Most vendor sponsored technology conferences are rah-rah parties where the believers come to hear the evangelists.

Sure, real world presentations are made and product roadmaps are revealed. But it’s almost as if rose-colored glasses are handed to everyone as they walk through the door.

This wasn’t the case last week at Evolve’ 15, the conference 3|SHARE Corp hosts for the Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) Community each year.

Instead a community of techies, users and business representatives shared real world experiences, said Jess Moore, CEO of 3|SHARE, who led the conference.

Sure there were presentations made by sponsors like Adobe, Rackspace and translations.com but the folks who deliver digital experiences (DX) were at the heart of it.

They had thoughts to offer which might be relevant to the broader community, some of which are useful beyond AEM. Here are our picks:

It's All About Publishing

Flexibility, when it comes to a DX solution, vastly increases complexity, Mark Trenchard, director of Digital Experience at Stanford Medicine told CMSWire.

And while he seemed pretty certain that Stanford was using the right tool for the job at hand (they run more than 825 websites, some of them AEM, others static) there are days when the idea of 800 WordPress sites seems pretty appealing. Mind you, he was (kind of) being funny.

Trenchard, unlike some others, believes content management systems (CMSs) are all about the publishing experience — and the needs of publishers should come first.

The emphasis at Stanford Medicine is on things like the reuse of content, building experiences, testing experiences and measuring effectiveness. “We optimize to Publishing, not IT,” he said.

And though he knows customizing isn’t always recommended it, he thinks it’s often necessary. “Don’t trade the off-the-shelf, which we do every two or three years, for what publishers do every second,” he said.

That being said, Trenchard credits Adobe for coming a long way in being able to deliver the point and click solution shown to prospects in the demo, but there’s still a ways to go it seems.

“We want the licenses to do the work versus the Licenses plus Consulting.” At the end of the day, though, he suspects that, at least in situations like his, “the last five to 10 percent will always be done by you.”

What’s nice is that Trenchard gets who his customer is, what their challenges are and what they need to achieve.

At Stanford Medicine, which has 500 people dubbed site owners, 200 of them active, and a mailing list of 900, he seems compelled to make their work as easy as possible. “For many of them this is their fourth or fifth job (meaning role that they play at work),” he explained.

And though he had much more to share, one point was especially cogent, “Pay someone to lead the publishing,” he said. “An advocate or evangelist of sorts.”

Eyes Wide Open

It goes without saying that upgrading to the latest release of any technology needs to be taken with great consideration and the attendees of Evolve 15 got lucky to learn about the travails at Time Warner Cable where Cat Ruesswig, senior director of Web Portals Engineering leads the charge.

Some of the more important criteria on her list came in the form of questions: Classic UI or Touch UI? jQuery upgrades, how far should you go to clean up the old? How do teasers work in 6.0? How to handle all of the API version updates? and more … You’ll have to come up with your own answers.

Speak My Language

When it comes to selecting a translation management solution, there are important considerations to be made.

Adrienne Panos, VP at Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Matt Hauser, a VP at Translations.com, presented on the challenges of selecting a solution that serves over 2,000 professionals across 33 offices worldwide.

Some of them include: How much experience does the translation vendor have with AEM? What are the provisions for security and business continuity?

In these days when every technology needs to have a relationship with many others, are multi-vendors supported, are the interfaces intuitive … If you don’t get it right, the experience can be horrendous and/or the impact tremendous.

DX is Getting Better

Moore noted that there have been some small changes to AEM 6.1 that enthusiasts might get excited about. Namely:

  • Improved efficiency — via improved shortcuts, navigation and search
  • Improved experiences — due to deeper integration with Adobe Analytics, Target and Campaign
  • Faster, cheaper, multilingual — built in integration with the most prevalent translation companies like Translations.com and Lionbridge
  • Easier design to web — information such as fonts, colors, gradients, sizes, distances, relative positioning, spacing, etc. can be extracted from the design of a loaded PSD file
  • Responsive — marketers can be more independent and create totally responsive pages without the need for code

The Community Wins

Feedback from conference attendees makes one thing perfectly clear, we learn more together, and from one another, than we do alone.

One attendee, whose company won’t allow him to be quoted by the press, put it this way, “AEM is a bear and now at least I know that I’m not fighting it alone. Even better, maybe I can make it dance because I know some people who have succeeded.”