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Episerver Ascend 2017 Roundup from the CMSC Perspective

As many of you already know, my co-worker Laura Myers, and I had been invited to attend Episerver Ascend 2017 as media, which took place in the glamour of the heart of Las Vegas, with over 600 attendees and more than 70 sessions. Having the principle of approaching every topic in a unique way, we, as the CMS-Connected team, captured the buzz and conversation directly from the event floor by interviewing from Epi customers, Ektron customers, the seasoned technology partners and Episerver’s leadership. 

The three-day event was a combination of inspirational keynotes and well moderated interactive sessions, product demos, breakouts, and networking activities. During the event, we collected epic stories and lessons learned from cross-disciplinarian practitioners such as customers, marketers, developers, business leaders, tech leaders, and e-commerce managers. To binge on all of our exclusive content from the event, please check back to our website in the upcoming days. However, today I would like to share my commentary and some sneak peeks from the event and our special interviews. 

The event kicked off with the keynote by Episerver’s CEO Mark Duffell, an opening welcome, and was followed by James Norwood’s phenomenal speech on Episerver’s 2017 Product Strategy. During James' keynote, Justin Anovick, Vice President of Product at Episerver, joined him on stage with his cloud patterned, eye-catching suit completed with a red Episerver blazer to give us a great insight into the Episerver’s product roadmap and the future direction of the platform. After Justin’s extremely engaging presentation, we also saw a brief demo about the platform’s outperforming contextualized and personalized web search which was very-well received by the audience. 

Lights, Camera, Action!

After such informative keynotes, the CMS-Connected team’s favorite time finally arrived: lights, camera, action! Thanks to Rachel Teitt, Senior Manager, Analyst and Public Relations at Episerver, we had a chance to pick the brains of some of the most innovative and talented members of the Episerver community. Every single interviewee brought a unique and brilliant perspective based on their experiences. Although you will have a chance to explore those stories in the upcoming days, let's briefly discuss the key takeaways from our conversations with customers, partners, and developers. 

No matter if the person we spoke with was a customer or a technology partner; everyone stressed the importance of the same functionality of web content management systems: personalization. Since 2016 marked the year when we all perfectly grasped and discovered the business use cases for personalization, the technology is set for remarkable blooming in 2017. Through the acquisition of Peerius, Episerver now offers integrated real-time predictive analytics powered by machine learning and big data, personalized email and event triggering alongside a search relevance engine baked into its cloud platform. All the Epi customers who we talked to were so excited to leverage the tools to deliver fully automated and personalized experiences to their own customers and prospects. 

Another famous feature that users were interested in was contextualized and personalized web search. Many customers told us that they take advantage of Episerver Find, which is a SaaS Cloud based Enterprise Search solution, that delivers both relevance and search functionality to websites. Last November, I reported on Episerver’s three additions to its Omnichannel Personalization Suite: Perform, Advance, and Insight. Advance taps into Episerver’s search relevance engine, Episerver Find, to display content automatically selected for each visitor based on visitor profile, interest, or work role. This particular addition was one of the customers’ favourite, according to our conversations. 

Episerver’s Leadership is in the Spotlight

We also interviewed Episerver’s leadership to inquire where the industry is heading and what’s planned for future Episerver releases. Here are some sneak peeks from those interviews: 

We were fortunate enough to interview James NorwoodExecutive Vice President of Strategy and CMO at Episerver, during the event, and he provided a great insight on where the industry is and what exciting things are happening at Episerver. He told us that the simplest problem for many website owners is making sure that whether or not they have a website that delivers the experience that will make a difference. He believes that with today’s technology, there are a lot of easy things that website owners could do to deliver those experiences. Additionally, during his keynote, Norwood mentioned about the upcoming powerful use of analytics by Episerver so, during our interview, he elaborated on what’s exactly coming up next with the Episerver platform. If you are interested in hearing about these and much more valuable information on the industry and Episerver community directly from James Norwood, I highly recommend you checking back to our website or social media channels in the upcoming days. 

We also had an educational and entertaining conversation with Justin Anovick, Vice President of Product at Episerver, on the adoption of the cool features such as artificial intelligence. He said that advanced technology like artificial intelligence is something that businesses park until they have a good use case for it, whereas the other features like personalization and product recommendation are very well-known and heavily used. Therefore, he added: “From the vendor perspective, we believe that we must help our customers come up with the use cases or at least, give them a pattern saying here’s what we think you could do with our data and technology.”

Knowing that e-commerce is another hot topic, we had a chance to catch up with Ed Kennedy, Commerce Strategist at Episerver. When we asked Ed about the gap between commerce and digital experience, he said: “When we acquired the commerce platform back in 2012, we had originally that gap, too. Now that we moved the features out of the acquired system into our industry-leading CMS, we enable our customers to build a full and complete commerce experience through one tool.” Our interview wasn’t all rosy though, as we “grilled” him with some challenging questions. In the end, he walked away from the interview. Okay fine, the last part didn’t actually happen, our interview was a great time and even though were tossing him some hard curveball questions, he was hitting them out of the park. If you are interested in e-commerce, stay tuned to catch the full replay of our engaging interview with Ed Kennedy. 

Aside from our informative interviews and so many inspiring and innovative keynotes, the organization of the event was unbelievably seamless. While the attendees had time to mingle with the entire spectrum of Episerver community, they were also able to enjoy the delicious food (the in-house barista, Laura's favourite) and play around with some exciting demos that the technology partners of Epi exhibited in the "Partner Expo". Since Ascend is a session-based event, both technical and non-technical folks found many educational sessions tailored to their interests to dive deeper into the Episerver features and the platform. New to Ascend 2017 was a Code Bash contest, sponsored by Microsoft. The idea behind the contest was pitting developer teams against one another to provide entertaining and collaborative uses for Episerver by coding right there on the spot. 

I hope all the attendees left Vegas with pages and pages of ideas and were expertly informed of best practices, strategies, and trends in digital transformation to take their businesses to the next level. For the CMS-Connected team, it was a blast as we brought so much unique content back with us and had a chance to capture all those different invaluable perspectives from the Episerver Community for our audience. Lastly, we would like to thank everyone who took their precious time to talk with us at the event! Hope to see you all again next year! 

Venus Tamturk

Venus Tamturk

Venus is the Media Reporter for CMS-Connected, with one of her tasks to write thorough articles by creating the most up-to-date and engaging content using B2B digital marketing. She enjoys increasing brand equity and conversion through the strategic use of social media channels and integrated media marketing plans.