Over the past four months, I’ve spoken with dozens of Ektron clients and partners about the future of their websites – and the future of our platform. Here is an outline of what we are up to with the new Episerver.
“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “to talk of many things. Of shoes and ships and sealing wax. Of cabbages and kings.”
– from The Walrus and the Carpenter, by Lewis Carroll
If you attended any of our Roadshows, I hope that they added clarity to the vision of our company and served to reinforce our desire to help all of our customer’s to succeed with investments they’ve made in our solutions..
Put briefly, we explained our strategy to: protect the investment our customers have made in both Ektron and Episerver, extend the value of those investments by cross-pollinating features between the two – for example, bringing Find and Commerce to Ektron and eSync and DXH to Episerver, and by developing a converged platform from the two that is strategically placed to aide customers of the new Episerver in achieving success with their digital strategies.
This converged platform, targeted for launch in Q4 of this year, will align with our vision to allow our customers to move into the cloud more easily, integrate their content with digital commerce, and successfully manage and personalize relevant content for their customers. All of this will be on top of a leading, enterprise-class platform now known as the Digital Experience Cloud.
Such a vision can only be achieved through an objective look outside our own organization to discover and explore the trends and common objectives for businesses in all markets – traditional B2B and B2C as well as emerging markets such as D2C (direct to consumer), and more. This process also required that we look internally at our own software to make certain that everything we put into our converged platform aligns with the long-term vision of the company.
As a newly merged company, we find ourselves the owners of not one, but two advanced CMS platforms with no logical way to simply smush them together, as if they were so much peanut butter and jelly. At least, such an effort would take time to accomplish and end up putting us behind in the delivery of our own vision, rather than in-line with it. Instead, the strategic path forward is to inspect the two systems – identify where each excels and use hard-earned experience from both systems to make the final bit of technology as user- and developer-friendly, mobile and cloud-focused, and strategically advanced as possible.
To cite some specific examples, we determined that Ektron’s integration with third-party systems such as CRM and Marketing Automation was best-in-class and so now we’re bringing that approach into the converged platform. Similarly, although Ektron’s search integrations and technology were sound, they were behind Episerver’s Find, and so that will become the advanced search technology of choice for our cloud packages.
When we compared a more lower-level feature such as Visitor Forms, we determined that neither system had achieved the advanced state we desired. Therefore we’re now building out a brand new form-building experience that will increase form consistency, accuracy, and allow for more advanced renderings and presentations for those features. This will also make modern strategies such as progressive profiling more readily accomplished.
This evaluation of strengths has been applied to every aspect of our combined platforms. Even unto the base architecture of the content itself.
For a developer audience, Digital Experience Cloud content modeling will be done directly in .NET, thereby removing the overhead of a developer working through an intermediary format – namely XML. This allows the implemented code to request and use data directly with the platform, speeding development time and allowing the developer to stay inside native code.
This content architecture will also provide more flexibility for internal marketers and content strategists through inheritance. For example, a content strategist may determine that any content of type Article must have a headline, date, and body. Sub-types may then be defined, such as a Blog Post, which may add fields for an image and an author, and a Press Release, which may add required press contact information. Rather than the Blog Post and Press Release types repeating the headline, date, and body fields common between all three, they may simply inherit the Article type and only add fields unique to that type of content.
Authors also will benefit from this approach to creating and storing content. The extensible nature of the Digital Experience Cloud allows for developers to do more for the primary users of the platform – the editors. When adding fields to content, the developer also has the opportunity to customize the experience of the author where appropriate. A field such as Metadata keywords, for example, may only be stored as a comma-delimited string of terms, but the author may experience a custom textbox with automatic suggestions based on the copy of the article.
When existing customers elect to move up to the new, converged platform, this opens the opportunity to re-evaluate any existing content strategy to determine whether their team can take advantage of the above benefits. After all, content that’s easier to manage means that your team can focus more energy doing what they want to do – write, manage, and deliver.
During the move to the converged platform, existing Ektron and Episerver content will be presented in this new paradigm – and you can either keep things as they are or jump into Digital Experience Cloud best practices right out of the gate. In order to make this process as simple as possible, we’re producing best practice documentation as well as sample code for implementers to use as a kick-off point for automating part or all of the process. Also, at the time of the converged platform launch, we’re planning for lots of tools, processes and education to make it all as seamless as possible.
We hope you will love working with this more advanced content architecture – our teams already do. The time might not yet have come, but it’s just up the road, and the road ahead is brighter than ever.