Fast Forward Berlin: Recapping the first roadshow

Balloons! No one said there were going to be balloons! 

Partners and customers attending Fast Forward Berlin were treated to a joyful sight: a huge arch of blue and yellow balloons framing the entrance to the venue at the Contentful office. 

Inside the door, the events team welcomed visitors with a smile, a badge, and some fresh coffee. But make no mistake; the colorful inflatables (and coffee) weren’t the only uplifting part of the day.

Building on the momentum from Fast Forward Live, where Contentful company leaders shared our vision for composable content, we gathered together for a closer look at those same topics. 

Over the course of 12 sessions attended by 111 partners and customers – representing 60 different brands – the focus was on one thing only: the Contentful® Composable Content Platform.

Attendees registering for Fast Forward Berlin.

Partners promote the massive benefits of composable content

The first highlight of many was a partner panel moderated by Contentul CTO Paolo Negri. It featured leaders from Ninetailed, Portaltech Reply, DEPT, and Vercel. Together they discussed the intersection of data, content, and personalization for composable content. 

“One of the principles of composable is putting together a best-of-breed stack,” Paolo began, introducing his guests. “And a best-of-breed stack is really made by technological partners that work together. This is what this panel is about: partnership.”

Two of the panelists – Esther Fesenmeier, Managing Director and Founder, Portaltech Reply, and Sandor Voordes, Head of Engineering at DEPT – were asked for their take on composable as the next catalyst for digital transformation.

Reflecting first on the teams which have to create and manage content, Esther said that, “Composable is a big step forward in the direction of humanizing digital. It helps make processes more like the way people work together and organize themselves.” 

Where monolithic systems lock users into a particular way of working, Esther revealed that composable content frees teams to think more about the needs of the customer. She said:

“We can ask ourselves, ‘What channel are my customers using?’ And we can go and build a system that way. And this is really easily done when you have a flexible solution with composable.” 

Sandor’s perspective on composability gravitated towards another theme — how it allows systems to grow more gradually. “You don't have to [have everything ready] from the get-go,” he said, “or think about all the possibilities you might need in five years. Just start off small, get your first channel ready and you can start adding pieces to it.”

He cited the example of personalization as one component you can easily add or remove. "You can keep on tapping into the possibilities, and then exchange it later with another component that has different features. The interchangeability of composable architecture is very valuable and very strong.”

Next, Paolo asked Alice De Mauro, Sales Engineer at Vercel, and Andy Kaiser, Co-Founder and CEO of Ninetailed, whether they thought developers were responsible for driving this type of technical transformation.

Speaking about some of the new QA and marketing features recently launched by Vercel, Alice said: “We’re really trying to drive this transformation so that it's not only for developers, but also for marketing managers and content managers and everybody else. We want to open the technical world for more collaboration and communication [across all teams].”

To echo Alice’s sentiments, Andy celebrated the removal of siloes that divide teams, content, and data. “It's about communication and being able to work as one team around the customer, which in the end is the one who’s consuming the content,” he said.

Speakers at the Contentful Partner Panel.

Customer spotlight on Nordic Nest

When you unleash the power of your team, especially at scale, great things can (and generally do) happen. This was the key takeaway from an onstage discussion later in the day, which took place between Global Partnership Director at Avensia, Hampus Eckersten, and COO of Nordic Nest, Jacob Rastad. 

With more than 20 years of experience (and the label of Contentful Gold Partner), Avensia supports companies as they move to master modern commerce. Case in point is their client Nordic Nest, which helps people create homes with Scandinavian flair by shipping furniture to more than 70 countries every month.

“Key for us at Nordic Nest is really to empower the team to move forward,” Jacob explained to Hampus. “To be able to work in smaller autonomous groups who can innovate and create great things. We saw early that our previous platform didn’t allow for this. We were held back by slow development processes, teams couldn’t work asynchronously with each other and most time was spent on just trying to keep up with our growth.”

This is where a composable content platform really proved its worth. In addition to being able to move at a much quicker pace, Jacob continued:

“It also brings a sense of joy to the development team. One fun thing we saw when we switched platforms was that the number of applicants we had while recruiting developers increased by a factor of 10! But if I had to select one key feature of Contentful, it's really about how extensible it is. It helps editors to work much more efficiently, and that's pretty special.”

And thanks to their composable setup, Nordic Nest was able to make a newly acquired retail chain, Svenssons, a part of their infrastructure in an incredibly short span of time.

”It’s really proof of the power with a composable infrastructure,” Jacob said. “We launched an entirely new techstack for the Svenssons brand in September this year, including a new ecommerce site and a new point of sale system for the physical stores, in roughly two and a half weeks.”

“I get the feeling that you're only getting started,” Hampus commented. “Am I right?” 

“Yeah, definitely,” replied Jacob. “We still see a massive potential in bringing physical and online even closer. Especially in the premium furniture segment; seamless retail is our vision for the future.” 

Customer spotlight with Nordic Nest and Avensia

Customer wisdom on unlocking the power of digital content

Rounding out the day was a customer panel moderated by Soren Abildgaard, Executive Vice President of Engineering at Contentful. He welcomed leaders from On-Running, Adviqo Group, and LähiTapiola onto the stage to share how they’re realizing efficiency and scalability to unlock the power of digital content.

Laura Mason, Digital Product Manager at On-Running, hit the ground running (sorry) with the inside track on the upgrades they have made to their digital experiences using Contentful. “We recently worked on a redesign of our ecommerce website,” she explained. 

“One of the main goals of that [redesign] was to integrate editorial content into the ecommerce journey,” she continued. “Especially as the brand expands its product line, there’s a need to contextualize products by telling inspirational stories and introducing athletes that are partnered with us.” 

Speaking about the challenges of getting content right – and whether it was a limitation of technologies or process – Aleksei Neronov, Chapter Lead of the Mobile Team at the Adviqo Group said:

“From an organizational perspective, it's very important to have a learning process. We need to teach our leaders and editors how to use a system. We need to teach our developers how to build a system for authors that's not overly engineered or over-complicated.”

Anne Sejdija, Digital Product Owner at LähiTapiola, spoke next about lessons learned from implementing Contentful in her organization. “What I learned is that you have to have designers, content editors, business stakeholders, and developers involved from day one,” she said, reflecting on the earliest days of content modeling.

The legendary Contentful Trabant

And that’s a wrap (for Berlin)

At the end of a busy but exciting day, the attendees gathered in the Contentful cafe for cocktails, music, and to pose for selfies with the Trabant – a Berlin motoring icon – parked in the corner.

But what happened to the balloons that festooned the venue that day? 

You’ll be pleased to hear they weren’t dispatched to that great trashcan in the sky. The events team donated them to the school next door. Lesson learned: Contentful gives as much joy to local kids as it does to our customers and partners.

Looking to the future, here are the dates and locations for the next stop in the Fast Forward Roadshow. See you there!

📍 New York, November 17

📍 London, November 29

📍 San Francisco, December 6

And for a high-level view on all the major announcements stemming from Fast Forward Live, check out these posts:

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Editor’s note: statements made by speakers have been edited for clarity.

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