Software vendors are only as successful as their least successful developer, as they’re on the tactical side of implementing and innovating and testing and training.
Every day, Episerver developers meet on world.episerver.com to learn, share, and benefit from others’ Episerver experience and expertise using Digital Experience Cloud™ or any other combination of Episerver’s product portfolio.
As an Episerver Most Valuable Professional (EMVP), Mark Everard of Dam Digital, is among the elite of this developer community having worked with Episerver over the last 10 years, covering more than 100 projects. In technology time, it’s the year ‘the cloud’ went mainstream and, in any environment, it’s a healthy amount of time spent on a platform that would undergo its own transformation.
“In the last couple years, the breadth of Episerver’s offerings has massively increased,” said Everard. “When I started it was just CMS and then came ecommerce, cloud, analytics, personalization and so on. Episerver has evolved into a solution for most customers’ digital problems.
“From a development point of view, where I have seen it evolve is the amount of effort invested to improve the engineering. It was a big relief when they completely changed the API in version 7 in 2012 to enable developers and implementers to use the more modern development techniques and make it feel more like native .NET development, which is one of the strengths of the platform. As an EMVP, I see what Episerver is working on, and they’re still focusing their efforts here.”
Among other benefits, EMVPs get exclusive information regarding upcoming product launches and are a brain-trust as Episerver explores new opportunities to better serve customers. Here, we asked Everard how he would like to see Episerver evolve.
“Within the market, all of the analysts are positioning Episerver in the top right quadrant, so the product is meeting future customer needs and being visionary,” said Everard. “I’d like Episerver to keep the right balance between being an open platform and being able to plug into different technologies, along with having its own products.
“I've worked with other competitors, like Adobe, and it’s not quite the same. It’s harder to work with other technologies, because they are pushing their own solutions. They can meet a lot of customer needs, but it doesn’t necessarily fit. Episerver's balance of openness and product portfolio hits a sweet spot in the marketplace.”
Everard notes that the Episerver developer community is another important success factor, having seen it grow from a place 5-6 years ago where developers weren’t sure if they were getting the right answers to today where the level of documentation and accurate information is impressive. While Everard is a mentor to other developers in the Episerver community, he’s had his fair share of learning experiences himself working on both the agency and client side. He believes he’s one of the lucky ones, who got his worst project out of the way early in his career.
“People also tend to pick the most successful projects as their favourites, but I was lucky enough to experience a complete disaster of a project as one of my very first as a developer through no fault of the technology, but rather the project team’s own naivety.
“Lucky might be a strange way to describe it, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. After nine arduous months, the project showed in detail, the many common delivery problems that can occur and has no doubt helped me avoid the same pitfalls the next time around. I’ve used those experiences many, many times over the course of my career to guide clients and stakeholders towards better outcomes.”
As for the countless successful projects Everard has led, UK-based charity Marie Curie stands out, as he got to help them own and take advantage of the Episerver platform in a way they’d struggled to before. Another, is a private jet rental company where he designed and built a personalization engine for the client using Episerver, which was his first open source module released out to the Episerver community. The module speaks to the power of Episerver’s flexibility as a platform in that he spent his own time and others found ways to use the module in ways he could have never imagined. Innovation is like that, and there’s a major trend that will also be used in unimaginable ways with developers feverishly working on ways to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies as they become increasingly available.
Everard is not shy about jumping on the AI bandwagon, as he believes ‘our robot friends’ will help solve some of the common problems in content and commerce projects by helping the management of content and data well beyond what’s expected of the content editor’s role.
“There’s an open source project for Epi that uses machine learning to tag images and provide accessibility text,” said Everard. “This allows content to not only be more accessible to search engines to increase visibility, but also to ensure those who are visually impaired do not have a disruption in their experience.”
In the case of the search engines, what Everard is essentially saying is that AI can help machine (the automated content tasks) talk to machine (the complex and often unpredicted search engine algorithms). It is his view that organizations should start preparing themselves to allow robots to do business with them so when the time comes, APIs are in place so that you have a relatively path to integrate with new AI-based technologies. While AI is a hot topic among developers, it’s not the only one.
Everard regularly hosts a London-based meetup to network, share stories and to help each other become better developers.
He encourages Episerver developers to attend and hear what key speakers have to say and importantly, come with their own stories they might want to share.