Tag Archives: Content Management Systems

Sitecore EMEA Partners Summit 2015 – conference notes

Today was the Sitecore EMEA Partner Summit 2015 at the Riverbank Park Plaza hotel in London. We, Endava, are a Platinum Sitecore partner and I’ve often considered Sitecore’s partner programme one of the best developed technology partnership programmes out there – and certainly one that other companies could learn a lot from.

These notes were taken at the conference using OneNote and a stylus (or perhaps it should be called a Microsoft Pen ha ha!!) – which I then quickly converted to text. I’ve had a quick read through, but if anything looks out of context, it probably is – please comment at the bottom of the post and I’ll correct it.

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Why Publishers and Broadcasters need to change

It’s been absolutely crazy busy at work for the last few weeks, mainly on the new business front. I’d like to add this is a report, not a criticism. Anyway, when it gets this busy at work I often remember Bill Gates’ book The Road Ahead where he discusses how future business will all be conducted by electronic systems exchanging data with each other.

The truth has turned out to be quite the opposite – customers want ever increasing levels of detail before signing up to a product or service.

I did get a chance last week to go to an interesting technology event run by Vizrt. The event was aimed at their large publisher and broadcaster customers – many of the broadsheets and tabloids use their system (or similar competitors) for creating content for their newspapers or TV news snippets. We were there because we work with some large publishers, integrating their systems together.

One of the speakers at the event was Morten Holst who is a Product Strategy Manager for Vizrt, and raised some interesting points which are paraphrased below.

Morten’s first point was to wake up the audience with the following video:

His point was that whilst the video is amusing – a baby who knows the iPad interface so well that she can’t use a paper magazine, and even checks her finger to see if it’s her finger that’s broken – this baby is going to be a consumer in ten years. Publishers and broadcasters need to wake up and realise their consumers are changing very quickly.

His next demonstration was a comparison of a web site 10 years ago and nowadays. I’ve used the BBC News website as an example below.



Look at the two homepages for a few seconds, and you can see many similarities. In fairness, over the ten years, not a huge amount has changed.

I’m not particularly targeting the BBC (it’s still my favourite news site). The point here is that publishing hasn’t actually changed very much in 10 years.

Now look at another entertainment industry over the last ten years. Look at the video below – if you can, try to watch it in HD.

Morten’s point here is that 10 years ago these kinds of graphics and sound effects were considered motion picture quality. Now they are considered the acceptable standard of computer games – this year’s Battlefield 3 (the video above), FIFA 12 and Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 are good examples.

The video games industry has recognised a number of times that it needs to push the boundaries of user interfaces, presentation and design – think of an Xbox 360, the revolutionary Wii controller, then the revolutionary Kinect controller. To put that into perspective, the Xbox and Wii were launched within the last 6 years.

His final point was about comparing printed content to digital content. If you read paper magazines, the photography is usually outstanding – full, double page and high quality. That same image will be shown as a 2 inch square on the web, and won’t get a second glance.

The iPad is encouraging publisher’s to think more creatively, by designing beautiful interfaces. In truth there’s no reason the iPad can encourage creativity and a web browser can’t. However the iPad has been disruptive enough in digital terms to make editors want to push the boundaries.

So, on to the future, Morten encouraged the audience to start pushing the boundaries, to stop doing things the same way because that’s how they’d always been done. The functionality has moved on enormously, yet the editors aren’t using the new features, yet.

10 years since joining


This time ten years ago I joined IMG as the Development Manager to build a new Content Management System.

The digital division within IMG was about four years old at that point, and had bought the digital rights to a number of sports organisations with the hope that the advertising and sponsorship on those sites would cover the costs of writing huge cheques to the sports organisations. ‘Hope’ is a strong word, because at the time the Internet bubble was at it’s height, and we all thought we’d be billionaires by Christmas.

When I joined, IMG was pulling out of a number of these deals, and looking for efficiencies with the tiny development teams.

The Internet was so different back then. Products were very expensive. Vendors and ‘experts’ were all learning as they were going along – so when we got stuck, we were well and truly on our own. For instance we tried different CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) to handle the huge amount of traffic we were experiencing, and ended up creating our own using Cacheflow servers. Just looking up the link just now made me laugh – because these boxes used to be the size of a fridge, and now they’re the size of a PC. Once we’d got the Cacheflows stable, we simply migrated to Akamai.

I remember people, including the CTO, would sleep in the office when we expected incidents to happen. I remember arguments with database vendors about licensing – some wanted to charge for every visitor that accessed the website, because they saw that as a database user. I remember running analytics reports on websites that used to take several days to compile, and when we wanted to run the report again with a different metric, all the numbers in the report would change! That same report in SiteCatalyst now takes a second to run and end users run it themselves.

Most of the really difficult stuff back in 2001 is now a commodity. Half of those products now have a freeware solution.

In around 2005/6 I moved to the client side – project management and operations. The CMS was very stable, and it was time to look at a decent off-the-shelf solution because we were losing pitches because of our lack of multi-lingual support, versioning, WYSIWYG editing and advanced SEO support.

We chose Sitecore as the CMS platform, and for the first time we looked at offshoring to India to migrate our sites. Three months of total pain followed. For the first time since joining IMG, we missed deadlines (in sport, although it sounds obvious you can’t miss deadlines – most of the time you might as well not deliver anything than deliver a project late). We pulled the projects back to the UK and an army of contractors joined the development team. Some were good, some weren’t. We started to offshore to Eastern Europe instead. And it was a revelation:

  • Being able to fly there and back in a day (not recommended, although possible and sometime necessary);
  • The cultural similarities; 
  • The push-back nature from developers on some of the requirements.

Then in late 2008 we looked to outsource more work to Romania via Endava. What started off at a simple outsourcing deal changed at the last moment, and the staff TUPEd over to Endava in January 2009.

Since then we’ve worked on some new projects outside of sport, and the Web has become a stable, maturing, controllable entity. In 2001 we were looking only to stabilise our clients’ sites.

Our traffic (bandwidth, visitors and page impressions) have all increased exponentially in ten years, with some exponentially, several times. Social Networks have come and some of them have gone. Do they compete? No, they simply direct more and more traffic to our clients’ sites.

And now to the future. In 2011 we are looking at providing data insights, personalised experiences, full integration with back off systems, and providing a true ROI for our client’s digital properties.

Best of breed


Photo courtesy of leoj on Flickr

Work has been pretty busy for the last fortnight, and looks like it will be just as busy for the next few weeks. I’m not complaining – far from it, just explaining why there haven’t been many updates to this site recently.

I did manage to write an article for one of our Content Management System partners, Sitecore, on a brief history of proprietary versus off the shelf products.

For the next couple of days we are running a Supplier Day at one of our key clients. I don’t know why we call it a Supplier Day because we invite all our customers and suppliers, and surely the customers are as/more important than the suppliers – making the name even more of a mystery. Anyway, I will try to write a summary on the train back on Friday. And change the name of the event midway through.

Build vs buy and thick clients


On Wednesday I will be speaking at the Sitecore Trendspot event, specifically to discuss the Cadbury Spots V Stripes project.

At Endava we tend to use best of breed, off the shelf components as opposed to building components in a bespoke manner.

This philosophy is cyclical – the industry prefers bespoke software, then off the shelf, bespoke, off the shelf – and with each cycle the term is obfuscated. It’s the same with mainframes versus PCs.

At my first job I worked on a huge IBM mainframe at Coats Viyella (clothing manufacturer and retailer, now known as ‘Coats’). At my second job we developed a client-server application – where the program that ran on people’s computers was constantly asking for data – a bit like the mainframe, only it looked really nice and graphical because all the graphing was done on the users’ computers, similar to Microsoft Excel.

We then moved the architecture to a ‘thick client’. No, that’s not an offensive term to our customers, it’s an IT term to describe that all the data and the processing ran on users’ computers. Think of it like running Adobe Photoshop – all the processing and the data is done ‘locally’.

A friend of mine at the time worked for a huge estate agent and they bought into Sun’s ‘thin-client’ computers. Basically these were more like a mainframe – the computer didn’t even have a hard drive – it got all the information and how to format it from a central computer. At one point thin clients were marketed as the next big thing, which people in IT found hilarious because it was back to Mainframes.

Around this time, the Web really took off. The architecture of the Web was similar to mainframes – a huge central computer, sending a screenful of information at a time back to users (inside a browser). We really had gone full circle.

In the last 3-4 years technologies such as Ajax, JQuery, Flash (Flex and AIR included) and Silverlight have all appeared – moving the processing and nicer looking user interfaces back to the users’ computers.

So – can you see the trend? The same has happened with software, but for very different reasons.

In general we don’t produce bespoke software at Endava in the Digital Media space, because if we did, we’d end up building a competitive product today and have to invest at the same rate as competitors for the long term. And supporting the different product releases and all that difficult (and expensive stuff) that goes along with real software.

Also, with off the shelf software it’s possible to replace products and vendors as the industry changes, or client requirements change. Most of our clients have a Content Management System (actually they all have one of these), a social media platform, a media asset platform, database, web analytics package, and the list goes on. To produce bespoke versions of these (which let’s be honest, we’ve all tried doing at one point during the cycles or another), would have cost a fortune and the chances are the product would be well behind the curve in levels of features and performance. vsSo that brings me back to the Sitecore event. We use Sitecore on several of our clients’ websites, so if you are interested in going to the event, please register at . You can also follow the event on Twitter via #SitecoreDT10.