It seemed like I was just adjusting to the time zone difference in Romania (-2 Celsius) and we were packing up again to return to back Australia (+40 Celsius).
Unfortunately the truth is that we're too busy here at PRETTY to take time off site for seeing Romania. Although it was winter (and snowing when we left) the city does have a quirky beauty in the old cobble street paved inner city, and I heard the mountains to the north are stunning.
But PRETTY was were there to do business, and that's what we did, back to back meetings for a week (and a bit of drinking - a Romanian pastime it seems).
Liam spent the week with the Engineering team. His goal was to work with the engineering team to help the engineers understand the day to day struggles we face as Partners and SBO's using Business Catalyst.
Liam sat with the Engineering team all week and together they went through a Trello board of core issues that Pretty has been collecting for years. Some things were simple, like custom fields in webapps having a WYSIWYG editor, or the ability to copy a webapp item. Others will trickle out over time. Actually a lot of progress was made in the week we were there, it was very productive and it's a win for partners. There's no substitute for sitting face to face in a meeting and walking through case examples and fighting for features.
Liam's secondary agenda was to help with the process of moving all of the websites from the old Asp.net 3.5 servers to the new 4.5 servers with the least amount of disruption to partners and SBO's as possible. Pretty are the guineapigs but we're hopefully confident the fallout will be minor. Our old sites will start cutting over to the new servers by mid-December.
I spent my week in management meetings discussing strategy. What is Business Catalyst, where is it going and who is BC marketed at. I built my first BC website in 2004 and Pretty works very closely with at least 100 other BC Partners as their outsourced partner. We've always had strong opinions on the topic and we're in a position to advise on behalf of the BC community in general. I shared my vision of a BC with strong CORE Modules that are easy to use as a BC beginner, but with powerful search engine friendly features that Creative Agencies can use with minimal limitations. I pushed for Digital Marketing Tools that allow us to be at the forefront of the industry with tools that will dazzle potential SBO's looking for a new website.
Just an idea
We also pitched an idea we have about BC. We have a vision of BC modules linking and working together (rather than being so separate) to form up more powerful solutions. For example imagine using the Events module (for its seating capacity feature) alongside of webapps (for their layout and easy to manage features). Pretty feels by allowing modules to work together we'll have a much more powerful CMS. It's just an idea that we think would be a big hit to all partners and SBO's.
Pretty's take on the week
Well with Business Catalyst it's hard to tell. Sometimes they build really good stuff, but other times they spend too long on features we never wanted and will not use. The point of spending a week with the BC management and engineering team was to make sure what they work on moving forward is what we need and want. It's a very smart play by Business Catalyst and I highly applaud the strategic approach of engaging Partners and asking us for our advice.
During the week we aligned our visions of BC somewhat. BC are working on some REALLY GOOD STUFF. We're really happy with Liquid and I can't speak highly enough about the direction BC has taken in the last 6 months. We're extremely impressed and I'm sure as Partners learn Liquid they'll love it too. BC.Next is allowing us to build MUCH better BC websites in MUCH less time. module_data is awesome. New APIs are awesome. Liquid in emails will be a game changer. ASP.net 4.5 is making our sites faster and more SEO friendly. All of these things lay the foundation to the BC of the future and although they're really close to being finished its still at least 3 months' work to get this stuff live and finalised.
Our vision is that once these foundations of a NEW BC have been laid, we can start fixing CORE problems with BC like:
Taxes in ecommerce, better shipping options, stripe integration, better reporting and CRM, plus all the little things like ability to load an image on the list view of a blog. Ability to have related blog posts on blogs (like on eccom), better events etc etc etc.
I pushed hard that CORE MODULE IMPROVEMENTS were at the heart of what partners really need and want. This is what is tangible to the everyday BC website owner and this is what they should focus on for most of next year after BC.Next is complete.
I'm an advocate for a partner advisory board that actually works with BC to ensure the disconnect between Engineering and the SBO is bridged. We need to make sure that every engineering hour is spent building features that benefit the wider BC community. We will continue to follow the engineering queue of work. And we will continue to advise BC proactively. Business Catalyst are also eager to work together to make the platform a leading SAAS Integrated Web and Digital Marketing Platform. I really think we're getting there finally.