentation, upgrades, business continuity) when writing code and designing systems, not after? Not just deliver continuously but do so with confidence? Maybe we also want to better our dev teams? Make them not only full stack but also cross stack?

Expose your dev teams to ops concerns. Make them orchestrate provisioning and automate builds. Make them monitor and instrument their deployments. Have them learn some Chef, Shell, Powershell, Gradle, Buildr, Capistrano, Whathaveyou. It will only make better technologists out of them. Dedicate ops to run the underlying stacks (the vSpheres, and Swarms, and Kuberneteses of the world), to expose custom infrastructure concerns as code, to maintain an ever-growing repository of scripts and images and containers, to establish best practices. Using it should be part of the dev role.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Or so it should.

Cheers!

Digital Experience Platforms. Where To?

I have been actively looking at a number of digital experience platforms and services lately. Some I have very recent encounters with and some are relatively new to me. As I put them all together on one plate and look at their roadmaps, certain trends become very apparent. In this blog post I would like to quickly share my thoughts about the state of the union in digital experience platforms and also make some projections as to where I believe we’re headed.

The Stage

Have you seen the most recent Forrester Wave for the Digital Experience Platforms? Let’s put it side by side with the Gartner’s latest magic quadrant for Web Content Management:

Gartner Magic Quadrant WCM 2015 and The Forrester Wave Digital Experience Platforms Q4 2015

Thanks to Adobe and Sitecore I learned to use Experience Management where I would previously say Content Management. The opposite is also true - I learned to think that Experience Management is primarily done by Content Management systems. I guess it’s time to re-learn what experience management means. While Sitecore and Adobe are clearly leading the pack on the Web Content Management field, SAP Hybris, Demandware, and Salesforce are breathing down their necks if not surpassing them in the Digital Experience Platforms race.

The proliferation of touchpoints and the emergence of new forms of digital interactions have blurred the lines between content, marketing, commerce, analytics, and mobile.

Acquia has an integrated content and commerce story. Sitecore is catching up with the acquisition of the Commerce Server and a very recent strategic partnership with the Dynamics AX. While Adobe AEM doesn’t have a pre-integrated transactional commerce backend yet, it has a very compelling integration-ready experience-driven commerce story. And now it also has a unique position in the world of enterprise mobile apps with their recent overhaul of the Digital Publishing Suite and AEM Apps (it is now AEM Mobile).

The appearance of Salesforce in the strong performers wave surprised me so I went to check their offering. They don’t have transactional commerce and neither do they have content management - just like I remember them - but they do have a very strong B2C and B2B digital marketing suite, analytics, unique apps platform, and have recently acquired prediction.io.

Expansion

Just a couple weeks ago SAP Hybris had their clients and partners summit in Munich, Germany. Take a closer look at their new products announcement - Hybris Marketing, Hybris Profile, Hybris CX. They are clearly expanding their portfolio to cover more ground in the big experience management space. No wonder Hybris is right in the middle of the strong performers wave and I’m sure will keep climbing.

Projection #1. I believe we are going to see less and less cross-vendor integrated-at-the-core solutions powering digital business transformations. We will sure see integrations, especially where companies have previous investments not yet capitalized on, but the majority of greenfield overhauls will be primarily single vendor led or at least centered around one suite of products. The shape of it will change as well.

Acceleration

Retail was traditionally one of the main focus for the e-commerce vendors and lately for the larger ecosystem of digital experience management players. That said, retail is far from being the only industry that converts users, provides shopping experience, or otherwise engages customers online. Entertainment, Travel, Utilities, Automotive - just to name a few - are next in line.

SAP Hybris, for example, is planning on releasing a number of new industry-focused accelerators to augment their traditional set of B2C, B2B, and Telco. Once one player starts targeting the industries with tailored solutions the others will likely follow.

Projection #2. It will be increasingly more important to be able to accelerate the build. It will shorten the expected ROI cycle and help win the business over. Implementation partners were the ones doing it traditionally but I believe leading digital experience product vendors will be getting into the driver seat. It will naturally shift the cost from implementation services to licenses and as-a-service subscriptions.

Commoditization

Speaking about as-a-service. On-premise got old long time ago. IaaS has been commoditized and those who run on-premise most of the time just run their own IaaS on in-house-virtualized hardware. All vendors I mentioned have as-a-service offerings but they differ in flavor and in the direction they are going.

Sitecore is very naturally focusing on Azure PaaS but it’s not yet a managed services offering - it’s rather a technology enablement. Adobe goes a little further with the AEM managed services. So does Acquia. Oh, and all Adobe Marketing Cloud products are, of course, as-a-service. Salesforce pioneered the model, they now own heroku, and all their products are naturally as-a-service.

But wait, There’s more!

Have you looked at YaaS - Hybris as a service? Unlike other as-a-service offerings that I mentioned YaaS is actually a marketplace. Functionalities such as Loyalty, Coupons, Order Management, for example, packaged and priced as-a-service. It’s very young and we’re yet to see if it has legs but SAP makes big investments and bets its Hybris strategy on it.

What do you think in context of digital experience when you hear IBM? If you think WebSphere Commerce please think again. Look at IBM Bluemix and the application services catalog. My first impression was that it’s like heroku but then I realized that it goes beyond infrastructure and application development. Take a closer look at Mobile Application Content Manager, for example.

Last but not least, please take a closer look at Azure. Here’s fersh from the press - new Dynamics AX is Azure-first. And it’s also a marketplace where third parties can host industry-tailored services and solutions.

Projection #3. I believe we will see further commoditization of implementation and operation aspects of digital business platforms. It will happen via advanced and innovative as-a-service strategies well beyond technology enablement and managed services. Vendors will have to keep up before someone releases their current key differentiators as-a-service. Imlementation partners will have to pivot their models towards service providers as well.

Intelligence

Machine Learning, Natural Language Understanding, Real-Time Analytics are no longer bleeding edge R&D. So much so that Amazon published Alexa Skills SDK and opened a marketplace and you can do Cognitive Commerce as-a-service. No wonder Salesforce rushed to acquire prediction.io and Sitecore is tinkering with Azure ML for segmentation and multivariate content testing.


Everything is elastic and will soon be as-a-service and soon after will become cognitive. 360 degree customer view will be “so yesterday”, flat, static. Businesses will be pursuing a predictive-real-time-3D customer view instead. That’s what the next breed of cloud-first machine-learning-powered digital experience platform with voice-first interface will promise you.

Projection 4. It’s only going to get better. And it’s going to happen fast.

Exciting times!

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