I was lucky enough to attend both the Chicago and Boston editions of the 2017 Kentico Roadshow this past week. For those of you that might not have attended, or don't know too much about it, the event was hosted by the product management team at Kentico in various cities around the world. The main agenda consisted of Kentico communicating its vision for a dual rail strategy of continually developing and enhancing Kentico EMS as well as building new functionality into Kentico's new product, Kentico Cloud.
As usual with a Kentico event, there were two tracks throughout the day, one for the business / marketing focused attendees, and the other for technically inclined attendees. There were also a few deep dives into the Kentico Cloud technology, a performance optimization session on Kentico EMS, and case study presentations of websites that have been built with Kentico Cloud. Since I was able to attend two of the roadshows, I actually got to see pretty much every session that was available. I was also honored that Kentico asked my team and I at BizStream to present our own case study of our first Kentico Cloud project, www.CaseStream.net.
What I Learned at the 2017 Kentico Roadshow
Below are my thoughts on some of the key takeaways from the roadshow events.
1. A Content First Approach Changes Website Development Methodology
In building out our first Kentico Cloud site, I couldn't help but notice the difference it makes on the developers of a project when it comes to having all of the content ready to on day 1 of the project. Like I mentioned during our roadshow presentation, it was refreshing to have all of the home page content ready to go the very first time I built and ran the new project locally for www.CaseStream.net.
I am so used to having big empty blocks, placeholders, or Bacon Impsum when developing new page templates in a Kentico site, or views in our Kentico MVC projects. Normally when this happens the development of the page pretty much stalls out until the real content is eventually entered towards the end of the project. Or even worse, after the content is entered, you as the developer have to go back and re-touch the home page 5 sprints later because the text is too long or too short for the intended design. Nothing kills project profitability more than that. Well I take that back, there is one worse scenario, you could have no content at all, drag out the project another 3 months, and have everyone forget their training. I guess that could be worse. That never happens, right?
Anyways, having all of the content of site 98% there was awesome for me. I could validate that the API development that I needed to do with the Kentico Deliver API was working and move on to the next project tasks, knowing that my part was working. I didn't even have to wait for our front end developer on the project to finish up her HTML and CSS work. (translation, she didn’t have to yell at me for my crappy HTML / CSS skills… as much as normal…).
Bottom line, using a tool like Kentico Cloud allowed us to work in a much less waterfall methodology of wireframe to designs to implementation, and instead changed the process to more iterative and agile. The content team was working at the same time as the development team, and we could make changes on the fly much easier. But we also must realize that Kentico Cloud is not the perfect fit for every project out there.
2. Headless CMS / API First is the Future
I work with a lot of companies that are just now moving to this type of an approach. Their teams are starting to get really excited about not having certain data in independent silos or legacy apps. Instead the data can be managed in one central location, under one set of workflow or governance, and available for anyone in the organization to consume. This approach should also honestly cut down on develop costs of applications as well. Just about every developer or major technology framework out there should know how to work with JSON based web services that are RESTful in nature.
3. Kentico is Committed to Kentico EMS and Kentico Cloud
Earlier last year, at the 404 conference, Kentico raised a few eyebrows with its announcement of Kentico Cloud. There were some among the partner ecosystem that wondered what this new project meant for the flagship Kentico EMS project roadmap and life.
Well I was happy to hear from Petr Palas, Kentico's founder and CEO, as well as Karol Jarkovsky, Director of Product, that Kentico EMS development, enhancements, and support are here to stay. Not only is Kentico going to continually support and improve Kentico EMS, they are also going to in parallel develop as much functionality as possible into Kentico Cloud. This is very evident in the new features show in the Kentico 11.0 beta and the iterative two week release cycles that Kentico Cloud now has.
I know it is a bold statement to say that Kentico can develop and enhance both of these products at the same time, however, based on my working history with the team, I do not doubt their ability to pull it off.
4. GDPR is Important to Keep an Eye Out For
While this may not be a huge factor right now in the USA, it is a big deal over in the EU. In case you don't know what the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is, the key idea boils down to the fact that the GDPR is a sweeping regulation that requires all companies (including US companies) handling personal data belonging to residents of the European Union to adhere to a set of policies and procedures for protecting the data. Check out this link on how the GDPR affects the secure data responsibility that a Kentico website will need to take into account. A big thanks to Karol for pointing this out during the event.
5. Kentico 11's Focus on Email Marketing and E-Commerce is Impressive
A preview of the Kentico 11 beta build was shown at the roadshow events. It's pretty nice to see the focus on the most voted user voice idea for Kentico come to fruition. If you have not been following Kentico's Twitter channel or the Kentico EMS roadmap, you may have missed a few gems like Michal's tweet below about the updated e-commerce work in Kentico 11:
Most attendees, including myself, were very impressed by the new Email Marketing focus that the latest version will have, plus the advanced e-commerce work that is being done is welcome in the platform. If you want to know more about the Kentico 11 beta I'd check out the list at #KenticoStallion.
Our Kentico Cloud Case Study
Dave Valko and I were pretty exicted to present on our experience and impressions on buiding out our very first Kentico Cloud site, www.CaseStream.net.
As promised in the introduction, below is the presentation that Dave and I gave on our first impressions of building out a Kentico Cloud site.
Overall I am happy that I attended the two events. It is always great to meet the people behind the product, other partners, and even a few end clients of ours that make up the Kentico eco-system. I'm looking forward to the next edition of the roadshows (possibly this fall). I just hope they choose at least one new city, or maybe all new cities, for next time.