If you'll excuse the quick humblebrag, Fast Forward Roadshow London was a smashing success.
With over 151 partners and customers representing 85 brands in attendance, the venue was packed and (nearly) bursting with great conversation and positive vibes. What bought these professionals together in the heart of the city was a shared passion and investment in the future of composable content.
And, um, they also found time to watch a game of football, a.k.a. soccer, a.k.a. the sport where grown adults frantically chase after a ball only to kick it into the back of a net.
By a cosmic quirk of scheduling, the event took place the same day – Nov. 29 – that England and Wales squared off to advance to the next round of the World Cup in Qatar. And in the same group, U.S. played Iran.
We had screens set up for both games, but none of this excitement deterred attendees from their primary mission: to learn about the latest and greatest features of the Contentful® Composable Content Platform. Let’s get into it, shall we?
Customer spotlight with Vodafone and Netlify
The two spoke about the importance of staying agile with cutting-edge methodologies and modern tech, and why empowering teams across the business is so critical to customer retention and stakeholder engagement.
Sam began by outlining the inciting incident: modernizing a critical digital channel – vodafone.com – which was in dire straits. After stabilizing the platform in order to salvage the project, he investigated where the problems had begun in the first place.
“The diagnostics showed that stakeholders reliant on the platform had not been consulted or included in the journey,” he revealed.
This might have been surmountable with only a handful of stakeholders, but not so easy when you have more than 37, each of them needing to publish to vodafone.com throughout the year. As Sam explained:
“The Vodafone Group is an inherently complex business. We have mobile and fixed networks across 21 countries, working with 47 partner markets, and over 300m mobile customers, 28m fixed customers and 22m TV customers.”
He determined that no monolithic stack would be able to provide flexibility in content creation and management to the level required by all stakeholders. “Armed with the reality of the requirements, my internal and external partners worked with me to plan a modern architecture with multiple headless CMSes, integrated to a decoupled frontend powered by Netlify,” he shared.
Of course, this didn’t happen overnight. Starting with what they already had in place, Vodafone’s gradual migration to composable architecture helped build consensus. Since relaunching the platform in May 2021, every KPI has been met and, in many instances, exceeded.
“We’re publishing more content from more teams than ever before,” Sam said, “with reduced cost and lower headcount.”
Here’s a snapshot of their success: in the past 12 months they’ve secured 20 million website viewers and 164 million page views. They’ve also published a whopping 10,537 articles, which are read by repeat visitors from 154 countries.
Sam continues, “The most exciting opportunity now is that we have the infrastructure in place, courtesy of Netlify, to begin unifying all of our digital platforms in Vodafone Group.”
Partner panel: Decoupling dependencies between teams
Next up, Paolo Negri, Contentful Co-Founder and CTO, hosted a partner panel with some heavy hitters in the worlds of ecommerce, localization, and web solutions. Joining him on stage were leaders from Valtech, Netlify, Accenture, Translations.com, and commercetools.
The group treated the audience to a far-ranging discussion on topics such as delivering great customer experiences, the need for agility, and understanding how to optimize the content you have. Here are the highlights.
Paolo quizzed Tom Morgan, Senior Manager (UKI) at Accenture, on whether it’s the way people work that shifts technology, or its the technology that shifts the way people work. “Which is the driving force behind inherent change?” he asked.
“I think it’s both [technology and people], and they work really well in tandem,” answered Tom. “The momentum of one feeds into the other and creates a really positive cycle of change when it’s harnessed effectively.” He continued:
“And I’m glad we’re on this topic because we talk a lot about the technology [that dictates the way teams work], but actually the biggest shift I’ve observed in adopting these technologies is a significant breakdown in the organizational silos that exist when you're trying to deliver a product at scale. When you bring people around a common product vision and goal, that drives a really strong shift towards this new way of working with new architectures and new technologies.”
Next came a question about the challenges of creating content for the end-user experience in a multi-brand, multi-market, multi-channel environment. Aaron Campbell, Director of UK Retail at Translations.com, outlines the situation from his perspective quite clearly,
“The [international] market has moved away from translation and toward localization in its purest terms,” Aaron explains. By this, he means that localization doesn’t only encompass content creation, but also network payments, delivery methods, and more. All of this makes for a better customer experience. But, he continues, there is another consideration for going composable.
“Today, there's a CMS, there’s a DAM, there’s a PIM, there’s an ecommerce platform, and all those content types now live in multiple different places,” he explained, which makes the discovery process more complex when starting with a new client.
“But it’s for a good purpose, because now all of those systems do [content, digital assets, product inventory, etc] better. The one challenge to be clear to people is that your content is going to be decentralized, and when you are looking to expand into more markets, you have to think about that content flow and how you get the content across from those platforms to an agency.”
Integrations like the GlobalLink Connect app, available on the Contentful Marketplace, are designed to make this process easier, Aaron concluded.
Continuing on the same theme of challenges, Kelly Goetsch, Chief Strategy Officer at commercetools, had a fascinating take on the swing of the pendulum from opinionated megavendors of monolithic systems to un-opinionated API-first tools.
“Collectively, we as vendors [of API-first tools] have been saying to our customers, ‘look, it's up to you what you want to do with them,’ and I think we've swung in the direction of being a little bit too un-opinionated,” he said.
“And what we need are good system integrators to pull everything together to make an actual solution. Because our customers are buying a new commerce and content experience. They're not buying a bunch of Lego bricks.”
Customer panel: No more expensive upgrades, backups, or content freezes
For the final session of the day, Contentful released CFO Carla Cooper from spreadsheet-land (her words, not mine) to host the customer panel. Luminaries from the brands ITV, Danone, F1, and Rapha joined her for a reflection on their positive experiences using Contentful.
Because so many audiences are found online today, Carla asked Dave King, Head of Digital Operations at F1, whether that meant they had to get more strategic about the way they think of content.
“[F1] is a global brand and we've had a kickstart with the ‘Drive to Survive’ series; it's brought in a new demographic that we have to address in different ways,” Dave said.
“It's a social media era and traditional website apps don’t necessarily fit the bill anymore. It's how we then change and adapt to provide new and engaging content to different demographics. It’s interesting to see how you can use Contentful to drive different experiences to different individuals, and I’m excited to see if and how we adopt that in the future.”
When asked about the challenges of realizing their digital vision, Ben Bodien, Technology Director at Rapha, spoke about the migration from monolithic to composable. “The big challenge for us has been not just selecting a wonderful tool like Contentful but actually bringing it to life and integrating it into what is still for us a fairly legacy stack,” he quipped.
Ben continued, “We can clearly see the benefits when we talk to customers or when we talk to Contentful themselves. But actually bringing that to life ourselves has been quite cumbersome. It’s not the fault of our team or the product we’re trying to integrate, it’s just the nature of the beast. For us it’s a challenge around unpicking old ways of working with old software and diving headfirst into the new.”
The team under Ralph Urmel, Senior Digital Experience Manager at Danone, isn’t stuck using a legacy platform – they were lucky enough to start afresh. But, he says, this brings with it a different set of challenges.
“For us specifically it's a positive challenge in the sense that the brand has grown explosively in the past two years in markets like Europe and Japan,” he said.
Ralph continued, “We have to make tough decisions on what we're going to do first with a small and agile team, closely working with each market to develop the best possible experiences; even though the technology is in place, you still need the time to plan and strategize.”
When throwing the panel open to questions from the floor, they were asked about what advice they would give to other brands or businesses thinking about going composable. They were unanimous about the advantages of no longer having to deal with expensive upgrades, rollouts, backups, and content freezes.
Stuart Lawson, Service Delivery Manager at ITV, summed it up nicely:
“Don't even think twice about it. Moving from a monolithic system that might do a lot of stuff pretty well, to approaching a bunch of smaller systems that do things really, really well and having the flexibility to hook those up and work with specialists in each of those areas is really valuable.”
We couldn’t agree more!
Score is 3:0 for composable content
After a brilliant sequence of panel discussions and product demonstrations, folks were ready to let their hair down a bit.
They were still eager to talk shop, of course, forging new connections while reaffirming old ones. They were accompanied by refreshments, a DJ, and some massive TV screens to show both the big games.
And wouldn’t you know it, both England and U.S. progressed to the next round of the World Cup! There were cheers (and beers) all around. But the happiest outcome is that three of the Fast Forward Roadshows have reached a satisfying close.
Only one to go! There’s still time to register:
📍 San Francisco, December 6
And for a high-level view on all the major announcements stemming from Fast Forward Live, check out these posts:
Editor’s note: statements made by speakers have been edited for clarity.