Archive for April, 2015
The Stars Align
Every year in the run up it’s the last one. We rumble on about how things are going to come to a close, how people are moving on, rumble rumble rumble.
Then something happens. 40+ countries come together, and this wonderful ecosystem joins hands in the real world. No longer confined to our rooms, our twitter accounts and the heavy workload of our day-2-day life we pause for a moment, and embrace each other in Vegas.
What seems to come out of that is truly magical. In my mind the main stage production (by the Magento Design Team working with The Buzz Lab, 1028 Design, Brite Ideas) really seems to set the tone. We start to get pulled into this world of opportunity, of optimism and of the future. Very different to previous years tho, it was more subtle, less flashy production. TBH that was needed.
Slowly a quiet whisper starts to go around the event, we start to once again believe, to refresh, to discuss not what’s wrong, but what a great ecosystem we are in and discuss how we can go farther, higher, and reach beyond our boundaries. And this whisper grows, by the end of Imagine we become empowered, we have a ‘plan’, we are ready to walk away and we are keen for the future.
A New Dawn
Last year at the Hard Rock Cafe I felt this complete ‘jarring’ between Magento and eBay Enterprise. We were all just totally confused by it. Was it going to compete against web design agencies, were they going to start writing extensions, and where did the community fit into all this, did eBay even realise we existed?
It seemed evident to me that eBay Enterprise was confused by us. This odd collection of individuals, some with stronger opinions(!) than others, what we now know as purple squirrels(!). We didn’t conform, we questioned and we judged fast. We had no patience for red tape, idiots or laziness. We demanded more.
In 2015 it was extremely evident that the eBay Enterprise/Magento team (hereby known as Team X) listened, and I felt that what was also evident was that there was now a solid intelligent team in place which was not at odds with each other. The noise had been removed, and the newly oiled cogs were really starting to turn fast. How did this happen? Well I expect the split from eBay was like an electric shock to the heart, and after the initial shock they decided to seize the opportunity. They stepped up.
I call it Team X because what was at Imagine was not Magento nor was it eBay Enterprise. It was the start of a birth of a new company. In 2014 it was hard to spot an eBay Enterprise employee, they seemed to huddle together and not come out to play. In 2015 it was hard to tell the difference between Magento and eBay Enterprise employees, and it was hard to escape from their presence!! They were everywhere, and they were human.
I felt as if this Team X was starting to escape the shackles of eBay.com and they felt empowered. Craig Hayman set the tone on Monday, I believe there was some -ve comment re the sale of eBay Enterprise/Magento as he was leaving the stage, and he turned right around and came back on stage and told the audience ‘exactly how it was’ re the split from eBay. I wasn’t there, but many people mentioned it to me.
It was a turning point, we had asked, he had responded. And what people most liked in my mind – he was transparent, honest and without spin. You could argue it was actually Craig that set the true tone of the conference, his transparency and honesty throughout is not something I’ve seen at any Magento conference, right back to 2011.
The News Summary
So much stuff was discussed at Imagine its really hard to get that down in a blog. I’m sure others will cover, so I’m just going to summarize just a few things that I saw:
- Sherrie Rhode was appointed Community Manager – this is a great move, Sherrie is connector and very engaging, she will be a true asset and I hope it takes some of the strain off Ben and allows him to focus on the developer evangelism even more as he is doing a great job there
- Magento Small Business was formally launched
- Attribution will go to developers for Magento 2 contributions
- Magento 2 is still on track for GA release at end of year
- Options are being discussed re sale of Team X – either IPO, acquisition or Equity backing. My money is on the latter
- A new Connect/App Store is on the way, its being actively worked on for Magento 2. It will included verified extensions so that merchants/agencies can differentiate between the offerings
- People like hugging 😉 I hugged a lot of people. Some of them I didn’t even know. Its become a family
I think people forget, and they look back to the ‘golden years’ of Magento. But some of the moves above are significant and I think we should acknowledge that earlier management failed to put these things in place effectively when they were in charge. Just the small part about acknowledging a commit to Magento 2 is hugely significant in my eyes, it’s just about respect and partnership. Team X have removed the arrogance. They know they need us, we know we need them, but most importantly we know together we are so much stronger than apart. There is a belief things will actually get better, because they have delivered for the first time on some of their prior promises.
What do we Do Now?
Over the past few months I believe a number of us have been hugely worried about this split of Team X. I’ve had many CEO’s contact me from agencies large and small, technology companies and even logistic companies. The question is ‘What’s going to happen to Magento?’. I think you have to ask why we are asking that question. Well its because we rely on it. This is our livelihood. If Magento fails and we are ‘all in’ then we are screwed. Its as simple as that. So from a CEO perspective many of us are having to assess what else is out there, how we can ensure we don’t get burned if Magento get’s into trouble.
My concern was that the ‘suits’ at eBay Enterprise didn’t understand. I spoke with one guy and he said to me ‘this affects me too’. I agreed, but my point to him was that each month he walks home with a known salary, if this screws up he just moves jobs. For many CEO’s in this space (where there are a high proportion of bootstrapped businesses) if we get it wrong we literally don’t get paid. And that can have a very real effect. But its not just if we get it wrong, its if Team X get it wrong. And thats what I think really frustrates us, because we are in part reliant on Team X keeping their side going.
So my conclusion (finally I hear you all gasp!). Well I see it like this:
- We have a wait out now to see what rolls with this spin-off. I don’t think its going to be too long, Paypal has announced Q3 so I’d expect around that time too. Certainly before Magento 2
- There is strength in the team Mark Lavelle has built. I think(hope!) they walked away from Imagine pretty pumped up, and I think together we can build something truly fantastic. We are reliant on that team staying somewhat in place over the next few months, if it fractures it would indicate problems
- If you can split your eggs then do so. It’s always a bad move as a business to rely on one customer, one source of revenue, and with Magento we are in a way doing this. But given its market share, its possibility and the great ecosystem we reside within its a relatively low risk
These are only my views. I don’t pretend to be right, I don’t pretend to see Imagine as everyone else. I can only go on what I see, how I feel. If you feel different blog it, or post in comments below. I share my view because I like to record ‘moment’s, because maybe it helps others, maybe it provokes conversation, and maybe it then shows me what I need to do with my company, my strategy, my future, not because I think my view is the only view.
Maybe I had a good week, maybe I was ready to see Magento in a different light, but I’ll be honest, when I arrived in the keynote Tuesday morning I was was still wary, but the low marketing of the conference, the honesty, and the fresh spirit changed me. It was the small things aswell, like having a beer with Ted Pietrzak, talking TDD with people like James Cowie. I’m prepared to believe, to trust, to risk things. Because this community and eco-system is totally unique, you would seriously struggle to find or reproduce it again in your lifetime. And that’s worth fighting for.
I could dribble on about a lot more, including Steve Wynn, Saunders Howard, Phillip Jackson kicking Jamie Clarke in the balls, niches, purple squirrels and duct tape. But I’ll stop.
Magento, its not dead, its just moved on. Let’s hope Team X stay strong, stay together and join in our continued quest to evolve and redefine the commerce space.
For those of you worried about ‘Magento’ the word and the fact its being used less and less I’d say it’s a word, get over it and move on. I hope they rename it, because apart from a few exceptions like MageTalk I feel like the Magento brand has been de-valued by Mage<x>.com. And its time for us to step into a new future. It’s no longer 2008, 2010 or 2012. We aren’t the same, and neither is Magento. Breaking free from eBay could well be the best thing to happen since it was launched.
WebShopApps is a Gold Technology Partner specializing in shipping extensions around rate calculating and manipulation. They have the most popular shipping extension on Magento Connect, the most intelligent rate management software in the world on ShipperHQ.com, and recently announced their UPS Ready status, making them the only UPS Ready rating focused company within the Magento ecosystem.
We sit here on the eve of the 5th Magento Imagine conference, the Wynn awaits us, and 4-5 days of information, networking, partying, and most likely a little chaos.
But as we anticipate what is probably the best eCommerce event on the calendar I can see that the landscape has changed, and I believe no-one is in any doubt that next year things will be very different.
So What’s Changing?
This is a personal view. I can only look from my own perspective and that of WebShopApps. But I see a number of key changes happening:
- Uncertainty around eBay Enterprise Sale – It’s going to happen. I do not see an IPO. eBay will want to offload this by the close of year, I expect there is a round of discussions going on as we speak with interested parties. I heard another acquisition for a much smaller company had over 80 different initial enquiries, so I’d expect a few for eBay Enterprise. The question is “What will happen to Magento?”. I’ve covered this before but my own question is around Magento2 because if it is acquired it could well be that they put Magento into ‘Support&Maintenance’ and push customers onto their own platform
- Employee Churn – It’s 2015 (bloody hell, where did that go!) – Many of us have been in this space now for at least 5 years. The average time in an IT job is around 2-3 years, and technologists are naturally inquisitive individuals. You see already some people moving off the Magento platform, and new faces arriving. I’d expect to see a lot more movement this year, especially with the similar technology spaces available (e.g DevOps, Laravel, other Commerce Platforms)
- Acquisitions are Rife – It feels to me like the heady days of the late 90’s, there are investors everywhere, money is being thrown around, and many companies now are mature enough for acquisition. We saw this with the recent Perficient acquisition of Grand River/Zeon, and also with Stamps.com acquiring ShipStation/ShipWorks/Endicia all in the last 12 months. In Europe Session Digital have also been busy acquiring. I see this increasing in 2015, and a lot of possibility around agency mergers/client sell-offs
- Merchants are Demanding More – Merchants are realising things should be simpler. Its not 2008. They want better design, less worry, easier integrations, and greater power. Merchants are becoming tech savvy, they understand terms that a couple of years back meant nothing. Most of all what I see is that Merchants need simplicity, abstraction and to worry about their business. They want to use technology, not for it to be their total
- SAAS is very firmly here – We are all using it, whether for CRM, Email, Marketing, Project Management, Bug Tracking. Its more a case of where aren’t we using it? And the open source nature of Magento needs to keep up with this. Yes it’s flexible, you can bend it in 200 ways, but do you really need to? Its clear from the IPO filing announcement from Shopify that SAAS makes money, and that its in demand
- Merchants have more options – Magento is not the only decent Commerce Platform anymore. There is Shopify with 170K+ merchants , Bigcommerce(70K+ merchants) straight from a Series D funding round, Mozu rebranded from Volusion, Hybris now integrated into SAP, Demandware, eBay Enterprise and now even the Magento co-founder Yoav has brought out OroCommerce. Merchants have choices, and they will vote with their feet. We may find some start spending less, others will spend more. Magento is in for a fight, and the instability around its sale will not help
Will this effect Magento Imagine?
I’d expect a lot of the eBay Enterprise team to be focused on:
- Potential Acquirers (who are sure to be in attendance)
- Large Merchants
I really hope they balance the conference and it doesn’t turn into the Enterprise show. This has typically been a great Community event, I’m sure there are enough of us to keep that spirit alive, but I hope the event’s team also get behind that idea and we aren’t just given 3 days of spin.
I think whatever happens there will be different streams of action, and enough people that you can find a suitable stream to join with. If in doubt look for the craps table 😉
So What do We Do?
Stay alert, aware of the space you reside in. If you are exclusively working on Magento now just make sure your order book is full, and that you are keeping one ear to the ground. There is still a lot of traction in Magento, thats not going to change anytime soon, but for business owners dependent on Magento you should be thinking down the line, 12 months ahead, 2 years ahead.
For some companies in the Magento space its time to ‘pivot’ – we saw this potential a few years back and have spent a lot of time and effort building out ShipperHQ.com in part to allow us to go onto other platforms.
Whatever you do just make your decisions wisely. A guy said to me today ‘It’s going to be an heck of an Imagine’. How profound that statement is.
Enjoy it, next year who knows where we will be. But hey what exciting times. Are you up for it?? We are!
Years ago, in my experience, IT professionals were not a particularly sociable bunch. I recall once attending an work IT event in London and remarking to a female colleague friend that we should have done a degree in Marketing as I’m sure it would have been a lot more fun!
But things change, geek is the new cool, and luckily in the Magento Community there are a truly diverse set of individuals, not just programmers, but marketing, sales, managers, social media types, devops, entrepreneurs, merchants, etc etc. Which is really what makes Magento Imagine a great event. It’s not yet been totally taken over by the corporates, the high rollers and the VC guys, its still got some soul. I think a lot of us in the ‘old’ community can see this soul getting lost more and more each year, but as with any event you find your group, and luckily with 1500+ people there should be enough variety to keep you amused! And hey things change, time to move on!
What Makes Imagine Special?
I attend a lot of different events, including IRCE, Shop.org and dev events such as RailsConf. My personal take on what makes Imagine special is that it’s small enough to be intimate, but large enough to be interesting. The money is available, nothing is skimped on, nice lunches, great evening events, and in the past great keynote speakers (though I note there are not so many external ones in 2015, but maybe they haven’t yet announced).
This intimacy allows several things to happen:
- You can find like-minded people who have similar stories/histories to you
- People are open and friendly – you get a good dose of american hospitality and its infectious
- Time to relax and rewind – many of us work extremely hard at our companies, the event really allows you to sit back and consume
- You don’t feel harassed – It will be interesting to see if this changes this year, but in previous years even though there is an exhibition hall it doesn’t feel like you need to avoid all eye contact when walking around!
In my mind all of this is invaluable as you get this rather unique opportunity to meet new people, make new associations and connections. Some of them may be direct leads, but many will be people that I’ve found have become friends, people I can turn to when I need a listening ear, or just guys to have a chat with on twitter or the forums. When you are back in your little office it makes you feel like you belong to something bigger, and thats a good feeling.
What are Your Goals?
Before you attend any conference you should understand what you want out of the event. They are expensive, its not just an excuse to party, and your company will want you to get the most out of it. It’s extremely important to be prepared, in particular set up meetings in advance, make sure you know the agenda if you have a lot to cram in, otherwise it turns to chaos.
We bring along my PA Jane who manages the whole team and their schedule throughout the event, thats how crazy it gets for us (after 6pm she is allowed to party tho!!).
When we first started doing the events we had little competitions on how many business cards we could pick up. Now we will schedule time for networking, time to be together as a team, time to switch off, etc. We do set our aims out in advance, what we want to achieve, what people we want to speak to, what we want to understand about the product, the roadmap, etc. This drives our schedule.
My Advice for Newbies
I’ve been attending Imagine since the first in 2011. In the previous 3 years we were Gold exhibitors, this year we decided to just go along and enjoy ourselves more, as we have a good deal of saturation in the Magento space already. I think if you are attending Imagine for the first time it can be a little daunting, especially now as a lot of people know each other, I can see that it can be hard, especially if you are more of a shy kind of person. So here are some tips:
- If you are bringing a team make sure you get some ‘team time’ – I always take the team on a team building exercise, last year we went buggy riding before Imagine and then after spent 3 days in Zion National Park – and it was great to just say thanks to the guys and also allow a 3-continent team to spend time ‘bonding’
- Don’t be afraid to walk up to people – I think of it a little like speed-dating, and a lot of people at the conference will do it. But its not all about work, use it as an opportunity to learn off others and listen to their stories, you never know who you will meet! And if you find no similarity then just shake hands, swap cards and move on. I’m sure neither side will be offended
- Keep the booze under control – Remember its still a work event and anything you do will be noted and remembered and shared – especially with the advent of live streaming I’d say just be aware of your actions
- Attend the events around the edges of the conference – Pre-Imagine is a great one as its a community run event, also Nucleus Commerce are holding an event on the Monday evening which I’m sure will be epic. You often find little parties going on here and there away from the main event, and even a few after-after-parties
- Sleep well in advance – Its a very hectic few days, if you plan to make the absolute most of it then be prepared to be up at 8am, to bed at 2am
- Find the quiet times – Sometimes during the day I just escape to a place in the hotel away from the noise and chill for a bit. Personally I love it after 12am – most people have gone off and you can wander down to the tables and have some fun with the die hard crew
- Forget Email – You just need to put on the out of office, have faith in your team and forget about outside life. Trying to juggle is nigh on impossible and you will miss out on a valuable experience. Just immerse yourself, and trust your colleagues to hold the fort
If you are a Merchant
For Merchants attending Imagine I’d encourage you to do a few things:
- Try to speak to as many merchants as possible – attend the Merchant To Merchant sessions and try to connect. The snippets you can share with each other will be invaluable, and its my experience that many merchants go thro exactly the same experiences, highs and lows, so connect up!
- Be open to new experiences, new ideas, new ways of thinking – let go of your day-2-day work for a few days and open up to the possibilities. Yes there is a reality bump at the end but its okay to think outside the box for a few days, it won’t harm you
- Have some key things you wish to achieve and then search for those people to help you – Whether that be you know you need help with shipping, payment, marketing, a design agency etc
- Ask people for referrals – it’s all very well and good going around the exhibition hall, but referrals count for a lot. Ask around, there is a big community of people there, of which many are very familar with the Magento space – if you need a particular capability or want to know the best design agency that will fit your needs, budget then ask, I’m sure you will find people to advise you, or if they cant they will point in the right direction
- Understand Magento – its path, where its going, what the roadmap is – This helps you in your decisions not just today but 12 months down the line when Imagine is long forgotten
If you can’t make it follow @WebShopApps on twitter and periscope, we will be keeping you informed whilst we are there.
If you are attending then have fun, enjoy this time. You are in Vegas, there is ‘free’ food and drink, you are with people that are like you. Enjoy the experience!
See you in Vegas!