Finding the Unicorn: The Role Your Organization is Missing (and May Never Find)

Adobe states that over 80 percent of their clients own three or more solutions of the Adobe Marketing Cloud, including six of the ten highest revenue Pharmaceutical companies. This number will likely grow, as Adobe saw a record 26% increase in revenue Q1 of 2017. The true value of the Adobe Marketing Cloud comes when these solutions are connected together, to provide a consistent, relevant experience across channels and devices. Finding and retaining talent with the ability to connect multiple solutions of the platform is now a mandate. In the Adobe world, this rare role is called the Multi-solution Architect (MSA).

The mandate for an organization to retain a Multi-solution Architect was evident at the 2017 Adobe Summit, as the majority of technical sessions involved combining two or more integrations such as, Adobe Experience Manager integration with Adobe Analytics and Adobe Target, Audience Manager & Adobe Analytics: Your data management power couple, and The Dynamic Duo: Adobe Campaign & Adobe Analytics for real-time re-marketing. Last year, it was estimated that there were only about 15 true Multi-solution Architects worldwide at Adobe. In agencies, there are likely none.  And with an already steep investment on the platform itself, hiring this rare consultant would break even the largest organization’s implementation budgets.

Computer Futures is one of the leading supplier of Adobe talent in the U.S., with Adobe themselves being one of its largest customers. In their 2017 Adobe Market Report, they state that, “the true multi-solution architect will be the most valuable individual in the marketplace.” Currently, there are an estimated 40 open positions for an Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) developer alone, and even more for an Adobe Campaign developer. An individual with the experience to connect both systems (or even three or more solutions) would be like finding a unicorn. And with new legislation on the table that would effectively double the salary of H1B workers to a minimum of $130,000 per year, the available talent pool to fulfill these roles will decrease as the low-cost developer pool shrinks.

“For the most part, ‘true multi-solution architects’ are working for Adobe directly. This is where they naturally receive the best training and gain the most project exposure year on year. There are some that have flown the proverbial nest or exist outside of this, but they are extremely hard to come by.” -Dave Fox, Computer Futures

It’s important for you to heed the call and extend your AEM practice to multi-solution consulting and execution to align overall solution architecture to digital marketing strategy and goals. This ensures marketing campaigns are fully integrated to deliver a consistent, personalized experience and messaging across channels, and are continually measured and refined through data-driven insights.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Since you won’t likely won’t find an MSA, you have to make one.  If it’s you, how do you get up-to-speed on your multi-solution architecture practice?

The Adobe MSA acts as the facilitator between the business and the individual Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) for each solution, so there are soft skills needed in addition to the nerd stuff. Even the greatest musicians need a conductor. Assuming your organization’s offering is silo’d (like most), it’s the job of the MSA to provide the connective tissue between your web, relationship marketing, social, media, data, and insights teams. Although the technology was created to provide the horizontality across these silos, your antiquated, pre-digital business model and processes will hamper its effectiveness. You are the glue.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Tell a story: “When Dr. X visits our homepage, we identify he is a Cardiologist who has never prescribed our drug. We dynamically show content in the hero space specific to first-time prescribing Cardiologists and a clear call to action to contact a sales rep in his area. When he clicks the button, we take him to a Contact a Rep Form. Blah, blah, blah.”  Notice the story has no Adobe solutions (or any technology solutions, for that matter) listed whatsoever.  You first need to define the what before the how.Your story should always tie back to a measurable business goal. In this case, it is to increase registrations and rep engagement. Now, it might not be your job to actually create the story, it is your job to bring the story to life.
  • Start small. Too often, organizations take the Joe Gunchy approach and choose the largest implementation as their ‘pilot’.

    “Go big or go home.” –Joe Gunchy

    You need quick wins, so start with a short story (not a novel), then map the data, content, and technologies needed to bring your story to life:

    • Homepage (AEM)
    • Doctor speciality data (first and third-party data in Audience Manager)
    • Doctor prescriber data (first and third-party data in Audience Manager)
    • Geolocation data (browser info in AEM Context Hub)
    • Behavioral data (Analytics data shared with Target)
    • Contact a rep form (AEM/Campaign)

When you identify a missing piece in your technology landscape, you need to weigh the value of acquisition/customization.  Is it easier to modify the story or the technology landscape to achieve quick wins while still achieving your business goals?

  • Connect the dots. Study the Adobe Use Cases  found in the Adobe Solution Partner Portal. If you’re not an Adobe Partner, you can register as a Community Partner to access this content. The use cases show how data is exchanged between solutions for a variety of scenarios. Understanding these will give you a foundation for implementing their connectivity.  A multi-solution connected diagram looks like this:Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 11.44.01 AM.png
  • Follow best practices.  Check out the Build a Digital Foundation using the Adobe Experience Cloud tutorial for tips on how to integrate AEM with other solutions. Also, read the  Integrating with the Adobe Marketing Cloud documentation then actually try some hands-on execution of a small use case. Start by simply personalizing a single piece of content in AEM using the out-of-the-box Context Hub for geolocation or other available trait, then eventually move up to AEM + Target integration, then Analytics to Target to AEM, then AEM to Campaign, etc. Fail fast, and learn.

    “E pluribus unum (Out of many, one)”

  • Out of many, one.  This is the opportunity to organize around your team of internal SMEs to help with the connectivity between solutions to bring your story to life – a journey manager, of sorts.  Do you have to know every detail of every Adobe solution? Nope.”You don’t have to know how to push every button, you just need to know there’s a button to push.”   Let the SME’s do their SME’ing while you retire back to your cubicle knowing you’re the rarest mofo in the org.

    #unicorns4life.

Advertisements

Jumping into Adobe AEM Development

Got a great note from a reader asking advice on whether he should dive in and learn AEM development:

I am a User Interface Designer with minor Front End Developer skills. I was recently hired by a major eye wear company  for the sole purpose of migrating a version of one of their Native Apps over to AEM. I have no real experience with AEM Development, but I am a fast learner and I already have the AEM portal experience mastered (along with creating articles, collections, layouts, etc..)

My question is: Do you think it is viable/worth it for me to dive head first into AEM Development and try to learn the various languages/frameworks necessary to be able to customize an AEM app? Or is it something that would take years to understand and a complete change of my skillset?

Kind of a random question, I know… but your article was great so I thought I would reach out for advice. Thank you Mr. Meehan!

Seemingly Unrelated Story Time…

I grew up in a stereotypical, plain vanilla American suburban neighborhood – complete with station wagons, paper routes, penny loafers, Golden Retrievers, the works. There was even a pool up the street where you could pay 50 cents to swim all day.

I didn’t know how to swim until I was almost 11 years old, and none of my friends knew it. I could have won an Oscar for Best Actor for the work I did in that pool. I had all the individual skills to be a swimmer, but I never put the pieces together. If I held onto the side of the pool with my hands, I could float and kick my legs – no problem. When I was away from the wall, I would just walk with my feet touching the ground and paddle my arms so it looked like I was swimming. But, once I felt the curvature of the floor move towards the deep end, I would turn around and go back the other way because I knew I would be over my head.

Fast forward one muggy Michigan summer…

Somehow my ultra-conservative mom made friends with a backwoods, country bumpkin lady who had just moved to Michigan from a little town in West Virginia. She looked exactly like Willie Nelson in drag. I can’t remember her name, but it was one of those redneck stoner names where two regular stoner names are mashed together to make it even more rednecky, like “Misty Sue” or “Deena Jo”.

One day we were at the pool (or “swimmin’ hole”, as she called it) and she saw me walking in the shallow end, paddling my arms. She knew I couldn’t swim and I knew she was about to expose my secret as soon as she finished the Virginia Slim cigarette dangling from her lips. She paced back and forth along side the pool like a junkyard dog, watching me. I knew I was doomed, so I stayed in the pool until my hands and feet were as pruned as a crocodile’s scrotum. Yeah, I said it.

When I finally got out of the water, she took the last drag from her cigarette, dropped it into a can of warm Shasta soda and shook it.  Ssssssssssst.  She slowly walked over to me, grabbed me, then said, “Ya know what time it is, hound dog? …It’s swimmin‘ time!”

At first,  I thought it was weird that someone just called me, “hound dog”. Then, I was relieved because I thought she was going to say, “Hey, everyone! This kid can’t swim!”  Then, I realized “swimmin‘ time” loosely translated to “throw me in the deep end”.

I tried to scurry away and break her grip, but I couldn’t. She had me a crazy country wrestling hold I called, The Full Willie Nelson.  The more I struggled, the more my sunburned back scraped across the stubble on her leathery legs, until I could take no more. I conceded and wilted onto the scalding concrete.

fullnelson

She lifted me up over her head and threw me into the middle of the diving pool, which was the deepest part of the L-shaped pool. I sunk down about three feet, panicked, and started kicking my legs until I got to the surface of the water. I kept kicking my legs and flailing my arms and realized that the more I kicked and flailed, the more I moved closer to the safety of the wall. “Holy sh*t, I’m swimming!,” I thought.

I spent the rest of the day jumping into the deep end on my own and swimming back to the wall, all while Mrs. Willie Nelson smoked and watched from the edge.

Get to the Point…

Adobe is selling the hell out of AEM right now. Internally, they simply don’t have the capacity to keep up with all of the services opportunities to stand up, develop, and manage the platform, so they’re turning to partners to do the work.  If you’re hiring, you’ll be lucky to find a single AEM developer just sitting on the bench. And, if you do, they won’t be there long.

Time to jump in!

You already have some of the individual skills required to start developing in AEM. Most importantly, you’re already familiar with the tool. If you do this now, you can ride the demand wave for the next four years or so until the market evens out.  By then, you’ll be leading your own team.

The easiest way to learn it is to just jump in and do it.  Learning to code is the easy part. Since Sightly, we’ve enabled most of our front-end developers to create templates and components on their own without much back end coding. Template and component development is a good place to start.

Don’t get over your head!

You don’t need formal training,  but you do need a mentor who can take a look at your design and code to make sure you’re developing using best practices. Most of the clean-up work we do is directly related to a client hiring a development team who oversold their capabilities, didn’t follow any standards, and left the client with a non-scalable platform littered with hundreds of templates and components. Hundreds!  Don’t be that guy.  If you don’t have a mentor, get involved in the Adobe developer forums. There are some incredibly talented men and women on there who were once in your shoes and will answer any question you have.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Helen Hayes, whoever that is…

“The expert at anything was once a beginner.”

-Someone named Helen Hayes

Jump in the pool, hound dog. It’s swimmin’ time.

 

Adobe AEM Implementations …from Hell

I am a single dad with three kids: Sophia (10), Connor (13), and Ariana (15). Together our initials spell, “S.C.A.B.s”.  As Team S.C.A.B.s, we love to embark on regular adventures, such as weekend getaways to Chicago, hiking through trails where Jesse James and his gang hid from the law, or just exploring the great city where we live.

This fall we decided to do something I enjoyed as a kid: visiting a haunted house. But we didn’t just select any haunted house, we chose The Edge of Hell, one of the top-rated haunted houses in the country located in one of the many vacant buildings in the forgotten part of the city. As we waited in line to buy our tickets, we were greeted by rat-eating monsters, a galloping headless horseman, and fire-breathing, tattoo-covered hipsters in desperate need of a tetanus shot.

20141025_195201

I paid for four tickets into The Edge of Hell which cost me $25 a piece plus tax for a grand total of $117. NO REFUNDS.  Honestly, the receipt alone scared the hell out of me, but I’m cheap.  The kids seemed to be in brave spirits, so we assembled in a standard conga line in order of age: I led first, Ariana was behind me holding my shoulders, Connor held onto Ariana, and little Sophia held onto Connor with her eyes closed tightly.  We ascended the stairs near the entrance and our adventure began as the door and our last glimpse of light disappeared behind us.

conga_line-gettyimage_0

The first thing we encountered in The Edge of Hell was a pack of large mechanical dogs (or “Hounds of Hell”) that popped out of a wall and barked rabidly at Team S.C.A.B.s.   Instantly, I heard Connor yell from behind me, “Daaaaaaaaaad!  I want to leave!”

“Connor, we just got started. Where are you going to go?” I asked.

Right on cue, an acne-covered teenage monster emerged from the darkness. “Chicken Exit,” he said, pointing to a steel door to our left. Before he even finished his sentence, Connor’s hands released from his sister’s shoulders and he walked towards the Chicken Exit.  Sophia, not realizing where Connor was leading her, followed him with her eyes still shut tightly. Before I could object, the door slammed shut behind them. “NO REFUNDS” echoed in my head.  The S.C.A.B.s were now reduced to just “A” and “B”.  Thanks a lot, Teen Wolf.

HM-Chicken-Exit-Med

Ariana and I continued on. We finished the tour and we found Connor and Sophia waiting near the exit with the other chickens. Connor was staring off into space, still grappled with fear.   As we approached, Ariana folded her arms and said with her Big Sister attitude, “I think Connor should have to pay you back the $25.”

Connor paused, then stoically said, “Make it an even $30.”

“What’s the extra $5 for?” I asked.

“New underwear,” he muttered.

Why am I telling you this story on an AEM blog? Because it’s my job as a loving father to take every opportunity to embarrass my kids. But there is a point…

Fear is a powerful emotion and is amplified by surprise and the unknown. When you don’t know what’s hiding ahead, your senses are heightened, your pulse races, and the slightest deviation from ‘normal’ is enough to ruin your day (and likely your pants).

My kids have never been through a haunted house, but I have.  Imagine if I could tell them what was around every corner before we reached it? Or even better – what if I could guide them through the haunted house with all of the lights on?  I could take the fear of the unknown and every element of surprise out of the equation.

That’s your job as an architect or technical lead; that is, to help guide your clients through their digital transformation or AEM implementation with the lights on. This is likely their first foray through this process, but not yours. They have questions, they have concerns, and you have answers. Guide them.

I’ve recently been selected to take on a new role called the “Global Adobe Alliance Manager.”   It’s my job to act on our clients behalf to help guide them through the entire life-cycle of their digital transformation using Adobe’s offerings.

Your company might not have a dedicated person for this role, but there are some things you should be doing to help guide your clients through this process from start to finish:

  • Web Context Experience Management (WCXM) system evaluation and platform recommendation – If the client has not yet selected a platform, it’s your job to help provide them an unbiased recommendation to satisfy their business and functional requirements. You’ll likely be reviewing three to four platform options and providing a gap analysis of each. You may even help them define the platform selection criteria. Your recommendation should also consider their in-house technology expertise. Are they primarily a Java shop or .NET? If the vendor themselves (Adobe/Sitecore/Acquia/Whoever) responded to the evaluation, you can help the client vet their responses or translate WCXM geek-speak into something their business leads can understand.
  • Procurement and licensing negotiations – You should have a clear understanding of the architecture of their proposed system as well as the basic user journeys of the visitors to help determine how many (and what type of) licenses to purchase. You will also help determine the level of effort to develop features or functionality that are not part of the out-of-the-box offering. This all contributes to the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the platform and must be considered.
  • Architecture reviews – Did the client themselves or another agency define the architecture?  Review it. Does the client have their own hosted environment? Do they partner with a hosting provider like Rackspace? Do they know about Adobe’s Managed Services offering? Have they considered security, Single Sign-on options, or a robust caching strategy using a CDN?  Is there dynamic data? How is it being retrieved? How often is that data updated? Can that be cached, even temporarily? You need to call these things out when you’re doing a review.
  • Best practices recommendations – Does the client want something that goes against usability or the platform’s best practices? Are they asking for guidance on governance, mobile, personalization, globalization, or digital asset management? More importantly, are they not asking about these things? It’s your role to provide them the thought leadership in these areas and they must be considered at the beginning of the project.  They don’t know what they don’t know. Bring these topics to the table early.
  • Code reviews – Has your client decided to take on the development of the site in-house and it’s their first attempt at developing and AEM project (see also: the idiot Joe Gunchy)? Or, is your client working with a different implementation partner and they want a third-party agency to act on their behalf to do a review of what’s being developed?  These are perfect candidates for formal code reviews. Even if it’s your agency doing the development, you should be doing code reviews internally with your team and including the client’s technical leads, giving them full insight into what they will be taking over when the project development is complete. Even though you’re developing it, it’s their code and they will ultimately own it. If you have apprehensions about showing them their code, let’s be honest – something’s wrong with it.
  • Continuous integration recommendations – You must have an established, repeatable build process for compiling, and deploying both your code and content packages to the various environments.  If you don’t, you’re wasting the client’s time by doing these repetitive tasks that can and should be automated using free, open-source tools like Maven, Jenkins, and Puppet. True, there are some upfront costs (hours) associated with setting this up, but I challenge you to compare this to the time spent manually deploying to the various environments over a week, a month, or even a year. The return on your initial investment greatly outweighs that time and continuous integration is a must-have for every project.
  • Training and enablement – Once development is complete and you hand the ‘keys to the site’ over to the client, are you confident they know how to use each component, template, or even the AEM interface itself?  At minimum, you should provide an AEM overview and a site-specific training to the client to include each component, template, scaffolding page, workflow interface, etc.  Don’t show them the out-of-the-box Adobe Geometrixx demo unless they actually work for a company that sells shapes. C’mon, man. Show them their site using their stuff.
  • Support and documentation – The client will have questions, even after you’ve trained them and they’ve taken control of the site.  Be a good partner, be available, and answer their questions.  I’m not a big fan of printed, formal documents. Instead, I prefer to create a page (or pages) hidden from the site navigation within the tool itself with supporting documentation, useful links, and support contact information the client can refer to as they use the tool. If they find more efficient ways to use a component, they can update this page themselves thus alleviating another obsolete, printed document.

 

If you find this information useful, please share a link to my blog. If there is a topic you’d like to discuss, please use the comments below.

 

Usability Tip: Use Categories to Prefix Component Names – Part 2

In my last article Usability Tip: Use Categories to Prefix Component Names (LINK), I showed how pre-pending a category name to the beginning of the component name aids in sorting and is a quick way to help find the component you want to use.  After receiving a few questions regarding the post, a follow-up article is due in the form of a Q&A:

Q: “Why not use the componentGroup property?”

A: This is an excellent way to sort components when the content author manages only one site. You can use the componentGroup sort and categorize and restrict access to the components by use of permissions. However, if the content author manages more than one site within the same instance, this approach breaks down. It is possible to have two or more components with the same name but have different functionality.  Joe Gunchy would totally do something like this. My approach uses the site name for the componentGroup property, then further segregates them by adding the category to the name itself.

Q: “Would you be willing to share your macro list of categories for reference?”

A: Yep.  Here is the list of categories I used on my most current implementation:

  • Content – Any straight, content-managed components like Promotion Pods, Rich Text Editors, or anything that a content author uses to fill in the copy, imagery, or other content on the page.
  • Layout – Column controls, tabbed-panes used to divide a page into additional content areas
  • Navigation – Buttons, links, calls-to-action, list of links (footer, side rail, related links), etc. that help the user navigation the site.
  • Search – Components related to search functionality, faceted results, pagination, etc.
  • Social –  Components used to share or display social content such as “Add This”-type features, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube
  • Video – Brightcove, YouTube, or any video player, thumbnail library, carousels, etc.

What other categories can you suggest? Please let me know in the comments and we can add them to our list!

Usability Tip: Use Categories to Prefix Component Names

The component name should reflect its usage within its name. A best practice is to prepend its intended usage with the major category of its function. Because the component sidekick sorts component names alphabetically, you can group by prefixing all component names with their major category. For example:

  • Content – Promotion Pod
  • Content – Image Carousel
  • Layout – Column Control
  • Layout – Three-tabbed Panel
  • Navigation – List of Links
  • Navigation – Call to Action
  • Social – Share Button
  • Social – Twitter

When this list of components is sorted within the component Sidekick, the content author can see the major function of the component and quickly make a decision on which to use without scrolling through an exhaustive, unorganized list. Using this approach in conjunction with the grouping feature of the Sidekick gives the content author a well-organized toolbox to quickly assemble pages.

sidekick-organization

Sidekick Organization

Usability Tip: Use Edit Bars instead of Roll-over Editing in Your Adobe AEM Project

The world’s worst developer, Joe Gunchy (read more about Joe here)  is at it again.  He created a new component to give content authors the ability to add rich text onto a page.  The content author loves this idea and wants to try it out.  They dragged the component onto the page, but there is no indication that the component is on the page and ready to edit.  The content author is confused, so they drag another component onto the page. Still, nothing shows up.

 

Where are the components?

 

They drag another onto the page, then another, then another.  Nothing is displayed. Now the content author has five instances of the component on the page that they don’t know about, forcing the content author to drink from a flask hidden in their bottom desk drawer.  Joe Gunchy laughs at the content author.  Joe Gunchy is an idiot.

 

“Content authors are so dumb.” – Joe Gunchy

 

Demo_Targeted_Content_-_2014-05-27_10.56.12

Five instances of the component

Component Editing

There are a few ways to edit content in a component. Some components contain an “edit bar” to show the editor dialog, while some use “rollover” editing.  The component below shows an edit bar above the component with options to add, edit, but, copy, and paste. If you want to edit the content of the component, you click the “Edit” button which opens the editing dialog. Easy.

 

Edit Bar to launch the dialog

 

When there is no edit bar, the author must click on the component in the page until they see the green boundary box appear. This is referred to as “rollover editing”.  Once that’s selected, you can either double-click within the box or right-click to launch the dialog editor. Joe Gunchy’s component used ‘rollover’, but when there is no content in the component, there is no way to tell the component is on the page.  You can mitigate this in the component source code by checking to see if you’re in EDIT mode, then add some default text to the component to show it’s editable. Also, in many cases, it is difficult to click if you do not place your mouse at the precise point within the box to open the dialog, or even worse – components overlap each other and you can’t click them at all.

 

Roll-over editing (no Edit Bar)

Roll-over editing (no Edit Bar)

 

Use the Edit Bar

For better usability and consistency across the editing experience,  use the Edit Bar on your components and never mix Edit Bar and Rollover on the page.  That’s a horrible authoring experience.  The Edit Bars below clearly show the author how to edit content on the page and when used exclusively, gives the author consistency when authoring a page.   It’s clean, has clear calls-to-action, and doesn’t require default text to know they’re on the page.  By adding a few options to the edit bar configuration, you can click on the “Cut” button and easily move them around the page.

 

Marketing_Automation_Software_Oracle_Marketing_Cloud_Oracle_Eloqua_Products_-_2014-05-27_10.58.08

To add the edit bar to your component, create an ‘cq:editConfig’ node of type cq:EditConfig under the component. This link shows the various properties to add to the component.  Adding cq:actions to the properties allows functionality to move the component around the page.

The table below from the CQ documentation shows the different options for the edit bar.

Property Value Description
text:<some text> Displays the static text value <some text>
Adds a spacer
edit Adds a button to edit the component
delete Adds a button to delete the component
insert Adds a button to insert a new component before the current one
copymove Adds a button to copy and cut the component

 

Here are some typical properties to allow editing, moving, and deleting the component from the page. You must have “insert” selected if you want to move the component around the page and replace it between two components.

 

CRXDE_Lite_-_2014-05-27_14.32.13

 

Additional Tip: Remove the Wrapper

AEM adds wrapper containers around components to allow either clicking on the component on roll-over, or around the component tool bar when using the EDIT BAR. These additional DIVs tend to negatively impact the style of the component because of the extra container that the developer was not anticipating.

There is an easy way to force CQ to remove the wrapper when in any mode but EDIT mode.

Add the following snippet at the bottom of your component:


 <%
 //This code will only add the surrounding DIVs for the editbars when in EDIT mode only
 if (WCMMode.fromRequest(request) != WCMMode.EDIT && WCMMode.fromRequest(request) != WCMMode.DESIGN) {
    IncludeOptions.getOptions(request, true).forceSameContext(Boolean.TRUE);
 }
 %>