Change, collaboration, and generative AI: Contentful’s CTO and CMO in conversation

At the Contentful Launch Event on Oct. 4, Contentful Co-founder and CTO Paolo Negri chatted with the company’s CMO Amy Kilpatrick, reflecting on their roles as key stakeholders in digital teams and the importance of thoughtfully designed technology. They also touched upon the potential of generative AI and how it’s used behind the scenes at Contentful. Read on for a recap of their conversation, or catch up on all the latest developments in the on-demand video.

Change is the constant

Paolo Negri: The two of us represent important categories of the members of the digital team. I bring the perspective of the technologists and the developers, and from your side, Amy, you have the point of view of the marketers, the creatives, and the content editors.

Amy Kilpatrick: Indeed we do, Paolo. We also bring the perspective of a founder who started a new category with the headless CMS, right? And now we've moved to this place of a composable content platform, bringing together the full spectrum of digital teams, moving from beyond just that developer focus to bring marketers, content editors, strategists, and creators together.

When you look back, what do you think about the evolution that we've gone through at Contentful? 

Paolo: Change itself is an element which has been core to Contentful since the beginning. Introducing headless content management [in 2013] was really a way to change how to work in the area of content management. And the decoupled approach of API-first is itself an instrument of change. 

If you look at Contentful today, there are many aspects of the platform that really cater for the possibility of change. We keep working to understand what’s changing for our customers, what’s changing with regard to the digital experience, and continue adapting for that.

Another thing that’s been constant in this process of change: the evolving definition of the team that comes to work on the Contentful platform. Today we’re talking about the full range of personas in the digital team and how Contentful can make possible a platform where all these different roles with their skills can contribute their best work and collaborate in a fluid way.

Learning from our customers

Amy: I'm personally excited not just for our customers, but for my own digital team and how we can use AI more effectively within the ways that we work together. 

Paolo: Sure.

Amy: So when we think about our customers, we can think about how they can use our platform to go beyond truly just the digital teams — or just one or two teams — and to not only use our platform, but with generative AI capabilities, to truly scale and support the content needs of the entire enterprise organization.

Paolo: This is a very interesting topic because serving enterprises is something that Contentful has always done. We work closely with our customers to understand how their needs are evolving. Something that is also continuously raising the bar is what organizations expect to be able to achieve with digital experiences.

We just talked about generative AI, and that's only one aspect where there is opportunity to provide more tools for enterprises to manage their complexity. Often in enterprises, you'll find themes like: “How do I manage a strategy that is multi-region?” or “How do I manage a strategy that is multi-brand?” where they have different teams working across multiple brands and regions. 

Contentful has always been uniquely positioned in that regard because content is at the core of what happens, and we’re able to learn from our customers things like: who are the teams and the people who are in each team, and what do they need to collaborate effectively on in order to deliver these experiences and deliver value to their customer?

Collaborating to craft-inspiring digital experiences

Paolo: You’ve talked about the digital team and the different personas, and how they are more cross-functional. Can you tell me more about that?

Amy: Yeah, there's so many different types of roles and team members that are working to craft amazing digital experiences. We have our designers, we have the folks who are working on UX, we have our content strategists, our writers, our developers — all of them form the backbone of developing and creating these amazing digital experiences. The way in which they collaborate and how they work together is critical for us to be able to get to market fast and accomplish the things that we need to do.

Paolo: I can also reflect for myself the same, if I look at the point of view of the developers or software architects that work on these sorts of projects. They also need an efficient way of contributing and collaborating with the other personas that are on the team.

Amy: Those are definitely top of mind for me as we think about how our marketing team and the digital teams within the marketing department function at Contentful, and how they are all collaborating together to really craft the most inspiring and ultimate digital experience.

Infusing generative AI into Contentful

Amy: So, when we think about the change narrative, generative AI is being seen as the current driver. How do you think generative AI will impact content and the work that our digital teams are doing every day?

Paolo: It’s a big technological wave that’s really passing through what we do every day with content. And it’s interesting, because to us large language models (LLM) need to be trained on content — and they will ultimately generate more content. So, it’s central to what we do, and why we’re following the trend from a couple of different perspectives. 

One is really AI as a set of skills that can be incorporated in the digital team. A digital team is already collaborative and cross-functional, and some AI skills can extend what the digital team can do. But AI can also serve as a facilitator of workflows; it can provide suggestions when copywriting or help onboarding one specific persona to the platform, and so on.

Another theme that we’re following is the deeper implications for content and AI — which concepts are necessary in the platform to correctly facilitate the AI aspect together with the amount of content that we already have in Contentful? 

For us, it's embracing a technological change that we think will have impact on the topics we've been working with, and we will continue tracking it as one aspect that is part of our platform, together with all the others that we have.

Amy: I think there's opportunity for AI to really help in a concept that we talk about at Contentful around structured creativity: allowing the teams to do their best work, but underpinned by better processes that help them scale and move faster too.

Do you think that, in terms of helping teams stay in their guardrails, AI allows them to have that creativity but also allows them to scale faster?

Paolo: That resonates a lot because people essentially want to know they're working in a safe way, and that's where the guardrails come in. People want to feel like they’re contributing and then know that their contribution is going to fit into the overall process. And that's obviously a big slowdown from the point of view of going through iterations to understand, well, how do we provide the parts that go well together? 

Understanding where you can draw boundaries and decouple content so people can work independently on topics that are distinct but still related — it's very important and it's really empowering professionals on the team because they feel they can spend time where they make most of the difference in the creative aspects rather than doing the day-to-day repetitive activities that are necessary (but not necessarily as big a value-add as the others).

Amy: I think about that a lot too, in terms of maintaining content and brand integrity. Making sure that our customers are showing up in the way that they want to, so they can maintain a positive customer experience as well. 

Paolo, thank you so much for spending time talking with me. I'm excited about how we’ll continue to work together, with our digital teams internally at Contentful, and most importantly, how we get to watch all of our customers innovate and bring amazing digital experiences to life.

Paolo: Thank you. I’m absolutely amazed to be on this journey, helping our customers and their digital teams towards better ways of working together.

Wrapping up

What are your thoughts about adding generative AI to your content workflow? Do you think generative AI tools will become the predominant way that content is created and shared? Is there still a place for human intervention where compliance and safety regulations are a factor? 

All these questions — and more — are no doubt under consideration with the technical leaders of your organization. But one thing is clear: for your workflows to be able to take advantage of AI, it’s necessary for your content platform to be able to store and retrieve content in a form that makes it accessible to AI. 

A composable content platform is ideally placed for this revolution. Contentful was one of the first companies to recognize the value of being API-first. Soon we can expect a new generation of APIs dedicated to serving content to AIs that specialize in recommendation, personalization, and analysis. 

For a taste of the AI capabilities Contentful already has to offer, check out the AI apps and integrations in the Marketplace

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*Editor’s note: statements have been lightly edited for clarity.

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