A day in the life of an Optimizely Developer - Opticon London 2022
Arriving at the train station in Leeds on Thursday, the evening before Opticon London 2022, excited for the journey ahead on what was promising to be a great day full of all things Optimizely, of course I should have expected to fall foul of the dreaded “train delays” - what should have been a 2hr 15min journey to King’s cross turned into a 4hr nightmare journey with many un-planned stops and bleary eyed and extremely tired children running up and down the aisles, thank god for my wireless ear buds!!
Eventually I arrived at King’s cross and after a 30 minute underground journey and a short walk I finally arrived at the hotel at 11pm. I wasted no time getting into bed and fell asleep with thoughts and images of the day to come.
The next morning arrived and after a short walk from the hotel I arrived at the location of Opticon London 2022 - Tobacco Dock. As a brief history, originally built in 1812 as a hub for precious cargo arriving from the New World, such as wine and, of course, tobacco, Tobacco Dock originally spanned 70 acres. Now occupying just two-fifths of the original site, the Grade 1 listed building still offers a generous 57 spaces over 16,000 sqm.
Upon entering the building I was warmly greeted and directed to the registration where I electronically signed in and received my printed Optimizely badge for the day. After dropping my coat off at the cloakroom I entered the main room (or should I say hall) where the Optimizely and sponsor stands (Microsoft, Google Cloud, Valtech and Siteimprove) were situated, along with the music stage, plenty of nibbles, tea and coffee and even a sweetie cart with Optimizely branded bags!! (#thankyouopti)
After looking at the sponsor stands I made my way over to the Optimizely stand where you had the chance to talk about anything Opti, I was particularly interested in the image they had on the stand display that provided a logical architecture of DXP and clearly showed how important components such as the Optimizely Data Platform (ODP), Content Marketing and Feature Experimentation sat within the DXP architecture. From the agenda it looked as though these were the areas that were being given greatest focus across the day.
After a bit of networking I made my way to the room where the Keynote speech was delivered by Alex Atzberger (CEO, Optimizely). He gave a very interesting speech with the headline of “The future is boundless”, this covered how the digital landscape is currently emerging and how Optimizely and it's various current and more importantly upcoming components such as Feature Experimentation and Content Marketing can deliver Boundless Digital Invention to help marketers with the challenges they currently face working across disparate tools and systems, collaborating with an ever growing number of teams such as engineering, product, etc and receiving ever decreasing budgets whilst at the same time customer expectations are forever increasing. Boundless Digital Invention is driven by three core principles:
Orchestrate - A single platform that has all of the tools to help manage the entire content lifecycle
Monetize - Modern and relevant commerce experiences can help drive the experiences that customers expect as well as increasing revenue and growth, this is all made possible by the B2C and B2B Commerce platforms
Experiment - Using the tools available within Feature Experimentation such as A/B testing, Personalisation, etc. marketers are able to provide experiences that are optimized and can drive business growth.
Marcella Pasqualucci (Head of Experimentation, Sky) was then welcomed onto the stage where he discussed how the Web Experimentation features within Optimizely allowed Sky to experiment at a fast pace allowing them to learn from experimentation tests quickly and adapt to what a consumer is looking for in an ever changing digital world, the experimentation evolved from simple web experiments (button colors), to more advanced server-side and mobile experiments.. This has helped drive customer satisfaction whilst at the same time increasing product adoption by consumers.
We then moved onto a presentation titled “Driving digital forward: The Road to revolutionary experiences”. This was presented by Justin Anovick (CPO, Optimizely) and he was joined on stage by Nazanin Ramezani (Chief of Staff, Optimizely) and Jacob Khan (GVP, Solution Architect, Optimizely) all sporting groovy jackets covered in Optimizely client logos, Naz and Jacob’s were particularly noteworthy in their bright orange and green colour!"
The presentation covered the struggles that a current marketer (role-played by Naz) face when creating new content, making changes to existing content, trying to gather insights on customer experiences, etc. and Naz acted as the role of that marketer. We then saw how a marketer (role-played by Jacob) who has access to Optimizely Content Marketing, Feature Experimentation and Data Platform could quickly and efficiently create content, get changes made and approved, as well as being able to gather data and insights on everything customers were doing, and acting on these insights by incorporating personalisation and experimentation.
The final presentation of the keynote session was titled “Reinventing how marketing works: A radically new way of creating digital experiences” and was presented by Kirsten Allegri-Williams (CMO, Optimizely) she was joined on stage by Veronica Saha (Head of Analytics, Zoopla). This session discussed how Optimizely can help provide a new ways of creating digital experiences, allowing inclusive collaboration with unified calendar views and digital asset management, confident content creation via iterative experiments, clear insights and embedded AI and finally customer foresight where access to insightful data alllows customer understanding as well as delivering exclusive experiences, product recommendations, to name but a few.
A short coffee break came next where I had chance to do a bit more networking as well as saying hello to some of the clients of the company that I work for (#twentysix) - I always find being courteous and chatting with existing clients is as important as speaking with new people who might become possible future contacts to learn from or gain leads from.
Next up was the sponsor breakout sessions, these were all held in separate rooms spread across the floor where Opticon was being hosted and you chose to attend the session that interested you the most. I opted for the session titled “Unlock new possibilities by taking your Optimizely Digital Experience Platform to the next level”, this was presented by Michelle Azzopardi (Digital & App innovation GTMM UK Microsoft). This session was the most technical session of the day covering Azure, .Net and the Optimizely DXP Cloud Service.
The first area that was covered was on how customisable Optimizely is, more specifically:
- 800+ digital agencies use Optimizely as there preferred DXP
- 40k developers are using Optimizely
- 87 OMVPs current exist across the world
- 300+ add-ons are currently available
- Infinite possibilities exist with the use of Optimizely
The session then went on to cover the what Microsoft are currently doing in terms of reducing carbon emissions, paying an increasing amount of carbon tax, reducing energy consumption within data centers, reducing water usage, accelerating carbon reduction, etc. This leads to four commitments which are:
- Carbon Negative by 2030
- Zero Waste by 2030
- Water Positive by 2030
- Build the Planetary Computer
The session then moved onto how Optimizely are using Microsoft Azure for their DXP Cloud Services. It discussed how the services in use are helping to protect 29K sites and projects in 120 countries and how 7B+ attacks were blocked last year alone.
The talk then moved onto the momentum that is occuring within .Net and we were told:
- 5.4M .Net Developers current exist in the Visual Studio Family
- #1 Most Loved Framework (2019, 20, 21) .Net Core/.Net 5
- >6.9K Community Contributors to .Net 6
- >21K Community Contributions to .Net 6
CMS12 was the next thing to be discussed, including some of the new features of CMS12 that have been released and some others that are currently in development. It was also worth noting that the DXP packages now support the very recently released .NET 7.
New features on CMS 12
|Welcome DAM Integration||Tag helpers|
|Welcome Structured Content integration (Private Beta)||List property support|
|Optimizely Data Platform integration||TinyMCE6 upgrade|
|Liquid templates support (Labs)||Out-of-the-box dashboard|
|Advanced admin functionalities|
The self-service migration tool was then covered, this is a tool that is now available within Paasportal (https://paasportal.episerver.net/). Upgrading to CMS12 requires changes to the underlying Azure infrastructure, and as customers have no direct control over the service infrastructure then this tool was created so that a customer can confidently migrate to CMS12 and Commerce 14 with no assistance from Optimizely. The tool provides parallel project support to allow independently finalizing the migration process without disrupting current environments, content can be copied on-demand from a source CMS11/Commerce 13 project and once you are happy when you are able to easily switch over hostnames to the new project whilst ensuring data consistency.
Next on the agenda was the first set of the Optimizely breakout sessions. I decided to join the session titled “Get more from your digital experience platform with Optimizely Data Platform” and was presented by Nazanin Ramezani (Chief of Staff, Optimizely) and Jacob Khan (GVP, Solution Architect, Optimizely) with Naz having decided to drop the groovy green Optimizely jacket for a more fashionable black one
The session started off by discussing how there is more customer data than ever in the current digital landscape due to the many different touchpoints that exist across channels and devices. They also went on to discuss how new privacy laws and an ever expanding customer expectation for personalisation meant that both insightful, relevant and up-to date data are more important than ever.
This then led us on to a discussion on how the Optimizely Data Platform helps to make complex data simple for marketers, as it acts as a centralised hub to turn customer data into data science profiles ready. This is seen across two different personas, namely developers and marketers:
|Easy to use APIs for custom integration scenarios||Start immediately with unified profiles and predictive analytics|
|GraphQL providing complete and understandable description of the data in the API||Act on real-time segments within any of experimentation, CMS or Commerce|
|Real time segments to instantly act on any data collected||Unlock more value from experimentation by adding the customer context|
They finally went on to discuss how the Optimizely Data Platform will be joined in January 2023 by the Optimizely Connector Platform that will enable both out-of-the-box and custom integrations with many third-parties.
After what was an excellent morning of sessions where a good insight and learnings into some of the main components of the DXP architecture were made it was time for lunch. Once again this took place in the main hall and gave plenty of time for further networking as well as feasting on the amazing lunch that was provided.
After being fully topped up on Latte’s from the barista stand, I felt invigorated for the afternoons sessions. Next up was the second set of Optimizely breakout sessions where I opted to attend the session titled “Scale your experimentation program with Feature Experimentation” which was presented by Joey Moore (Associate Vice President, Product, Optimizely) and who was joined on stage by guest speaker Stewart Ehoff (Head of Experimentation, RS Components) and consisted of a deep dive into feature experimentation by taking a look into the future of experimentation and feature management.
The concept of feature experimentation was split into separate areas and included the Delivery Platform, Optimisation Layer and Data Layer.
- The Delivery Platform covered the tools in place to provide things such as environments, rules engine, flexible architecture, webhooks, rollouts, API first and many more.
- The Optimisation Layer covered the tools available such as concurrent A/B tests, Personlisation, Metrics, Data Integrations, Audiences and many more
- The final layer related to Optmizely Data Platform and the upcoming Optimizely Connect Platform.
Joey then started interviewing Stewart on the stage asking him how experimentation has evolved at RS Components. When asked how a company can get into experimentation, Stewart made a good point that the most important thing is actually doing an experimentation, no matter how small or trivial, a lot of the time with experimentation, you might have a few wins but 70% of the time will be fails, but these aren't truly fails and a lot can be learnt from them to help direct the approach taken on the next set of experiments that are performed. Joey finished by talking about the big ideas that Optimizely have concerning data capabilities and a collaboration with Google Cloud Platform to allow improved data sharing, data import capabilities, advanced metrics and data science capabilities.
After this session it was onto the final set of Optimizely breakout sessions and this time I opted for the session titled “Building a powerhouse commerce engine” which was presented by Josh Schoonmaker (Global VP of Product, Optimizely)
Josh gave an insightful presentation talking about competitive pressure and how 90% of surveyed leaders say they are investing in additional capabilities to drive digital growth. He talked about how Commerce currently exists today, from a social media perspective through to personalisation and loyalty. Concerning personalisation in Commerce:
- 70% of consumers would willingly share data for a more personalised experience
- 72% only engage with personalised messaging
- 71% of consumers expect personalised interactions
- 76% of consumers get frustrated when this doesn't happen
Another set of interesting points he made were concerning Gen Z preferences in that 37% value personalisation over all else and 52% value personalisation so highly that they are willing to share more information with brands if it means a more personalised shopping experience.
At the end of this presentation, there was a short break before we all congregated back in the main keynote room for the prestigious customer and partner awards. The awards along with winners were presented in the following order:
Most Innovative Digital Experience - EPG Health
Best Experimentation Practice - Channel 4
Most Customer-Centric Experience - Mazda Motor Europe
Best Buying Experience - Farrow & Ball in partnership with Kin+Carta
Experimentation Partner of the Year - Kin+Carta
Digital Experience Solution Partner of the Year - Unrivald
Rising Star Solution Partner of the Year - Mando
Customers' Choice Partner of the Year - Netcel
The final award was the prestigious 2022 Solution Partner of the Year and both myself and my fellow twentysix colleagues were extremely happy to be named as the winners of this award. This award is honors the winner as a top-performing partner that has demonstrated outstanding business performance and excellence in both sales and delivery of Optimizely solutions. (twentysix part of the MSQ Group - https://www.twentysixdigital.com)
After the awards were the closing remarks presented by Alex Atzberger where he gave an overview of the day and also discussed what we could look forward to in 2023. The after party then commenced where drinks were available along with canapés and you were left free to network all the while listening to the excellent live music being played in tandem with a very talented saxophone player.
After an hour or two it was time to head back to King’s Cross for the journey back to Leeds where I had plenty of time to absorb what had been covered in the day along with getting notes down whilst still fresh in my memory which would allow me to write this blog post.
So after attending the event and absorbing the information that was provided across the day, firstly I would highly recommend attending this event in 2023 regardless of whether you attend the main Opticon event as it gives you a different angle to look from and also provides you with great networking with like-minded UK customers and technology experts.
My main takeaways from the event were that Optimizely are pushing "Boundless Digital Invention" which is delivered by Optimizely DXP but heavily focussed in three additional areas. The first is Optimizely Data Platform (ODP) and how it is able to store big data whilst providing an easy way of querying the data via GraphQL as well as enabling an ever growing library of integrations via the Optimizely Connect Platform coming in January 2023.
The second area of focus was Optimizely Content Marketing formerly Welcome where the day showcased the features and what can be achieved from this platform and how it will help provide excellent marketing capabilities.
The final area of focus was on Optimizely Feature Experimentation formerly referred to as Full Stack and covered a lot of how the experimentation features can enable fast experimentation, allowing ideas to be tried out quickly therefore keeping up with the ever demanding consumer.
As 70-80% of the people attending the event were customers who were either thinking of using Optimizely or are already using Optimizely then it makes sense for the focus on how Optimizely products can help customer drive their digital landscape through Boundless Digital Invention.
Boundless Digital Invention - https://www.optimizely.com/unlimit-yourself/
Optimizely Data Platform (ODP) - https://www.optimizely.com/products/intelligence/data-platform/
Optimizely Content Marketing - https://www.optimizely.com/products/content-marketing/
Optimizely Feature Experimentation - https://www.optimizely.com/products/intelligence/full-stack-experimentation/
CMS12 Self-Service Migration - https://docs.developers.optimizely.com/digital-experience-platform/v1.3.0-DXP-for-CMS11-COM13/docs/migration-to-cms-12-commerce-14
DXP Cloud Architecture - https://docs.developers.optimizely.com/content-cloud/v12.0.0-content-cloud/docs/architecture
Zoopla - https://www.optimizely.com/insights/zoopla-refines-personalization-strategy-to-enhance-the-homebuyers-experience/
Microsoft Commitments to Sustainability - https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/corporate-responsibility/sustainability