Recap: Evolve AEM Conference 2019 in San Diego

Recap: Evolve AEM Conference 2019 in San Diego

August 13, 2019 0 By Tad Reeves

If you’re in the Adobe Experience Manager business, the must-hit conference every year is the Adobe Summit. With something like 17,000 attendees this past April, it was a zoo, but had tons of fabulous content. But this year, I was also able to attend, on the behalf of ICF Next, a lesser-known conference that still packed lots of great content in a much more familiar atmosphere, which was the Evolve conference in San Diego.

Arriving to the Evolve Conference

Arriving from the San Diego airport, my carry-on bungeed to my bike-share bike.

A first reason to like the Evolve conference is that San Diego is such a massively nicer place to visit than Vegas. I don’t like gambling, and I don’t drink, so the crowded & oppressive casinos for me are something to tolerate rather than enjoy, when I go to Summit. Contrariwise, the San Diego airport is only a few miles down a bike trail from the city center, so I just strapped my suitcase to the basket of a Uber Jump bike, and just biked in to the city. Already, this conference was getting off to the right start.

But for anyone else arriving to the conference in the future, just know that you positively do not need to rent a car.

Opening Keynote: Klaasjan Tukker from Adobe talks about the Adobe Experience Platform

Klaasjan Tukker, Director of Product Management for the Experience Platform at Adobe

Now, the Evolve Conference caters to a somewhat different bunch than Summit, as the majority of people I ran into at Evolve were either current AEM customers or were AEM technical folks. So, there was no big fanfare-razzmatazz bunch of showy explosions at Evolve, and instead the intro keynote was diving right into technical weeds, with a fabulous tech presentation by Klaasjan Tukker, the Director of Product Management for the Adobe Experience Platform at Adobe.

His talk dove into the Adobe Experience Platform, and the a fascinating technical overview of the difficulty of providing a personalized customer journey across multiple platforms and touchpoints. He also stressed the technical challenges involved in sewing data together reliably, but also in such a way that you don’t violate both local laws as well as customer covenants and understanding of how their data is going to be used. Yes, you might be able to use some data from here, plus grab a phone number and purchase history from there, and VOILA craft some really creepy direct-contact campaigns directly to a person. But the object here isn’t to creep people out, it’s to provide a toolset and common system-of-record to create a customer profile that can allow analytics systems, marketing systems, and commerce systems to work together to get the customer what he or she wants – without creeping them out.

There was tons of other great content – I’ll just go into what some of the highlights were for me.

Author Once / Deliver Anywhere – Using AEM to Deliver Context-Appropriate Content

Amol Anand and Danny Gordon, Technical Architects of AEM Wizardry at Adobe

Amol Anand and Danny Gordon gave a fabulous talk (and also bravely gave a live demo) to show how the headless features of AEM can be used in conjuction with Adobe I/O to serve up author-once/serve-many experiences not constrained by the traditional “webpage” view.

Part of Amol’s presentation on taking a content fragment that was authored in AEM, such as – say – a service location, and then being able to parse and serve this fragment up in a context-senstive manner by a voice assistant.

If anything, their talk was stimulating fodder for a long-term AEM infrastructure guy like myself to want to pick up some new skillsets to take advantage of the ever-widening view of what the “infrastructure” for one’s marketing engine really entails.

Building one of the Planet’s Coolest-Ever AEM Deployment Pipeline at Autodesk

Sharat Radhakrishnan from Autodesk gave an absolutely fascinating talk on their Dev/Ops evolution they’ve gone through at Autodesk. Autodesk’s multitudinous properties and use cases definitely put it at the larger side, in terms of AEM deployments, but their methodical and continuous drive to automate led them to create what looks to be one of the most delightful environments to operate.

A slide showing Autodesk’s fully-automated AEM deployment pipeline

By use of an automated, container-based, self-service development environment creator, as well as lots of testing (unit tests, smoke tests, functional tests, browser tests, instrumentation as code, etc) it’s allowed them to fully automate their AEM deployment pipeline to the point where any developer is able to deploy their code to production any time, any day. You just deploy your feature as soon as it’s fully tested and ready to roll, without having to wait to bundle it into a release that’s weeks away, wait for an outage window, or come in at 2am on Sunday to deploy it.

Lots of AEM Learning

While there were a number of other excellent sessions, the other unexpected gem in attending Evolve was that they brought in Adobe pro trainer Benjie Wheeler to give in-depth sessions on AEM SPA development, AEM as a hybrid or headless CMS, backend AEM development and more.

And lastly, did I mention I enjoyed the venue?

Beach Cruiser at Sunset Cliffs
I took the beach cruiser bicycle that my hotel offered (I stayed at the Hotel Z across the street from the Pendry where the conference was being held) and put about 20 miles on it at night after the conference was over, getting to see an epic sunset at Sunset Cliffs.