Archive for December, 2017

My Strategy for Magento in 2018

Posted by: Karen Thursday, December 14th, 2017

Been an interesting year. I posted a blog back in January which I fully realise was explosive, dividing and created some disgruntlement. Mostly it created conversation, and I believe it also resulted in some action from Magento and from the community itself, whether this was counter blogs, changes to ways of working, a deeper appreciation of where we were or a reflection on where we weren’t.

So here I am again. I’m not going to be negative, look I like to cut to the meat of an issue, because quite frankly I don’t have time for noise. But I’m kind of seeing how I would run Magento and I thought I’d share my vision because hey what the hell, maybe it will make people think. You may disagree with me, you may think I’m arrogant to write such a post, and you know what you are fully entitled to that opinion. But at least I’m making my voice heard, I’m working damn hard for what I believe in.

What is Magento?

Lets just reflect first on what Magento is to us. I’ve had various conversations with people who have either left the Magento space or are now going multi-platform and its fair to say many of us find that hard but in some cases necessary. Magento was a platform that struck to the heart of who you were, I have no idea why this happened, how this happened, but it did. The Magento ecosystem isn’t just about software, its not just about people, its about all and everything in between. In the 9 years I’ve been in this space I’ve seen people thrive, people go bust, babies being born, people being diagnosed with serious illnesses, depression, divorce, laughter, success and every single gambit that life can throw. Its a true true ecosystem & community, warts and all.

My view, and maybe this is wrong, is that Magento is built on the shoulders of quite ordinary people doing quite extraordinary things.  We were actively encouraged by the Magento Management team to step outside our comfort zone, to share our stories, to embrace each other both socially and from a business perspective. We were told to climb a mountain by Jamie (and others), to think bigger, innovate, believe in the impossible.

What also happened was that there was massive opportunity. I see this now being replicated on the Shopify platform and its extremely powerful. I recall back in 2011 being at the X.Commerce event with the guys from Classy Llama. I couldn’t believe these men in their early/mid 20’s were building such a powerful company. The likes of Ben Marks at Blue Acorn, this voice that people listened to and respected. Their eagerness and enthusiasm – as a miserable brit it struck a big chord with me! The impossible was possible. In my mind WebShopApps is a primary example of making that happen, a mum of 2 kids went in and created what was one of the largest and most respected extension companies in the ecosystem. How many spaces can you do that in?!

That is our history. That is what drives many in this community. Not all, but many.

Whats happened this Year?

Well overall I’d say its been a good year for Magento. They are stating that 22K live sites, I feel its a little lower in terms of actual functioning merchants, but hey Shopify are good at the figure manipulation too. Magento has embraced the community more, and I think a big part of making that happen was the work of Ben Marks and Sherrie Rhode, those 2 are absolute diamonds in this space, and it goes beyond just being sociable, there is real intelligence there.

So what else, well the github contributions have been great, its clear a lot of the bugs are getting fixed, people are enhancing this system.

Then we saw the announcement around PWA, and really I sense a move to a new architecture on the frontend coming here. Its much needed, I think there is much debate about how far Magento should go, and I for one would like to see this sooner rather than later as we have work to do and need a stable platform to do it on where we arent having to keep throwing stuff away (but I realise we can mitigate that and we are).

I think BigCommerce and Shopify, and to a lesser degree WooCommerce are eating into the pie, but I get that Magento really was an unprofitable organisation in many ways before so having a smaller piece of a profitable pie is a good thing.

The area of struggle I think has been in the agency and tech partner side from perspective of getting staff skilled up given the level of complexity of Magento, and dealing with the high costs of development, from everything I’ve seen I cannot see how anyone can say Magento 2 is easy, its not and if you don’t believe me come spend a week with my Magento 2 developers. There is a lot of technology going on, a lot of custom stuff you have to get your head around and although the docs are good I think we need more in the way of working examples and more simplification and abstraction just to remove some of the unnecessary noise in the system. For most agencies they want a way to get Magento to market fast, they don’t want to have to understand every nut and bolt in order to start the engine and run the car.

My Vision

I think there are a few things that need refinement, and if Magento did them we would see a return to the real Magento that I remember (no pun/exclusivity intended) and a platform that really arms itself in the right way. I don’t want a Volusion or a DemandWare, do you?

I personally think some things could be done better. This is what I would tackle:

  1. The Marketplace still needs some work. The process for getting on there is over-complicated, but worse its got extremely poor support for companies doing continuous delivery. I think the rules should be simplified, encourage innovation, get the new Fooman’s of this world excited by it. You can still enforce quality (and tbh right now I don’t think you are) but you don’t have to do that with programs, technology, science, its about simplicity and common sense
  2. Engage with your partners on a deeper level. If you go look at what Shopify are doing at Unite (and outside), and BigCommerce with their business summits they are actively engaging not just with merchants but at a true business level with their partners. They understand the need for a full and wholesome partner community. Stop just listening on Stack Overflow and get your Partnership and Biz Dev teams getting out there and doing more than just pushing sales. Become true partners, talk to us, don’t just give us a badge and then ignore us to the point where we feel the need to write a blog to air our opinion
  3. Listen at a business level to the feedback and look at the architecture closely to see how best to move this platform forwards fast. Engage your strategy team and stop thinking about 4 years ahead, get to the reality of here & now and whats required because next January you will have a lot of M1 clients taking a good look at where they go next, you want them on M2, but they have plenty of options and the cloud is looking a lot easier for them right now in many cases
  4. As I’ve made very clear I’m not a fan of exclusivity. I am a fan of opportunity and inclusion of all, that has been an ethos that has run the length of my career. Magento in my mind is a PLATFORM for others to build and expand on. Your remit is not the same as Shopify or BigCommerce. You have started from a different place. I would equate it to some of the arguments around net neutrality going on right now. If you are saying that the opportunity is no longer there for extension developers (or it is but it costs massive bucks), and worse saying that for Technology Partners that the platform may compete against your offering – well expect some serious fallout from that. Because those developers aren’t going to fully embrace that platform, why would they? You, Magento inc, need all the ecosystem in order to fully succeed. No-one is ever saying that you can’t have levels of partnership or special relationships, but in my mind you should be offering choice to your merchants and making sure you are getting a piece of the pie wherever they are going (which would I believe actually bring you in more revenue than your current cigar club approach). Magento is currently following an approach which is exclusive and goes against what makes Magento so great. Leave the holes, we want to fill them, leave the opportunity, we want to grab it. This does not reduce your ability to succeed, as Craig Hayman quite clearly stated in 2015:

“Open source wins every day. Every time”